The day we got electricity (and other little miracles)
By Bill Shepard
Can you, the reader, imagine what living in a world without a radio, telephone, television or computers would be like? Can you imagine living in a house with no electricity for lights, refrigerators, electric fans, central heat or air conditioners? Can you imagine a time when almost everyone cooked on a large wood-burning stove, and a kerosene-burning stove was considered a modern convenience? Believe it or not, this writer once lived in that kind of world! When I was a little boy, but old enough to remember well, I lived in that kind of world and I was happy. I recall a day when a man came to our house and said he was from Carolina Power and Light Company. He wanted to know to know if my Dad was interested in having electricity run to our house. We lived in a small three-room house at the end of an unnamed street. The house was owned by the same company that owned the big mill where my Dad worked. It seemed that the folk who lived in the house next door had applied for electricity to their house, but to justify building a line down that street they needed others to sign on. Dad agreed, and we had electricity in our house! A light cord hung from the ceiling in each of the three rooms and an on-off socket at the end with a 100-watt light bulb! We felt we had moved up a notch in the world! Of course to save on the light bill, we still used our kerosene lamp a lot. I suppose we were being conservative. Seldom was the light bill as much as $1 a month! There came a time when Dad came home from Lyles Furniture Store, on Pearl Street near the Square, with a small radio. We really did think we were moving up in the modern world. You could have counted on one hand the number of families in our village that owned a radio. Every evening at 7, the Shepard flock would gather around the table where the little radio sat and sit spellbound as Amos, Andy, and the Kingfish carried on over that magic box. Following the Amos and Andy program was another program with the characters Lum, Abner and Cedric down at Pineridge and the Jot’em Down Store! I could not count the hours that we sat listening to that program. It became my Dad’s favorite program, as well as it was for us all. I don’t believe my Dad ever went to a movie theater, but he sure did enjoy listening to his little radio. It made a beautiful memory; Dad sitting in his rocker, the Shepard boys and girl sitting on the floor in a circle, and Mom sitting on the edge of the bed nearby. Radios were not a common household item in those days, and we often had the neighbors come over to enjoy the entertainment with us. They were always welcome. On long summer days, there would still be daylight after the radio program ended, and Dad and Mom would often sit on the porch until darkness moved in and it was time for bed. We did a lot of living on our front porch! Sometimes Mama and Dad would just sit quietly rocking back and forth, while watching the children play in the yard. There really wasn’t much to talk about except what had happened at the mill that day, or the pigs in their pen, or how much the garden had grown after the rain shower. Like I said at the beginning, my world back then was a simple place to live. The little radio had opened up a big hole in that world, and introduced us to a world we had not known existed, but we were a happy family! We never did own a telephone; no one on the village did! In case of emergency, someone had to start in a trot toward the town. Hopefully they could find someone who would help! Things have changed since I was a boy, some for the better and some for the worse. I suppose that is a matter of one’s own opinion.