A bright glimpse into a dark past

A bright glimpse into a dark past

Over the last century, electricity has become a fundamental resource. People rely on energy in their homes, cars, at work and just about every other aspect of their day. Cobb County residents and Cobb EMC members Felton and Martha Chastain lived during a time period when life was very different and the nights were very dark. Electricity was a luxury many folks in rural parts of Georgia had no access to.

It was almost eight decades ago but Felton, who was only a boy at the time, still vividly remembers the moment his co-op changed Georgia forever, and brought light into the lives of hundreds of people with the flip of a switch in 1938.

“We had a problem without electricity. There was no way to keep your food. We didn’t even have ice,” says Chastain as he describes summer in the 1930s before Cobb EMC turned on the lights. “Marietta had electricity so they would bring ice blocks to our area. We used a chisel to break the huge ice blocks and make them usable. You could put it in the refrigerator to help a little.”

Chastain lived with his family in Kennesaw. They had no running water or indoor plumbing and the only source of heat during the cold winter months was a fireplace in their sitting room. Getting electricity to the rural parts of the country had been in the works for a couple of years.

“We had the poles and lines in place before we had electricity,” says Chastain. But Cobb EMC’s general manager did not have permission to energize the lines yet. Residents were playing the waiting game. “We just didn’t know exactly when they would be energized. You would pull the ‘pull chain’ several times a day to see if the electricity was on.”

One day, the chain in Felton’s home actually worked. “It was about 10:30 in the morning when my mom was cooking in the dining area,” Chastain recalls. “The lights came on and she yelled out the window to everyone working in the cotton fields. ‘The lights are on, the lights are on!’ We dropped everything we were doing and ran as fast as we could to get to the house just to see the lights.”

Chastain and his siblings could not believe their eyes. “We couldn’t wait for night to come so we could see what the lights looked like at dark,” says Chastain. His family was one of 500 to gain access to electricity in rural north Georgia that day.“The electricity was available for us to use. No more oil lamps.” Their dark nights were finally over and their days of using chiseled ice to keep food fresh had come to an end. The first appliance they plugged in was a refrigerator. “It was just magical. You couldn't believe it,” says Chastain.

Chastain and his wife Martha have been Cobb EMC members all of their lives. They say many things have changed since 1938; what was once rural north Georgia is now a very populated area with electricity everywhere. Despite the constant changing world, the couple believes Cobb EMC’s commitment to the community and the reliability of the company to deliver affordable and dependable energy has remained constant. They are thankful their cooperative continues to improve the way of life for their family and all Cobb EMC members.

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