Electricity came to our home on Dry Fork Road around 1935. When electricity was new to the community, almost everybody was afraid of it. I was around seven years old when we got electricity and we were told about the dangers of it. We were told never turn a light on with wet hands. I used to see people whose hands were damp use a towel to turn the electrical switch on. Being a not-so-good little boy I used to take a short electrical wire and chase my sisters with it. They thought if I touched them it would mean instant death!
The house was wired by running the wires in the attic. Some houses attached the wires to the ceiling. A light was installed in the middle of each room, some with a wall switch and others with a pull chain that was attached to the light receptacle. At the houses I knew there were no wall receptacles, which meant that every appliance had to be connected to the hang-down light.
Many lights hung down from the ceiling around eighteen inches. For some reason houseflies liked to light on the cord and sleep or whatever they do. Many houses in that day did not have screens and the flies would place their specks (droppings) on the cord. After a while the cord would turn darker and it would grow in diameter.
Not many people knew about watts in those days. If a line were overloaded the fuse blew. If it blew the second time a stronger fuse was added. If that stronger one blew, often a penny was put into the fuse receptacle and a fuse screwed in to hold it in place. It was dangerous, but ignorance is often bliss and somehow many got by with it. It was a common practice to keep extra fuses on hand since they blew pretty often. Most every light outlet had at least one cord running across the room to a radio or some other necessity or luxury.
Our home was at the intersection of present-day I. H. Powell Road. My friend Jesse Crane, who also lived in Dry Fork, told me that they got electricity in 1937. These power lines came down the Dry Fork Road from Route 41 (the Franklin Turnpike). I do remember the line stopped across the road from where we lived for quite a while. Based on what Jesse told me the electricity for the Dry Fork Depot area came from the opposite direction, from U. S. Highway 29, and the depot, the post office, Bryant's Store, Dry Fork Milling Company, and the residents on that end of Dry Fork Road had electricity earlier than we did.
Back in those first days of electricity, someone from Swicegood Funeral Home in Danville brought Uncle Charlie Jones, who was Dry Fork postmaster, an electric wall clock advertising the funeral home. The man from the funeral home asked permission from Uncle Charlie to install it in the lobby/barbershop at the post office. Being pretty frugal, Uncle Charlie asked about the amount of electricity it would use. The man said that it would not use any electricity. Uncle Charlie told him, “Since it does not use any electricity, it will be no use to plug it into a receptacle!”
Prior to electricity's coming, most homes were lighted with lamps. At one time we had power that was supplied by a Delco power plant (a gas motor with a generator) that charged batteries, which then supplied enough electricity to provide lights for a home. Some homes had light provided by carbide gas but the ones I remember replaced the carbide system with a Delco plant. We had a Delco plant at our church.
About the time electricity came to our house, Daddy said our family was growing and we needed more milk. Daddy traded the Delco plant to Uncle Dave Yeatts for a cow, then he had to wire the house for new lights. I remember helping Daddy (I was probably more in the way) do that. The cow did well until spring. She got out of the pasture and ate too much green peas from a neighbor's garden and died. We were without both our Delco Plant and our cow for awhile after her death.
Along the Dry Fork Road
Clement: History of Pittsylvania County
Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past
Hurt: Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County
Hurt: An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County
Dodson: Footprints from the Old Survey Books
Byrd: Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina
Melton: Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills
Melton: Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills
Melton: Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On
Melton: Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse
Jones: Tales About People in a Small Town
This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.
Copyright © 2005 S. Dail Yeatts.