We’ve Come A Long Way
Christmas will soon be here, and with this magical season come memories of Christmases past. Nostalgia fills the air as we hear classic songs from Bing Crosby and Andy Williams playing on the radio or in shops and restaurants. It is also a time to take stock of all that has happened in the past year as we prepare for another.
As an electric co-op, we are proud of our history, which goes back to the Great Depression with the formation of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). We are fortunate to have much of it chronicled in the past editions of this magazine, known first as the Arkansas REA News when it was launched 71 years ago, in November 1946. In the 1950s, it was renamed Rural Arkansas and kept that name for most of its history, finally changing to Arkansas Living in 2011.
Flipping through the past issues in the magazine archives will definitely take you on a trip down memory lane. A favorite issue is the December 1951 edition, which features a young boy proudly displaying the electric train set he got for Christmas. Here is the caption that accompanied the photo, which graced the publication’s cover: “Six-year-old Larry James, starting out early with electricity on the farm — an electric train, that is — wished you a Merry Christmas in this photo taken by Mrs. Iva Grey Taylor, home economist for First Electric Co-op of Jacksonville.”
At the time, Arkansans were still getting used to having electric appliances help them with chores in the home and on the farm. The electric industry in Arkansas was truly in its early stages. An article inside this edition reported on how Arkansas was still importing a “substantial percentage” of its electricity from outside of the state and how the Arkansas Public Service Commission supported integrated power resources provided by investor-owned utilities, as well as those operated by municipally owned power companies and the rural electric co-ops.
“The future of the production of power in Arkansas appears bright, provided the necessary courage is prevalent not only to expand to meet the existing demand, but also to prepare for the growth that certain to take place when power is available in unlimited quantities at reasonable rates,” a 1951 report from the commission to then Gov. Sid McMath said.
It would take many political fights and legal battles in ensuing years to strengthen Arkansas’ electricity resources, including authorizing electric co-ops to own and build generation. Electric co-ops have played a vital role in the development of the electric grid in Arkansas and across the nation, creating a true engineering marvel that has transformed lives of citizens in rural America.
Going forward, we see the co-ops’ role growing, as well as changing, to meet the needs of our members. We will continue to provide affordable, safe and reliable power for children’s electric trains and other toys, as well as your Christmas lights, homes, farms and businesses. We’ve come a long way, but we have much farther to go. Working together with our members and “Co-op Nation” as a whole, we believe that the future is quite bright.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.