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Poland's Spelbring reflects on the days before electricity

Friday, July 18, 2003

Poland resident Virginia Spelbring is one of 180 writers with a submitted story in the book Circle of Brightness: Rural Americans Recall The Days The Lights Came On.

The book is an anthology about the early days of rural electrification in which the writers recall the evolution of electricity through the advancement in technology. These stories are written by 170 Americans who lived in the post-Industrial Era and did most everything by the light of a lantern. To almost 6 million people who lived in America's countryside there was not much hope for improvement in their quality of living until Nebraska Senator George W. Norris took a stand for them by creating the Rural Electrification Administration.

The book is published by the George W. Norris Foundation of McCook and according to the book's editor, Brent L. Cobb, "While there have been a number of scholars who have published historical and political analyses of the rural electrification process and about George Norris's career, the Foundation decided to offer another perspective - the people's perspective."

He then goes on to say, "Certainly this book is filled with nostalgic glimpses, of the way we lived on the farm before electricity, but I think the book's strength is in the perspective offered by the essayists. Their stories offer that human element we don't always see in history books."

Spelbring's story is entitled "Honored posthumously" and illustrates what June 17,1947, the day a transformer pole was installed in front of her house so her household could receive electricity. "It made the biggest change in country living of anything that has happened," she says.

Her husband Harold was on the first board formed to get electricity in the country but Pearl Harbor put a halt on the plans. When the war ended, REMC's from Clay Vigo and Owen counties came together to form one board. When Harold passed away in 1988, she informed the REMC office of his role in rural electrification and they awarded her with a gold lettered certificate that named Harold a pioneer in the Rural Electric Movement. She thanks God for the people who worked diligently to "light up the country" to prove that people like herself are not the hicks/hayseeds they were and are represented as. Spelbring says, "All we needed was a chance and power provided it."

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