Turning on the Lights

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 23 Comments


I’m guessing that hardly any of you can remember when you didn’t have electricity. I don’t. There have been those times when we have had power outages for one reason or another. Two times in the last few years we lost electricity for a week due to ice storms. In the terrible ice storm in 2009, light poles fell like lines of dominoes in some places. I remember thinking about doing this or that only to realize most everything took electricity or that’s how it seemed. I suppose it was a great time to wrap up in a quilt and read until it got dark or your flashlight batteries went dead.

Actually at the time, we were fortunate to still be heating the house with a wood stove. That also worked for heating water for tea and cooking soup. Now we no longer have the stove, but my husband did buy a generator. So far it’s kept the ice storms away. I hope it keeps working.

But my sister found this check my father wrote to pay someone for wiring our house and the barn back in 1947 that made me think about when the electric lines were first strung out to the house where I grew up. I’m not sure what it cost to hook onto the power lines or whether there was a charge. I think people had to sign up that they would hook on to the lines. But once the electric company set the poles and put up the lines, the houses had to have wires threaded through the walls to light fixtures and plugs. Some of the lights were simply a bare bulb with a string to pull it on. Others had fixtures with a place for two bulbs and wall switches to turn the lights on. The lights weren’t extra bright by today’s standards, but can you imagine the difference it was from the oil lamps and candles that had previously been the light?

And then entertainment came with the lights. Now you could have a radio that wasn’t battery powered. And eventually Dad bought a television. Mom got an electric stove for cooking and an iron she could plug in. She didn’t have to iron clothes with irons heated on the stove or a gasoline powered iron. Dad could get an early start on his work day with lights in the barn. And in the summer, he could plug in a fan to stay cool. Electricity changed the way they did so many things. Made things easier. Made the night brighter.

That $182.85 was a good chunk of money seventy years ago. The minimum wage was forty cents an hour. A loaf of bread cost twelve cents. But I’m pretty sure that, while Dad no doubt complained about the price, he and especially Mom thought having electricity was worth every penny. However, I did get fussed at when I was a kid if I left a light on when I left a room. You didn’t waste electricity. Times do change. Now we have lights, computers, and appliances we leave on all the time. And we’re very unhappy when the lights go out.

Still, if we do have a power outage, I have plenty of books I could read and pencils and notebooks for writing. But I would really, really miss my computer and my hot tea. So I’m hoping we keep the lights on.

What do you miss most when you have a power outage?

 

 

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Comments 23

  1. Fran Foor

    We bought our new home in 1962, and the things my kids, husband and myself loved when we lost power was cuddling together by our beautiful fireplace. We would play games and even sleep down there if we needed to. Thanks for the great memories Ann.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Sounds like a power outage made a great chance for family togetherness, Fran. We never had to worry about the heat since we used wood heat. We might now but we do have a gas fireplace and of course, all the kids are grown up with families of their own. I do remember one winter with lots of snow. The kids and I had a good time that winter. As you say, good memories.

  2. peggy clayton

    Wow that is so cheap but at the time it was like a millionare if you could afford it. Amazing we hardly if at all have been out from the electricity but when we are if during the day I don’t have to worry as we put a lot of windows in our house. Every room has a big window in it and our living room has a 2 huge windows so it is almost all windows in every room the breakfast room is one big window that way we can read or do other crafts if during the day. If at night well that is a different story we use a few candles and then if it were off for a long time would take the girls (4 legged) and go to bed. Have a good weekend Ann

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Your house sounds lovely, Peggy. I love windows. We added a family room a few years ago and I had them put in 8 windows. Then I didn’t put up blinds or curtains. Mom really thought I needed curtains, but I like it the way it is. As you say, it lets in a lot of light.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Yes, indeed, Paula. That’s one of the good things about air conditioning. Cold enough all year for that hot tea. My husband likes the house chilled down more than I do.

  3. Susan Snodgrass

    I absolutely hate it when the power goes out! My husband and brother kid me about freaking out. I live in SC, upstate, and when Hurricane Hugo came through, we lost power for a week and had to wait three weeks to have a new well dug. I think I could do without electricity better than water. So I miss water. I miss it all, actually. We have a small generator, so it runs a few lights.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I’m with you, Susan. I can do without the electricity better than no water. We used to have a cistern before city water made it out our way and it was always a mess if I forgot to check the water level and we ran out or in the winter the pipe coming out of the cistern froze. At least then I could still draw water out with a bucket. But I do like my fine electricity too. 🙂

  4. Pat Brown Holland

    If it is really hot and we have a power outage, I miss the air conditioning. I have Multiple Sclerosis and those nerves just don’t make those muscles and everything else work as well in the heat!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Then you are one of the priority places where they need to get the power back on fast, Pat. But not knowing enough about MS, I would have thought the cold would be worse.

