WAKE FOREST — Wake Electric and Wake Forest Historical Association will hold an tour and discussion panel Sunday, Oct. 25, 2-5 p.m., at Wake Electrics’ customer service building, 100 S. Franklin St.
Seventy-five years ago there were no electric lights in all but a few of the farms and homes all around Wake Forest. But a few visionaries, anxious to improve their lives and the lives of their neighbors, were visiting churches and homes, asking people to sign up with a new organization, Wake Electric Membership Cooperative.
Learn about those efforts and how a cooperative did change lives and provide futures.
See a collection of photographs from the 1940s as WEMC extended its lines. They are photos of men milking by kerosene lantern light, women and children carrying buckets of water to the chickens (a new cash crop for the area), and women cooking on wood stoves. You may recognize an older family member or neighbor. There will also be refreshments.
Most city and town dwellers had electricity by 1940. It had been available in Raleigh since 1988; in 1909 Wake Forest followed Louisburg in building its own electric generation plant, installing street lights and selling electric service to homes and businesses.
Outside those municipal limits, out along the dirt roads in Wake and Franklin counties, Carolina Power & Light refused to extend the poles and lines, saying that farmers could never afford to pay the bills. It was dark out there whenever the sun was not shining. A few farmers paid to have the lines extended, others purchased and operated generators, but most used kerosene lanterns to provide enough light to milk cows in the winter mornings and evenings and to light their homes.
In 1935 only 2 percent of the farms in the state had electricity. However, that year brought hope and electricity to those farms and homes. Congress authorized the Rural Electric Administration (REA) after a bitter fight, and by 1939 REA had established 417 rural electric cooperatives across the nation.
The event is free to everyone whether historical association members or not, and should be of interest for many.