I Live in North Missouri and I Had Waffles For Breakfast
And you might ask, “That’s significant because???”
Because just seventy-five years ago last week a housewife in Lewis County, Missouri flipped a switch in her kitchen and her life, and ours, was changed for ever.
Lewis County was the first rural electric co-op to be completed in Missouri and that July day in 1937 was thereafter referred to as “The Day the Lights Came On.”
I believe Mrs. Anderson, the wife of Judge B.L. Anderson, one of the rural cooperatives original incorporators and Chairman of the Board, understood how significant the changes coming with electric power would be. She knew it would now be possible to prepare a meal in the heat of a Missouri summer without building up a fire in a cook stove. Water for laundry would no longer need to be heated in large double boilers before emptying into the old wringer washer that had to be cranked by hand. In just a few short years wet sheets freeze drying on the line on a January day would be a thing of the past.
The size of a man’s milking herd would no longer be limited by the strength and/or youth of his hands and with the coming of refrigeration spoiled milk was for the most part a thing of the past.
As for water, no more buckets hauled from the creek. One of the first uses of electricity in rural areas was for pumping water and this was a tremendous help.
Rural productivity soared and the nightmare of the drought and the ensuing depression began to fade. Electricity was the single most important tool rural Missourians would possess to fight their way back to a reasonable prosperity.
Some things are simply too valuable.. too important.. and of far too much significance to a community, county, state or country, to be left to the trickle down method of the for-profit-only thinkers. Some things require a combined effort. Some things need to be subsidized, as in the rural Electric Unification Act, to equalize the opportunity of the whole community.
Just imagine if the electrification of Missouri had been left to the business community ..a 1920’s publication of the magazine Popular Mechanics, in an article on electrification, would have been totally accurate when it claimed that “Thousands of … rural homes will NEVER enjoy the blessings of electricity if they wait for the high lines to bring it because they are in areas so sparsely populated that power lines cannot be made to pay for themselves.”
Only when the profit line was removed..(enter the REA-Rural Electrification Act..a government backed program that stood behind loans and provided support and administrative structure to communities seeking to electrify.. and Community Co-ops created by communities willing to commit themselves to the progress electricity would bring) did the electrification of the whole state become possible.
In 1935 less than ten percent of rural America had electric power. By 1950 that percentage had risen to ninety percent.
When I look at the powerful opposition that was recently waged against Universal (subsidized) Health Care I tend to think about American experiences like the REA.
Like I said before, some things are simply too valuable.. too important.. and of far too much significance to a community, county, state or country, to be left to the trickle down method of the for-profit-only thinkers.
By the way. My waffle was really good.