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Aiken Speaks at the First Pole Setting Ceremony

 October 12, 1939 at the McKnight Farm in East Montpelier

picture taken by Mrs. Beamish, wife of R.E.A. engineer, R.E. Beamish

Here is the introduction to the Governor from E. Harmon Kelley, President of the Washington Electric Cooperative:

“This ceremony which we are about to observe marks a very important milestone in the lives of the people in this part of Vermont. For months we have labored to bring about this moment and it has been only through the concerted action of everybody, in spite of delays and discouragements, that we now see the first tangible evidence of the fulfillment of our dreams, cheap and adequate power and light available to rural homes which never would have received it except for group action, or, if you please, cooperation of all for the good of all.

Such action is the only alternative to Government ownership or the greed of private industry. Those of us who have participated in the benefits of the Cooperative store at Adamant and Plainfield realize the happy results from communities working together for a common cause.

That this fact is recognized by those taking part in the more complex affairs of business and State is evidenced by the presence here today of many from other sections, many who have given freely of their time and experience to assist in making this project a success. Our own Governor is keenly interested in the prosperity of everyone of us and is an ardent supporter of things cooperative. He has very kindly consented to take a few moments from his multitudinous duties to assist us in this simple pole setting ceremony, a symbol of benefits which will continue after we have passed on. Figuratively speaking, may I express the hope that this timber will bear fruit and the seed therefrom be scattered to every rural home not now enjoying the advantages of electricity.

Permit me at this time to introduce Governor Aiken, who will turn the first earth for the setting of this pole and the start of the power lines of the Washington Electric Cooperative.”

Governor George Aiken’s Remarks:

“In a land as rich as ours it should be possible for all to enjoy a high standard of living on our farms as well as in our cities and villages.

In these times, innumerable conveniences to lighten the work of the farmer and his family are available, provided electric current is at hand.

While Vermont farmers have been far more fortunate in this respect than the average for the country, yet nearly two thirds of them are still unsupplied with electric light and power from central stations. This condition ought not to exist, and when it is remedied, not only will the farm family find greater values in living, but the Community and the State will profit by reason of the improvement of property and greater income and also from the immigration of people from the larger centers of population who will elect to live up here in these hills, if electric current, good roads, and rapid transportation to the cities are available.

It is not to be expected that private utilities can, within a short time, expand their services to meet the situation at a cost the people can pay. Some private companies cannot afford the cost even though they have the willingness to cooperate and serve.

Others, unfortunately, appear to be under the control of those who have no sentimental attachment for Vermont, and little interest in us. Their motive seems to be to get the last drop of blood at as little expense to themselves as possible. Therefore, they lack the desire to serve thinly populated rural areas and apparently they cannot see the possibilities for future development.

Vermonters, on the other hand, do not look with favor on Government ownership of retail distributing lines fearing the extension of such centralized ownership to other local and more personal affairs.

To me it seems that the Cooperative provides a satisfactory answer to the question as to how our farms may be electrified.

It is a proper function of Government to assume leadership in the matter. To make available the results of widespread studies, to provide extension services demonstrating the uses of electricity, to assist in coordinating activities of strategically located cooperatives, to make available funds for construction and early maintenance of the lines where necessary, and to exercise only such control over the local management as may be necessary to protect the public investment.

We appreciate the cooperation of the REA here in Vermont. We hope its services may be further extended. I have confidence in the success of our adventures and compliment the people of Washington, as I did those of Eden and vicinity – on their courage, their foresight and their faith in their communities.”