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Panncke's are first family connected to REC, 1940


Posted By: Errin Wilker (email)
Date: 3/23/2008 at 14:55:27


"Once we got the power, all we did was flip the switch and we had lights," said Harold Panncke as he described what he termed an important event in his life. "It is quite a problem to have a lamp in this room and a lamp in that room... And it was a job trimming the wicks and washing the globes.

It was January 20, 1940, the day the Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative, Inc. provided electricity to a farm between Luana and Postville owned by Fred Panncke, the first farm it served. Harold Panncke lived there with his parents and with his wife of 5 years, Elvira.
Actually the Pannckes were more than ready for the electricity. Most of their house and farm buildings had been wired the preceding fall by Louis Thoma of Postville, and the cooperative had told them they would have power there then, Panncke said. "We waited and waited." he said. "Like everything else it was delayed several times," he added, explaining that the weather had been a major problem.

"We were so happy to get lights we didn't worry about getting any other electrical things for a couple of months." The first electrical equipment they did get was a cream separator, he said, explaining the hard work of turning a cream separator by hand. About a month after that they got an electric motor for their water pump.

For his wife, the first appliance was an electric iron, relieving her of the job of heating irons on stoves. He added that although the electric iron made housekeeping easier, ironically it is an appliance that "now days they don't use very much with so many wash 'n wear things." Elvira said the 2nd major electrical appliance they got was a washing machine.

Some of their neighbors had had electricity before the REA. A few produced their own. Those on Highway 18, which is about 1/4 mile from the Panncke farm, could get it from Interstate Power Co. for a reasonable price, but Interstate wanted $1000 or $1500 to build down to our farm," he said.

Elvira said she particularly appreciated getting electricity on the farm because she had had it until she was married. She grew up on a farm that supplied its own electricity, and after that taught school in Luana and had gotten used to electricity there. However, when asked if she had any concern in marrying a man who lived on a farm without electricity, she said, "I never gave that a thought... Being without electricity meant a big change, but I was happy. It didn't spoil my life or anything. You adjust to those things."

Although without electricity, the Panncke farm had had a radio for many years. Harold said he remembered listening to the returns of the 1924 Presidential election in which Calvin Coolidge was elected, listening on one of those radios with goose-neck speakers." The radio had batteries and he would charge them for as much as 6 hours during the day so that they and the neighbors could listen to the radio at night.
"Neighbors would come over to hear our radio," he said. "People did a lot more things with their neighbors in the days before electricity," the couple said. "We used to visit our neighbors at least once or twice a week. Now we don't see our neighbors unless we see them in town."
"Our first bills from the REA were $4-$5. Now they are never under $100," he said. "Of course we do a lot more with electricity now... Now we have television and radio and a lot of things that make work easier." The biggest work-saver as far as he is concerned has been electric milking machines.

As Harold and Elvira Panncke are in the 50th year of marriage and the 45th year of REA electricity, their son, William, works the farm his father and grandfather once worked without the help of electricity.

~This article was published in a special section of a 1988 edition of the Postville Herald newspaper commemorating the 50th year of the Allamakee-Clayton County REC. The Panncke farm is/was located in Grand Meadow Township, Clayton County, Iowa, between Postville and Luana.

~transcribed by Errin Wilker

~note: a photo appeared with the article, but a scan of the picture is too dark & grainy to make out anything in the picture.


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