By Rick Houser –
When I was growing up, I would from time to time see a commercial for electricity on the television. I think it was a short infomercial about how far our world has advanced so that the ultimate home that we could hope for was a gold medallion home. Then they would show a home that was fully electric and on the front of the home was a real gold medallion. Until then I had never seen or heard of one, but there it was right there on the screen in full view and in real black and white. How could it not be true?
In our home we heated with a coal-burning stove and our cooking stove was fueled by propane gas. We didn’t have any air conditioning or even a fan for that matter. With just a glance I could see we weren’t living in a gold medallion home and I was pretty certain we never would. This letdown only lasted a few moments, but I have to admit the commercial was very neat to watch. It was the first time I had seen a dishwasher or a microwave oven.
As the years passed by, advancements in society continued at a rate that was almost too fast to believe. In the late 80’s, my wife and I bought a home near Bethel and I have since come to the realization that we own a full electric home. Maybe I need that gold medallion on the house so I would truly be impressed, but over the last thirty years of living in our home, I never really gave it a thought.
That was until recently when a stormy day with high, gusty winds knocked the electric out in our area. We, in a slow way, began to realize that one appliance after another was operated by electric. Since it was a Saturday, I was at home with my wife and luckily it was about 65 degrees outside so the home didn’t lose heat very fast. My wife Sharon had just finished baking a ham, so we had hot food as the electric went out shortly after noon.
We called our loved ones to see how they were doing and found all were doing fine, then we talked to each other for at least an hour or so before we got tired of that. As the time passed and the house remained silent and in the shadows and we were without television, I began to come to the reality that no matter how much I believed it, I would never have made a good pioneer.
Nope, I just wouldn’t have survived very well at all. The truth is I like living with and using all of today’s modern conveniences. Being a person who loves to recall how life used to be, I find that living with modern technology the main part of what I like. Remembering is one thing, but returning is a term I want no part of.
I like our Kuerig coffee maker. I use the microwave without giving it a second thought. Our cooking stove is all electric as are the washing machine and dryer. A large screen television calls us to view it probably way more than we should. Quite possibly the only place we have cut back on is our iron. I can’t say I’ve seen it in use the last decade or longer. (God bless permanent press!)
I have learned the new ways and have ridden the new wave into the future with great ease, but the day the lights went out in our home slowly went from a brief inconvenience to a prolonged period of realizing we didn’t have access to all we were used to. As the day moved into evening, and of course this time of year it becomes dark very early, we debated on what we should do and eventually decided to just turn in for the night and go to bed. All I could think of was the expression of “early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise.” I was anything but sold on it.
I do remember when the electric company first brought electric to Fruit Ridge Road in 1947, two years before my arrival. I have never been without one of the major additions to the improvement to our quality of life. Since my Dad was an electrician, I saw him wire homes for folks who were hooking up to the wonder of electric for the first time. So while I laid in bed really not ready for a good night’s sleep yet, I thought of just how it must have been back in the days before widespread electricity.
I have heard my sister and brother tell stories of how when it was bed time for them they had to carry a lighted kerosene lamp up the stairs to their room and blow out the light and climb into a bed surrounded in total darkness. Ben always said Peg wasn’t afraid of the dark, but she was of the fire so he said he had to light the lamp and carry it up the stairs and blow it out for his sister to feel safe. My brother Ben, always the hero.
The truth is that I can’t imagine being in total darkness. I know that in my junior high years my Dad installed a mercury vapor light on a pole behind the house. This illuminated the area around the house and served as a night light so that we could move throughout the house without tripping over or bumping into anything, and might have been the first big luxury we ever had.
It was just a brief time after we went to bed that the power returned to the house and we both gave a cheer of relief and happiness. Our time as pioneers had lasted only eight hours but I will tell you all this. It was long enough for me to decide I am more than willing to stay with this generation and all it has to offer. Not having television? Forget it!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you want he may be able to speak to your group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.