It was 1936. Electrifying rural LaGrange County farms and homes was not part of the plans of larger electric companies. To power their community, a group of neighbors rolled up their sleeves and decided to take matters into their own hands.
The Rural Electrification Act had just become enacted into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helping farmers create cooperative electric power companies by providing them with low-cost loans. The push to improve the quality of life in rural areas and help farmers become more efficient and profitable led to the creation of LaGrange County REMC, and even though the cooperative was incorporated in 1936, it would take another 5 to 10 years to bring power to the west side of the county.
There was a lot of excitement as families would watch the poles being installed on the road and lights being switched on for the first time. Linemen did not have the same equipment and training that they rely on today — without bucket trucks, they used hooks and belts to climb poles, and installing new poles and wiring was a slow and laborious process. Linemen made about $1.50 an hour in a time when rent would cost $12 to $15 a month and a gallon of gas was about 19 cents.
Back then, the first electric bills were a flat $3.50 a month. For a while, LaGrange County REMC did not have meter readers and relied on an honor system instead. Rates would go up as people started adding more appliances and using more energy to power items such as refrigerators, washing machines, and irons.
And while life may seem like it was a lot different back then, a few things remain the same. Whenever there was an outage, usually due to storms, LaGrange County REMC members would call to report them and we would restore their power right away. The cooperative has always worked hard to meet that expectation — as we still do today. Our commitment to bringing modern conveniences to propel LaGrange County homes, farms and business remains unchanged even after 85 years.
In that same spirit, just as our first linemen dug and installed the first electricity poles by hand as neighbors watched with excitement and anticipation, we are breaking ground once more by bringing broadband internet to the communities we serve. While this is also a large undertaking, LaGrange County REMC has never been one to shy away from hard work.
As we celebrate our 85th anniversary, members get to watch our linemen coming down the road once again — this time bringing fiber optic cables and connecting LaGrange County with the world through the high-speed broadband that we all deserve.