I try to imagine my life without electricity – without plugging into this and that. It would take some doing and many changes to take myself “off the grid.” Electric power and its many conveniences are thoroughly imbedded in my daily life. Sometimes, when I flick a switch and the magic current fails to make light, I panic. What if it never comes back, this thing that makes my days comfortable and the dark nights less frightening?
My great-grandmother, Lydia Jane Hall, lived most of her life without even the knowledge of electricity. She had many of the comforts that I have today, but was probably more intimately involved with their creation.
This is a foot warmer. Place warm stones or maybe coal in the metal basin, close door, put under feet in carriage, cover with lap robe. Enjoy a sleigh ride in the snow.
This lantern is made of cut scrap metal. Light the candle, close the door, carry to the barn at dusk, hang on a hook inside barn door. Milk cows.
Use pen, paper, and a stamp. Write and send a letter to a friend or a relative. Get one back.
Feed the horse, harness the horse to the buggy. Go for a Sunday drive.
In 1914 Lydia mentions electricity for the first time in her journals.
Wednesday, September 16, 1914 – “A very nice cool day. Men gathering peaches. I am here all alone. Agnes gone to the dentist. Hattie gone to spend the day with Grandma Hart. William [William Cannon, her grandson – son of Hattie Hall Cannon] gone to Northford to a place that used to be called “White Hollow” to wire a bungalow “for electricity,” something I never thought of that my grandson would do for that place. Hope he may do it for this place some time.” – Lydia Jane Hall
The front hall light switch in the farmhouse had a white button for on, and a black button for off. It operated the upstairs as well as the downstairs ceiling fixtures.
Whether or not William was the one to wire the farm for electricity, I don’t know, but by 1924, when Lydia wrote in her last journal, the farmhouse must have had some form of electric power. And yet my great-grandmother and my grandparents still relied on wood to stoke the furnace and run the kitchen stove, candles to light their way to bed, fresh air to dry the clothes, and words – always words – to record, entertain, and keep alive the most important of energies – human connections.
On Wednesday: The Wood Stove