It’s Our Privilege and Our Obligation

March 2011| Alabama Living

Yesterday was a beautiful January day. I took off in the afternoon with my grandson Jay (daughter, Sundi’s son) to sit in a deer stand and to clear my mind. At work earlier in the day we talked about why it is important to remember when and how CWEMC came about. As I sat in the stand, my thoughts went back to the 1930’s – the years of the Great Depression. The Depression was before my time, but I’ve often heard stories and read how difficult these years were for people living particularly in the south.

Even though I’m not a child of the Depression, I was raised by parents that were! Those that lived during this era came out with an appreciation for things which sometimes I think the rest of us may have lost along the way. They had to make do with what they had in order to survive, and they didn’t have much. I’m sure they were appreciative of anything they had – only needing the bare necessities to get by. Farming or share-cropping, turpentining, and intense labor such as logging with oxen and dummy lines was the way of life. Rural residents enjoyed none of the modern conveniences which we take for granted today.

Indeed, a dollar was hard to come by for these folks. The entire family had to do their share. Women particularly had severe hardships. Cooking on wood stoves, washing clothes by hand using a washboard, drawing water from a well, and keeping the house scrubbed. The family was self-sufficient as they had to grow their own food and can their own vegetables and fruits. Every day but Sunday was a hard working day.

Out of these Depression times, Clarke-Washington EMC was formed. I’ve always heard that it’s good to remember where you came from so as not to lose your way. CWEMC was formed as a cooperative, not to make a profit from the struggling rural communities and families, but to help them in their every day lives. We provided electricity first for only a simple light, then refrigeration for food, a pump for running water, and then a washing machine with a manual ringer.

CWEMC was the first electric cooperative formed in Alabama. By working together, our rural people made a big difference and this makes it a privilege and an obligation to tell their story. What a story it is! They made one giant step forward to improve their lives by forming Clarke-Washington EMC which worked out to be an example for the rest of rural Alabama to follow.

For seventy-five-years, thousands have now received the benefits and participated in further development of the cooperative. But what stands out to me the most is the fact that we were formed for the good of all and not for a few to prosper, another reason I feel privileged to work for such an organization.

And just before nightfall, I left the stand having not seen a deer. However, my mind was clear and I had these scribblings in my pocket. As Jay drove us home, I was happy to hear him listening to a Christian station on the radio. Without a comment, I smiled to myself and thought, Maybe we’ll bring a nice buck home next time. Thank you!


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