P.O. Box 19062 Huntsville, Al. 35804
This Week's Column
by Bruce Walker @2016
When Electricity Came to Walker’s Bend
I have an idea that the Appalachian foothills of North Alabama and the culture it inspires is not very different from many of the rural settings across our great country, North, South, East and West.
In the early 1950’s when Alabama Power brought rural electrification to our area, there were many holdouts in our valley along the Coosa River in St Clair County, Alabama. When the electric salesman came to my Uncle Charnel and Aunt Versa’s farm and offered electricity to them, Uncle Charnel eyed him suspiciously, standing there in his crisp white shirt and clip on black tie. He asked, “How much is it going to cost?” “About $1.50 a month” replied the salesman. “Whew, that is an awful lot for light, we usually go to bed right after sundown, next thing I know you will want $1.65, and anyway, our bees’ wax candles work just fine. I collect the wax right from my own hives, don’t cost a thing.” Uncle Charnel crossed his arms and smiled, “How do you store this electricity? I don’t have in electricity proof cans to put it in.” The electric power man said it wasn’t stored at all but generated by water down at the dam and moved invisibly through overhead lines being installed on the side of the road. Uncle Charnel pushed his hat back on his head and said, “How do I know how much I used if it’s invisible?” The salesman responded, “We have a meter the electricity passes through; a wheel turns and measures the kilowatts you use.” “Kill -o -Watts’?” Uncle Charnel sounded incredulous, “The only thing I see being killed is my pocket book. Let me get this straight; I am buying something I can’t see, doesn’t smell, and has no weight?” He continued, “Your man will come around and look at this contraption called a kill-o-watt meter and tell me how much I have to pay? Sounds like a scheme to me.”
Uncle Charnel finally agreed to be hooked up to electricity only because Aunt Versa had heard that everybody up and down the road was getting a meter and she didn’t want to be left out. It was a sign of keeping up with the times if an electric wire ran from the big pole out at the road and attached to a meter on the side of your house. This meant you were progressing, leaving the old ways behind and saying hello to a whole new world of refrigerators, sewing machines, television and bright lights. No longer were you tied to the sun-up to sun-down rhythm of nature. Uncle Charnel resisted upsetting this natural rhythm and for years, after sundown, when bright electric lights winked on at farm houses up and down the road, a soft glow of the bees’ wax candles could still be seen in Uncle Charnel’s and Aunt Versa’s window, along with the flickering light of the TV in the living room. He kept the light bulbs unscrewed; said that he didn’t want any electricity leaking. When you drove by and the light bulb on the front porch was burning; you knew Uncle Charnel and Aunt Versa were having company. He would get the bulbs out of a drawer and screw them in, lighting up the living room, porch and dining room, this was 1968 the year we put a man on the moon!! All I can say is Uncle Charnel and Aunt Versa didn’t have much of a utility bill and yes you can watch TV by candle light!
Bruce Walker Storyteller-Humorist......Funny with a Message