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Dr. Craig and E. Harmon Kelly

Dr. R.B. Craig, Assistant Administrator, REA, Washington, D.C., and E. Harmon Kelley, President, Washington Electric Cooperative - December 2, 1939

Draft of Remarks by Dr. Robert B. Craig, Assistant Administrator, Rural Electrification Administration, at energizing of first section of Washington Electric Cooperative at East Montpelier, Vermont, on Saturday afternoon, December 2, 1939.

You members of the Washington Electric Cooperative can take special pride in the energizing of your first section of lines today, because you have set something of a record in construction. Your allotment was made early in September. You set your first pole on October 12. Now, less than two months later, you are receiving electric service generated in your own plant and distributed over your own electric distribution system: Seldom, if ever before, in the history of the Federal rural electrification program has such speed been achieved.

You could not have achieved this record of speedy construction if you had not understood thoroughly the meaning of cooperation. It took the united efforts of everyone concerned – the REA staff, your employees and directors, and, above all, those of you who live along the lines that are being energized today – to make it possible. If even one of you had failed to display the neighborly spirit that is the heart of a cooperative undertaking, if even one of you had refused to grant an easement so that the line could be run across his property, we should not be holding this celebration now, and you would not be looking forward to obtaining light at the turn of a switch, and listening to an all-electric radio tonight.

You did understand what cooperation means. How could you help but do so? Ever since the Allen boys and Seth Warner and Remember Baker came up into this mountain region after the French and Indian Wars, and began to carve a commonwealth out of the wilderness, Vermonters have known how to work together. The monument at Bennington which I passed on my way up here testifies to this. So does the cave on Mount Mooslamoo, where the Green Mountain Boys hid at times when the Sheriff of Albany was making things too hot for them and they needed a little time to perfect their plans and muster their forces for protecting their homes. So do the long lists of Vermonters who have given their lives on the field of battle in every war in which the United States has engaged – and a list out of all proportion to the population of the State it is.

Because you understand cooperation and because you have inherited the spirit of self-reliance that has been bred in the bone of Vermonters from the beginning, you have worked together to bring yourselves the electric service that no one else could bring you. You borrowed the necessary funds from your Federal Government, at the same low interest that the Government itself pays on its obligations. You have pledged your word that you will pay this money back on the installment plan over a 25 year period, at the end of which you will own your cooperative electric power system in fee simple.

I hope that from this day on you will think and speak of the generating plant and lines of your cooperative electric power system as “our plant” and “our lines”, because that is what they are. They are not “Government lines.” True, the Government has a mortgage on them; but it does not own them, and does not wish to own them. What it does wish is to continue to give you advice and guidance, as it has in the past, and to help you to help yourselves. The terms of the loan contract give REA the right to exercise such supervision as may be necessary to protect the Government’s investment. That is necessary, because the funds with which your power system has been built are public funds which must one day be returned to the Treasury. But we wish to keep that supervision to a minimum, just as we wish to help you with any problems that you care to present to us; and I am confident that if you keep on as you have begun – and the record of your sister cooperative at Eden Mills gives every indication that you will – you will find that your Cooperative’s relationship with REA will become more and more a partnership in the conduct of which you members of the Washington Electric Cooperative have the major voice.

“You will not always have smooth sailing. You became aware of this when you found it impossible to obtain wholesale power at a price and under conditions that you could afford. That is why we allotted funds to enable you to generate your own power. But you can be assured that when troubles come, you can count on the full support of the REA and of the United States Department of Agriculture of which it is a part.

Governor Aiken outlined the situation that made your cooperative necessary in his speech before the New England Conference a few days ago. He said then, as you remember; “there are today private corporations making 20 to 30 percent profit each year, yet there are still tens of thousands of New England farmers without the services of electricity because extension of lines into their territory would not pay the desired dividends on inflated capitalization. So you have determined to wait no longer, but to provide electric services for yourselves.

You will find that you are bringing yourselves not merely the luxury of safe, convenient lights and all-electric radios, but also a helper capable of doing much to makes your farm costs lower and in many instances, your farm income higher. Your Project Superintendent and your County Agent can help you adapt electricity to your particular needs. For instance, a number of members of the Vermont Electric Cooperative around Eden Mills are finding that electric milk coolers not only are cheaper to use than ice refrigerators, but also that their coolers enable than to get a premium of ? cents a hundredweight for their milk because they can deliver it at 50 degrees or lower. Poultry house lights increase egg production during this season of short days and high prices. Electric brooders are proving profitable for raising chicks and turkey poultry on many farms served by REA financed lines all over the United States. Professor Akerman in New Hampshire has determined that they can be used in unheated brooder houses when the temperature falls as low as 40 degrees below zero.

These are only a few of the uses to which electricity can be put on the farm. The reason I mention them is to remind you that the surest way of making your cooperative successful is to make electricity pay its way on your own farms. REA, and all the other agencies and bureaus of the United States Department of Agriculture, are ready to help you find ways of doing this. So are the specialists and County Agents of your own State Extension Service.

Take advantage of the assistance that is available in devising ways to make your electric service profitable. Continue to apply the traditional Vermont qualities of cooperation and self-reliance to your electric cooperative’s affairs. Remember that the vote of every one of you counts for as much at your cooperative’s meetings as does that of the president of the board. Cast that vote at every opportunity. Study the reports of your employees and officers. Do all this, and you can feel confident that yours will be one of the outstandingly successful rural electric cooperatives in the United States.