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Red River Valley Rural Electric Association


Kay Electric Cooperative years of lighting Oklahoma By Anna Poltiano


Distribution Electric Cooperatives = 28 Generation & Transmission Electric Cooperatives = 2 Electric Co-op Consumer-members in Oklahoma = 500,000


Times were tough in the 1930s as America recovered from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl clouded Oklahoma. Profi t-oriented electric companies had little interest in furnishing sparsely populated rural areas with electric power. To them, it was not fi nancially sound to build power lines and supply electric service outside well-populated urban centers. However, there were rays of hope shining on rural America. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Rural Electrifi cation Administration (REA) in 1935. As a result, in 1936 the Rural Electrifi cation Act was created to provide federal loans to member-owned rural electric cooperatives for the establishment of electrical distribution systems in rural areas.


Many pioneers in Oklahoma headed up the efforts to electrify their portion of the state. Community leaders, farmers, ranchers and their families came together to bring light to farms and towns. Members were recruited, one by one, while making the investment of a $5 membership fee for the promise of receiving electric power in the near future. There was much to do: recruit enough members to become eligible for an REA loan, set up a board of trustees, establish policies and bylaws, secure a power purchase agreement, order construction materials and much more. One by one, electric cooperatives were formed in Oklahoma, bright- ening rural areas in the Sooner State.


But it was not just forming the cooperatives that took work; the intense, manual labor was yet to come as construction crews, linemen, and engineers—many times aided by community members—began to dig holes and build the infrastructure of transmission and distribution power lines. Building power lines was a complex, laborious process. Early cooperatives did not have big bucket trucks with hydraulic winches and power diggers. Holes for poles were dug by hand or with crude diggers. Poles were lifted by crank winches or by men lifting and pulling on ropes. Without bucket trucks, linemen worked at the top of poles by climbing them—in all kinds of weather conditions. The job of a lineman is hazardous by nature, but even more so in the 1930s and 1940s when they lacked the safety equipment needed and much of their training was on the job. Still, that generation of linemen got their job done—laying a foundation and leaving a legacy of dedication and heroism for today’s linemen.


Presently, 28 distribution electric cooperatives in Oklahoma serve the state’s 77 counties. The year of 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of nine of the distribution December 21, 1938


Harmon Electric Association


August 1, 1939


Indian Electric Cooperative


September 14, 1939 November 16, 1938


Central Rural Electric Cooperative


April 13, 1939


Northfork Electric Cooperative


1940


Cotton Electric Cooperative


Choctaw Electric Cooperative


August 28, 1939 Southeastern


Electric Cooperative November 10, 1939


Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative


June 8, 1940 February 21, 1941


Western Farmers Electric Cooperative


August 14, 1945


Tri-County Electric Cooperative


October 8, 1945 Cookson Hills


Electric Cooperative


September 15, 1949 Lake Region


Electric Cooperative


July 10, 1940 Northwestern


Electric Cooperative


July 10, 1940 KAMO Power


September 24, 1945


Kiamichi Electric Cooperative


1949 OCTOBER 2012 19


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