Marvin's Window: Electric memories

I looked out my window at the darkness this week thinking back to growing up on a small farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley without electricity.

The local utility company had advised area residents that power would be off for eight hours while some planned changes were being completed at the substation.

My house is all electric, including heat, and I began to wonder how I needed to prepare for the eight hours in the dark from 1 a.m.

to 9 a.m.

I could put an extra blanket on the bed, get some logs for the fireplace and put new batteries in the radio/CD player.

Hopefully, the water would stay hot for a shower.

There would be no television.

The electric space heaters would be useless.

The electric coffee pot would be just decoration on the counter.

Of course, the electric stove was not going to be much use for that time period.

Worse, the microwave would not work! I could not even make toast.

The refrigerator would stay cold that long and the frozen things in it might not thaw too much.

My telephone and answering machine require electricity so I would not be able to keep in contact with friends and family unless I used the cell phone.

My computer would be reduced to a big box of inoperable software.

The Internet would not keep in contact with the children for those hours.

I could not write and the games on the computer would be in "no electricity storage" on the computer's hard drive.

Former president Jimmy Carter still remembers the first electricity to the farm where he grew up in Archery, Georgia just outside Plains.

He called it "The single most important event in my life."

"Our whole life was transformed as far as our relationship with the outside world when we got electricity.

So that is the kind of experience in a young boy's life that is unforgettable." Carter said on NBC's "Today" show Oct.

20, 2000.

Carter's father was active with the local rural cooperative that brought electricity to Sumter County, Georgia in the 1930s.

It was electricity that brought lights that enabled farmers to meet after dark and those meetings were the first political activity and community activity for Carter's father.

With the current energy crisis causing "blackouts." It seemed like a good time to remember what life was like before we had electricity generally available to every one.

As I continued to stare out my window into the dark, my thoughts turned again to the eight hours I would be without electricity.

The Scrabble game works fine without electricity, I thought before I realized that it would be dark and I had only candles and a flashlight to light up the playing area for the game.

Growing up without electricity, I had some good lamps available that would light up the house.

They gave almost enough light to read at night.

I used a lot of batteries in my flashlight reading books under the covers after mother insisted I blow out the kerosene lamp

And go to sleep.

Electricity came to the farm after I left for college.

I remember the problems we had convincing the neighbor to allow the electric company to include his house in the new service.

Without the neighbor, no one would get electricity.

The utility insisted every one along the electric line be connected.

Old Charlie could not see any reason to put the "new-fangled" electricity in his house.

He finally did agree and the utility wired his house and we all had new lights.

Charlie's entire use of electricity was one bare bulb hanging in the center of his one room house.

The electric company did not bother with a meter to measure use.

Charlie did not have a single outlet to any kind of appliance!

The first thing my mother bought was a washing machine with an electric motor.

All of us were glad to see the old one with the gasoline motor, open tubs and a ringer to get the water out of the clothes off the back porch.

We could get in and out of the house on washday.

The electric water heater came soon thereafter and we no longer heated bath water on the kitchen stove.

We had a bathtub for a long time before we had hot water to put in it!

I am sure some of you have pleasant memories about the first electricity.

When you share those memories with children and grandchildren, you likely get some unbelieving smiles.

The younger ones cannot imagine how we existed without television, computers and electronic games.

"Live without electricity! Why it has always been here.

You just turn on the switch and the lights go on!"

Hopefully, that will continue to be true and we can afford the bills.