REA Changes Rural Homes
Electricity was a major difference between living in a house in town and living in a farmhouse in the country. As the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) program moved ahead and local electric cooperatives moved through the countryside hooking up one rural house after another, that difference was removed.
Electricity changed the lives of farm families, from the moment they got up early in the morning, through meals, chores, and work until they went to bed at night. Electricity brought power for lights to work, read, and sew at night; power for appliances like refrigerators and freezers to preserve food; power for small kitchen devices such as mixers and blenders; and power for other labor saving devices such as electric stoves, irons and clothes washers. Electricity brought changes that just made life safer and better – like colored lights instead of dangerous candles on Christmas trees, refrigerators to keep food fresh, and electric fans to bring relief on a hot summer day.
The change to electricity was so dramatic that most people growing up during that time can remember and describe the wonderful instant the “lights came on.” Stan Jensen says the most wonderful thing was the simplest – light. He says the instant he turned on that light still carries a lot of emotion for him. For Millie Opitz, light was soon followed by electric appliances, even though they really didn’t have much money to buy them.
Helen Bolton remembers when her farmhouse was first wired for electricity, “Yeah, it was like Heaven,” she says. “Then, we put in a well and had running water and we put in a bathroom. So, that was like Heaven, really. It was pretty nice.”
Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.