The glow of a million lights

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

I recently read the results of a study that indicate the old saying is true – you really are only as old as you feel. The research done by a team of scientists concluded that people who feel younger than they actually are have a better life expectancy overall.

If the same can be said for a company like Baldwin EMC, then we’re poised to be around for a lot longer, because we certainly don’t feel like an 80-year-old. That’s thanks to our open door approach to things like cutting-edge technology, modern equipment and specialized training for employees.

But looking back at where we came from, it’s not hard to also feel a sense of pride in this journey that’s spanned eight decades.

If you lived in the areas served by Baldwin EMC 80 years ago, you would have experienced a darkness so complete it might frighten you. Except for the
feeble orange glow from a lantern carried by a farmer doing his chores, there was no light.

It was a time of great hardship for the people living outside the “big city.” If you were a rural resident back then, you were a second-class citizen. Your day began and ended with the rise and set of the sun. Every chore required backbreaking labor.

But then one day a new company called Baldwin EMC began laying the groundwork for a dramatic change to the way rural residents lived their lives. Not long after, the lights came on.

Only a handful of those still with us today can remember that era of early electrification. Over the years, we’ve tried to gather their stories in order to preserve the memories of Baldwin EMC’s beginnings. I’d like to share with you part of a story told to us by Baldwin EMC member Mrs. Jeanette Dyess Ryan, who lived in the Rosinton area of Baldwin County several years ago.

“One day as I walked the dusty lane coming from school and turned the curve to the small hollow, I could see a truck parked in front of the house. I could see it contained a lot of wire and other supplies as I passed it. Inside our house, I saw Mr. W.M. Gullege, the community electrician, running wires upstairs and cutting small holes in the top of the ceiling. When he finished his job I went outside while they turned on the power…I ran inside to see the whole house ablaze with the brightness of sunlight shining from those small, white bulbs with long pull strings hanging from short chains. It was an incredible experience for me to do my homework without having to smell the rancid odor of the old kerosene lamp. It took my eyes a while to adjust to the glow of a million lights, but it was an experience I will never forget.”

Stories like this are the thread that weaves together the fabric of this cooperative. They are the catch in our throat when we speak of our history. They are the gleam that will be in our eyes as we celebrate our anniversary this month.

We aren’t the only ones who should be feeling this pride. You should feel it as well. That’s because our story is your story. Most of you weren’t part of Baldwin EMC’s founding, but as a member and an owner, you are a part of its future. You are part of a story that will be told 80 years from now.

I’d like to end this column with a simple request. Those of you who remember what it was like to live without electricity, please share your story with your children and grandchildren. Don’t let this great American success story be forgotten.

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