REA came to the Farm 6/2/18

Sometime in 1942 or 43 the Rural Electrification Administration decided to electrify Taylorville and bring electricity to the farm. Before that we had kerosene lamps. A few nickel lamps. They were made from a nickel alloy and wouldn’t rust. Three or four glass-body lamps and one Aladdin Lamp. The Aladdin lamp had a different wick called a mantle and put out three or four times as much light.

We didn’t use the lamps very much in the summer. Usually by dark, we were all in bed. Also it was hot enough in July and August without adding the heat from a lamp. I remember my brother lighting a cigarette using the kerosene lamp. He would lean over the lamp, cigarette in his mouth, place the tip of the cigarette over the rim of the glass chimney and puff. In a few seconds, his cigarette was lit.

In the winter the Aladdin lamp was placed on a round oak table in the sitting room. We would sit around the lamp and do our homework. Sometimes we would play old maid, fish, Chinese checkers or Parcheesi. We still went to bed relatively early. No lamps in our bedrooms. We would accidentally knock it over and burn the house down.

The old farmhouse had to be wired. Calvin Smack was a local man and electrician. He got the job.

Old houses were built different than houses of today. Today, the carpenter lays the floor joists and nails four by eight sheets of plywood to make a sub-floor. Then the walls are framed in with two by four studs and nailed to the sub-floor. Not a single hole in the floor. It is very hard for small animals to enter.

In an old home, the carpenter laid the floor joists and then nailed the wall studs to the joist. Then the sub-floor was laid. This made a hole or passage-way from under the house to the attic. All sorts of animals would crawl up these spaces; mice, rats, snakes and cats. When old homes caught fire, the flames raced up the inside walls. Each passage-way acting like a small chimney. No fire-stops were ever added.

Real old homes were wired with single wires, called knob and tube wiring. Our farm house was wired with two wires wrapped in plastic with a tough outer paper layer. One electrician was under the house, the other was on his hands and knees sawing a hole in the mold-board the size of an electrical box.

The receptacles were not put into the walls if possible. The walls were lathes and plaster with horsehair. The horse hair helped hold the plaster together. It was practically impossible to saw a hole without breaking the plaster loose.

To do the second floor, a wire was pulled up through one of the passage ways and on up into the attic.

Switches usually had to be put into the walls. You see a lot of re-plastering around switches in old homes.

All holes were drilled by hand using a brace and bit. All cut-outs done with a key hole saw.

Our farm house had three wires coming in from the transformer. Two hot wires and one neutral or ground wire. We had 220 volts with a 40 amp service. The house had four circuits with four screw-in fuses. The circuit box was outside on the porch. Some smaller farm houses only had a two wire service. 110 volts and two circuits.

The farm house was wired. We waited a few days for Choptank Electric to inspect the lines and to turn on the electricity.

Mom had bought floor lamps, table lamps and best of all, lamps that hung on the headboard of our beds. We could lie in bed at night and read as long as we wished.

Dad bought a piston type water pump. He and the older boys drove a new well and began running water pipes all over the yard. The hand pump in the pantry was replaced. They replaced the hand pump where the cow was watered. Replaced the hand pump in the chicken house and the hand pump a hundred yards away at the hog pen. We didn’t need a plumber. Anyone could dig a trench and screw pipes together.

With running water, Mom decided it was time to re-model the kitchen. She hired her uncle, Dennard Quillen, an excellent carpenter. The wood stove was thrown out, replaced with a propane cook stove. He built kitchen cabinets, a counter-top, installed a sink and a hot water heater. The wooden icebox was discarded and put in the barn. We had an electric refrigerator.

A new electric washing machine was installed in the pantry. The old washer with a Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine was thrown away.

We installed an electric fence around the cow pasture and hog pen. So much easier than a wooden or barb wire fence. It was only one strand of wire. The charger or controller was attached to the wall in the parlor. It sent out a pulse every two seconds. We baited the fence with a few ears of corn. Once the cow touched the wire with her wet nose or tongue she would get a hefty jolt. After two or three jolts, she wouldn’t get within three feet of he wire.

The Taylorville Church and the two room school house were wired. Now the Church could have festivals, suppers and hold revival meeting during the winter evenings.

We had indoor plumbing but no indoor bathroom. That was at least two years away. Brother Irving fixed us up with an outdoor shower complete with hot water. He put a fifty gallon water tank on the roof of the corn crib. He ran a water pipe to it, hooked up the necessary hot and cold controls and we were ready to take a shower. Only in the summer time. After a day in July and August, the water was scalding hot. If the early people were quick and stingy with the hot water, five of us could take showers before the hot water ran out. 1025 6/13/18

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6 Responses to REA

  1. Richard Palmer says:

    I recall reading this before! Must be a Senor Moment! Rick Palmer ( See- I pay attention —HA HA!) Rick P. Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  2. I remember the wood stove in the kitchen so it wasn’t removed until sometime in the 50s.

    Charlotte ________________________________

  3. Alan says:

    Nelson (from Allen Newrath on Alan Auckenthaler’s computer at Rehoboth):

    I got your email and it is good god to hear from you. How is Jeanne?

    I am here in Rehoboth Beach until August 17.


  4. Carol Ann Ellis says:

    Hi Nelson,

    What a memory you have==and a real knack for recreating scenes and situations. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I can remember when my grandmother’s farmhouse, outside of Schenectady (Charlton, NY) was lighted with kerosene lamps and had a space heater in the middle of the living room. The coal and wood stove was in the kitchen, and I’m pretty sure there was a hand water pump, because my dad installed indoor plumbing for his mother and sister several years after the mid-1940s. They were tough people–working with freezing winter weather in upstate NY–breaking ice on the ponds and tanks so the animals could drink.

    All of this–and these two ladies who ran the farm mostly by themselves for probably 40 years after my grandfather died, lived into their 90s. Tough people–Bill says I come from “good old peasant stock.” I would not dispute that! I told Liz when she was little that she had big feminine shoes to fill. So far, she’s done quite well!

    Thanks for sharing, Nelson. I’m feeling better–guts have calmed down.

    Carol Ann

    On Mon, Aug 6, 2018 at 10:08 AM, Taylorville Express wrote:

    > nel32 posted: “REA came to the Farm 6/2/18 Sometime in 1942 or 43 the > Rural Electrification Administration decided to electrify Taylorville and > bring electricity to the farm. Before that we had kerosene lamps. A few > nickel lamps. They were made from a nickel alloy and ” >

  5. Gerald Pine says:

    Good one, Nelson.

    You can laugh about anything,
    but not with anyone.

  6. says:

    Nelson, Good to read more about Taylorville….reminds me of the Marshall’s introduction to electricity, updated Kitchen and indoor toilets in the 30’s…for a city gal, that sounded really like L’il Abner. Hope you’re planning to Come to Salisbury for 60th STC class of ’58. Hello to Jeannie, Lou Marshall

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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