Access Electricity provided by the REA came to our farm in the summer of 1947 when I was six years old. I really don’t remember much about the pre-electricity period, but I know we had a light-plant powered by a gasoline engine that provided limited electricity in a DC mode, which, according to my Dad, was not very versatile. And it wasn’t just lack of convenience. A poorly performing exhaust pipe on that engine nearly ended our family life before it really got started.
When we got the real thing, Dad had an electric water pump installed in the kitchen. And more importantly, he converted a large back porch into a small back porch and built a bathroom in the other half with a big tub and a flush toilet. And the outdoor facility in the back yard became an antique. The big tub was a real luxury for a family of boys who played in the dirt and helped Dad with the combining and straw baling.
As Christmas approached, I learned of a new toy that could now be mine if I was a good boy – an electric train. Santa brought that train on Christmas morning and I was thrilled. And then a sad thing happened. A big ice storm hit our area and many power lines went down. And my train stopped.
Even though I was heart-broken, I recovered quickly because the yard and ditches were perfect for some exciting sledding. While I was trying out the ditch banks and any other slopes I could find, I saw a power company truck stop out front and noticed the driver talking to my Dad. Our house was situated just off the main highway on a farm road that serviced about 50 other farms, so it was likely that the lineman was getting directions. All day long I saw service trucks going past our house. At first I thought that one truck was making a lot of trips, but I soon realized that there were many trucks. Apparently the REA had sent their entire fleet to our area.
About sundown our power came back on again. But an interesting thing happened as I was putting my sled away. I saw one service truck pull up and park in front of our house and then another and another and another. I couldn’t figure out what was happening – was there a particular problem with our transformer?? About that time Mom called me into the house for supper and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Mom had prepared a feast for those REA linemen, and somehow Dad had gotten the word to all the trucks. That was one happy bunch of guys! They chowed down like a thresher crew. The story of my silenced electric train was a big topic of discussion during supper.
After polishing off roast beef and mashed potatoes and pie, they thanked Mom profusely and went clumping out the door in their big boots. Each of them made a point to tell me they wanted to hear my train whistle.
Many years later I was at a meeting with Dad when a man came up to him and said, “You probably won’t remember me, but I was one of those linemen that your wife fed after that ice storm.” He went on to say that he had never forgotten that gesture and he wanted Dad to tell Mom how much he and all the other linemen appreciated it.