  5. Betty w

    I miss reading in bed. We experienced the same ice storm. I was required to be at work no matter the weather conditions. I remember stopping by Walmart & buying camping headlights to see & read by.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Hard to have those jobs that you have to be there no matter the weather, Betty. I would have had a hard time with that in that ice storm year. I might have had to get ice shoes and hiked in. 🙂 But I do know there are many jobs that the people have to show up. We got some nice lantern type battery lights after the storm that year. Have only used them once since.

  6. Paula

    I would definitely miss reading. Probably the heat if it was winter or air conditioning in the summer and how to cook food also.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Right, Paula. Peanut butter and crackers might get old after a while. But I could handle the food, just would miss my hot tea. And the good light for reading. I probably would go to bed earlier. You note I did say probably. 🙂

  7. Phyllis Miller

    I remember that ice storm of 2009, we lived in Hart Co. at the time and had a small farm, a lot of our property was wooded and the pine trees were dropping left and right, we had a long drive way and we had to clear it twice just to get out. We also had a wood stove in the basement, so we just stayed in the basement for several days until the electric was fixed. We had a kerosene lamp and flashlight and transistor radio. I cooked on the wood stove. We didn’t lose too much food in the fridge because we kept the door closed. We also later got a generator later on. We have moved and no longer have the wood stove, I know my husband misses it. The thing I would miss alot if I did not have electricity is my curling iron!

  8. Linda Cunningham

    We had electricity, but I remember that all of our lights had a pull chain or cord and when the light bulb burned out on Saturday night, you had to wait until the little grocery store opened on Monday to get another one. So you sat in the dark on Sunday night unless you saw the store owner going to his store sometimes on Sunday just to check things. Then the neighbors all came running to catch him for their essential and we would go get the much needed light bulb so we could see when it got dark on Sunday. When he did go to the store, you just waited. We did not have flashlights or coal oil lamps. We were too poor for those luxuries.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Interesting, Linda. We had some of those pull chain lights on our back porch and at the barn. Sometimes you had to feel around for that string if it was dark and all the while I was expecting a mouse or who knows what to jump out at me. We did keep extra light bulbs so that was good. Sounds like your local store owner was sometimes a popular fellow when you needed something. I’m surprised you didn’t have coal oil lamps. We had several left over from before my family had electricity. But we rarely had working flashlights and if we did, we weren’t allowed to used them. Might run down the batteries.

  9. Barbara D Davis

    I was born in May of 1941 and cannot remember ever being without electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing.

    My dad was in the Army while I was growing up and we moved from one Army post to another every few years. …in 1958 we were living on base in the Panama Canal Zone where I met my husband and got married. We had our 1st son while living there. My husband was from Texas and we moved there in 1960 when he finished his tour of duty.

    He didn’t talk much about the living conditions at his parents. …only that they lived in the country. I was looking forward to meeting his family, especially his two sisters that were close to my age. Imagine my surprise when I walked into my in-law’s home and saw they had no indoor running water! There was a water pump outside a few feet from the house. Then I realized they had no electricity. ..they used coal oil lamps, a small wood burning stove for heat and a large wood burning stove for cooking and heating water for the once-a-week baths! But the biggest shock for this little “city girl” was finding out I would have to use the OUTDOOR outhouse!!!!
    We stayed with my in-laws for a couple of weeks while my husband found a job and we found a small little duplex to rent. Our litle rental was like heaven and was like jumping from the 1800’s back into the modern life of 1960.
    It was a great experience and it made me appreciate all the “modern technology” of that era!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      It could be that your husband should have clued you in before you got to your in-laws’ house, Barbara. Maybe he was afraid you’d be reluctant to go. We had wood heat all the time when I was a kid, and we lived in a drafty old farmhouse. Made for a lot of family togetherness in the winter because you had to stay close to the stove when it was cold. Sounds as if you found out how the other half lived, but glad you decided it was a great experience. While it might seem hard to live that way, many people did for many years. One thing sure, they didn’t have as many monthly bills to pay.

  10. Karen Jones

    As an after thought. Here on the MS Gulf Coast we are plagued by hurricanes. In the dead of summer I REALLY miss the air conditioner after one has blown through. Katrina left us without electricity where we had to go, since our home was inhabitable, we were without electricity for 10 days in August!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I can understand you missing air conditioning. My husband would miss that here in KY where it’s not nearly as hot if it was off for three hours, Karen. Ten days is a long time. But then sometimes you think about how most people back when didn’t have air conditioning at all. Nobody I knew had it when I was a kid, but a few stores in town did. I also agree about the reading. I like my lights.

      1. Karen Jones

        We didn’t have A C until the 5th year of our marriage in S Georgia. But, no one had it except a few stores, as you mentioned. Therefore, we weren’t used to it or spoiled by it. 😊 When we moved to MS IN 1974 our children didn’t have A C in their schools! But the prisons had it!!!

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