Ah, the things we take for granted. Growing up country, I did not realize what we lacked because most everyone else was in the same boat. We all raised our own food. Many of us had outhouses. Livestock lived in our backyards. Our fathers worked from dawn to dusk in the fields, while our mothers used elbow grease to do laundry with a ringer washer, feed a dozen farm hands and continually work the farm alongside the rest of the family.
But what was life like just a few years before I was born? I thought the outhouse was bad, but it could have been worse.
We watch shows on TV about the romantic time of gaslights and Laura Ingalls reading by lamplight. Old castle were lit by torches on the wall and young girls lead to their tower rooms by an old crone carrying a dripping candle. The romance of fire dimly setting the scene.
How many of us who are still around lived through a time of lamps and candles in our own homes? At age 67, I can say that I do not remember. I decided to investigate as to when electricity found us back that lane on Neff Road. It happened during the presidency of FDR. City folks already had electricity. He was concerned that living standards for rural areas were falling behind. It was during the depression. Power companies did not believe that electricity was feasible for rural areas. The President signed an order creating the REA within the USDA. the agency helped form user-owned cooperatives providing them with loans needed to build the electric rural area.
I had not thought much about what it was like to work the farm by oil lamp. Doing chores, farming the fields, working in the rain and snow. Women working in the homes sewing their family clothing by candlelight. Washing the clothes in a dark basement or backroom during winter days. Cooking over a fire and washing by hand. No wonder so many died long before their time. What was it like when the first light was switched on? I cannot begin to imagine the joy that my parents felt. No more carrying water and heating it over an old cast iron stove. No more rushing to get all chores completed before night time came to call. Food could be stored and frozen. There must have been singing and dancing across rural America.
I remember how much fun it was to pull a chain to turn on a light. I probably pulled quite a few chains in my lifetime (even a few beneath light bulbs). When young, my children and grandchildren loved to turn light switches on and off. The snap of the button, the ability to make light appear and disappear. Not many years before I was born light came on in the big white house back the lane and life changed for the better.
Pam Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.