LIFE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY
We have former President Roosevelt to thank for bringing electricity to rural areas in the US. This was accomplished through the passing of the TVA Act (Tennessee Valley Authority) which gave “preference” to “states, counties, municipalities and cooperative organizations of citizens or farmers, not organized businesses for profit, but primarily for the purpose of supplying electricity to its own citizens or members”.
At the time the Rural Electrification Act (REA) was passed, on May 11, 1935, some effects of the Depression were easing, but unemployment was still high. By bringing electrification to rural America, people would be put back to work, farm production would be increased, a hungry nation would be fed, and the quality of life improved in rural areas of the US.
A new corporation of Cooper, Cole, Moniteau and Morgan counties was formed in May, 1939, thus, the CO-MO name. These four counties had originally been a part of the Central Missouri Electric Cooperative, Inc. (This is a simplification of a very involved project).
After several delays due to slow shipment of materials, the project was started. It took 75,000-man hours to build the first 360 mile of lines. This was accomplished during severe winter weather.
Bill Tuttle was a sophomore in high school in 1939. Mr Needy, the director of the project, had told Bill’s mother that she could decorate her Christmas tree with electric lights that year. On December 23, a strange sound filled the countryside. The substation east of Boonville hummed all night as it warmed up to provide service. When Tuttle came home on December 24, he found that their tree was lighted up for Christmas. His mother was very excited with her tree.
Co-Mo country is very Steeped in Christianity and was prepared to honor the birth of the true light of the world to help illuminate that celebration.
The addition of electricity to farms in Co-Mo Country quickly opened eyes and changed lives from young children to long-time residents. Arline Reimund remembers the day the “lights came on”. “One day we came home from school to a great surprise. The electric lights were on in every room. What fun clicking on and off the electric light on the long string in every room. No more straining our eyes to see our homework as we all crowded around the kitchen table. No more walking to town to get that smelly kerosene for the lamps that we cleaned daily with vinegar and water. Why, we could even see the cobwebs in the corner ceiling over the stove. Yes, I have been there, and I for one will take the modern comforts of electricity without hesitation and count my blessings.”
Source: Co-Mo Country – “Power for the People – 75 years of Lighting the Way”
Prior to electricity in the home, families had many problems that are almost unknown today:
Keeping food safely cold. Ice for the ice box was only available during the winter or freezing weather
Drinking safe water from rain runoff or a cistern (electric well pumps solved that problem)
Safely lighting various areas of the house – no more kerosene lamp fires
Bringing light to barns early in the morning or after sundown
Having a safe/dependable source of heat during the winter