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  • Power to the People! The Rural Electrification Administration in Georgia

    Terry Kay, author of The Year the Lights Came On, discusses the Rural Electrification Administration created under FDR's New Deal. 

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Explain why the electric companies didn't provide rural service.

    2. What was the REA? Who created it and why?

    3. Describe the new opportunities electricity created for farmers.

    Expansion

    1. Simulation at home (or at school, if possible): Go one day without using any electricity. We are so accustomed to having the better things of life, it would be interesting to see how difficult it would be to do without. (Don’t turn off the refrigerator or freezer!! Put food you think you will use in a cooler with ice.) Another way: If you have a camper, use that for one day without electricity. Try to go on with your life doing the things you usually do without using our modern appliances. What did you have to do without?

    2. Create a “before” and “after” scenario for rural farm families who had no electricity until the 1940’s. What was it like before they had this modern marvel? What was it like after electricity was hooked up to their homes? What did they have to acquire (buy) in order to use it?

    Vocabulary

    electrification: to supply an area, community, city with electric power
    cooperative: an organization jointly owned by people and operated by them so that it is mutually beneficial; they typically are able to supply services that would not be affordable without their joint efforts (such as electricity or food)
    kerosene: also called paraffin or lamp oil, a flammable liquid commonly used as a fuel
    inferior: lower in rank, status, or quality
    kilowatt: rate at which energy is generated or consumed and hence is measured in units (a measure of 1,000 watts) 

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Explain why the electric companies didn't provide rural service.
    No power company wanted to pay the high cost of running electric lines to the rural areas. Even if they had done so, most farm people would not have been able to afford the service.

    2. What was the REA? Who created it and why?
    The REA (Rural Electrification Administration) was proposed by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt and passed by Congress in 1933 under the New Deal. Cooperatives were set up. The federal government extended the electric lines to the rural areas. Then, as a group of “shareholders”, these cooperatives signed up and bought electric service for a $5 fee. In this way, electric companies could sell more electricity (to the cooperatives as well as single family homes) and the rural people could afford the cost.

    3. Describe the new opportunities electricity created for farmers.
    Farmers had electric tools that helped them get their work done more quickly, with less effort, and without as many hired hands; they could produce higher quality dairy products because of refrigeration; more food could be produced (hens would lay more eggs because the lights would stay on even after dark); store owners could stay open after dark and they could sell electric products and different kinds of food.

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