A new electric meter is mounted on the home of a poor family in rural Georgia in 1941. (LOC)

A new electric meter is mounted on the home of a poor family in rural Georgia in 1941. (LOC)

Workers for the Rural Electrification program had posters made to promote the project. (LOC)

Workers for the Rural Electrification program had posters made to promote the project. (LOC)

Farmers watch as a power line is strung in Missouri in 1942. (LOC)

Farmers watch as a power line is strung in Missouri in 1942. (LOC)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936. (AP)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936. (AP)

Putting in the Poles

Posted: July 1, 2019

Farmers in Gresham, Nebraska, grab their shovels. The telephone poles have arrived, and it’s time to dig!

The town of Gresham had had electricity since 1908. But people in the countryside of Gresham had to wait until 1939 to get it! At that time, most Americans who lived in the mountains, countryside, or on farms didn’t have electricity. It was also the time of the Great Depression. Back then, Americans had barely enough money and food to survive.

So government officials did something big to help. They gave people work to do! Unemployed people could work on big projects—things that needed to be done anyway. One of those big projects was bringing electricity to farms and homes in the country.

Putting in electricity was hard work. People from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) dropped off telephone poles in rural areas. Farmers could make 25 cents for each hole they dug. But they didn’t have any machines to help. It was just the farmer, the shovel, and a lot of deep, drought-hardened dirt to dig through.

Twenty-five cents was worth a lot more then. And the work brought big benefits besides money. With electricity, people could study late at night. They became better educated. They had refrigeration. That made them able to stay healthier. They could use modern electric farm machinery. That gave them a chance to be more productive.

The Bible says “whoever works his land will have plenty of bread.” (Proverbs 28:19) During the Great Depression, people working on the electrification project got an opportunity to become more self-sufficient. Now that’s wise help!

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. ― Proverbs 6:10