SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - "Those Lights'll Knock Your Eyes Out"

(02/26/2010)

By Bob Weaver

Electric service was slow coming to the hills of Calhoun County.

It was 1927 that a power generator was installed in Grantsville for the use of wired customers. Service was not readily available to the rest of the county for another 30 years or so.

Small generators were purchased for use by a few businesses in the early 1900s and electric lights began to appear on river boats traveling the Little Kanawha.

The mail packet Steamer Violet, which carried mail between Creston and Grantsville, installed an electric light plant on their boat in 1921.

In the Village of Hur, the McCoy's who had the store at Hur, installed a wind-generated 12 or 6-volt "electric plant" using storage batteries that was replenished by a windmill.

Grantsville's big dynamos and engines came up the Little Kanawha in 1927 on riverboats to be used by Monongahela's West Penn Public Service Corporation to manufacture electric current.

The power plant was located at the east end of the high school football field.

The holes for a system of poles that would carry the power lines were dug along the streets, with a "Lights-on Day" promised by Christmas.

Citizens got excited when the engines were fired up, and a test was briefly done with all the street lights burning brightly.

The formal inauguration of electric service was marked by a banquet held in the dining rooms of the Masonic Temple. During the dinner the switch was thrown and the lights came on to excitement and cheers.

It was December 12, 1927.

A party of Monongahela West Penn officials, including its President G.M. Alexander, arrived by automobile for an inspection of the new plant.

The dinner was served by the ladies of the Eastern Star and there was music by the West Penn Orchestra from Parkersburg.

Shortly came the electric lit moving picture show and hundreds of new fangled devices which hummed and ground to make life a little easier, not to forget being able to see the interior of one's house after dark, the electric light replaced the gas mantle and kerosene lamps.

Small sections of the county received electric service along the main drag, but it wasn't until about 1950 that the Rural Electrification Administration brought power lines to any resident that requested it, up and down the most remote of hollows.

Farmers made a dash to wire their homes for power. There was great excitement in Hur, putting in basic light holders and receptacles and going to town to buy 40 watt light bulbs.

The day of brilliance came. The gas lights were taken down over time.

Uncle Charley Starcher said "Those lights'll knock your eyes out."

At my house we hung a single dangling light bulb out in the yard to turn on when company came and bought an electric mixer for my mom.

My dad saved up some money to buy an electric drill.

It was time to throw away that old radio set that operated on a car battery, the one on which we listened to the news about our soldier boys in that great war.

Now we had a new Arvin radio, red and white, that never went dead as long as we paid our bill.

Shortly thereafter, my dad got obsessed with turning out lights unless you were in the room and not playing the radio unless you were sitting close by.

Life was good in Hur.


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