the years just before and during
World War II two unpaved roads led south from Saltillo.
For seven miles there was a distance of almost a mile between these roads until
they approached the Greenwood
community. There the roads converged. Those of us who lived on the road that started
from the east side of town used kerosene lamps and wood-burning heaters and cook
stoves. No farmer living on this road had a milking machine. Those who lived on
the road that ran from the west side had the benefit of power supplied by an Rural
Electric Administration co-operative in Greenville.
A few of the farmers had milking machines. They could freeze ice cream in a tray
in their refrigerators. |
In the evening while our classmates on the west
road worked their math problems at the kitchen table by light that came from a
bulb dangling from the ceiling, my brother and I read by the much dimmer light
from a kerosene lamp.
Once the United States entered World
War II, we knew there was no hope of getting electricity until the Axis forces
were defeated. Waiting for electrical power was one of our sacrifices for the
After the war ended, both my brothers-in-law returned from
military service. One sister and her husband bought a farm on the east road. They
built a house and joined the rest of us without electricity. My sister used an
iron that burned kerosene and bought a kerosene lamp with a special wick. The
brand name was Aladdin.
Early in 1947 my brother-in-law decided to circulate
a petition in the community. The petition asked the Wood County Co-Operative in
Quitman to install poles and
power lines along the Hopkins County roads where residents did not have power.
I accompanied my brother-in-law on the visits to the neighbors. Most agreed to
sign the petition, but a few did not. They seemed content to live as their grandparents
and parents before them.
Eventually, Wood County Electric Co-operative
agreed to extend its line from the western part of Franklin County into Hopkins
County. The next problem was finding an electrician to wire our house. A second
brother-in-law and another World
War II veteran had gained some experience as electricians in the military;
they agreed to wire the house.
My sister took my mother shopping for light
fixtures for each of the five rooms in the house. For one bedroom she chose an
opaque glass fixture with a beige rim. It was attached to the metal bulb holder
with four small chains. Many is the time I had difficulty re-attaching the bowl
after I had taken it down in order to clean it. For the kitchen my mother chose
a milk glass fixture with blue daisies in a chain.
The day the workers
came from Quitman to connect
the power to the house was one of the most exciting days our family had ever experienced.
As we celebrated, we waited for the water to freeze in the trays we had placed
in the new refrigerator. My mother plugged in the new iron she bought with the
pennies she had saved for months. There was even more excitement after the sun
went down. My younger brother and I paraded through the house, switching the lights
on and off and then on again. When I resumed reading Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main
Street, I could hardly believe how much clearer the printed pages were.
later when I told my sons and daughters about my family’s long wait for electricity,
they were dubious. But there are a few former neighbors at Saltillo
who can verify my account.
G. Cowser August
Robert G. Cowser Columns