Brian Floca, brought to mind a bit of family lore that came during the period when electricity made its way to the Appalachian foothills and my ancestors in his address to the recent Fay B. Kaigler Book Festival. He spoke about a new bit of research he was doing in anticipation of writing a book arising from his interest in the history of the electrification of rural areas.
My great-grandmother loved to tell a good story and if the story caused her some chagrin, that was all the better. One of her favorites came from the newly electrified rural South. Pictured here with her friend cropped out of a candid shot by what was probably a Kodak Brownie camera, she was infinitely more fun that this snapshot indicates.
Wanting to take advantage of this marvelous new innovation, the family had splurged on a new refrigerator. Busy with farm work during the day, she had paid little attention to its workings except to enjoy the ice cubes in her sweet tea and to marvel at the cold butter and milk.
Then night came. Her bedroom shared a wall with the refrigerator’s room. She was almost asleep when she heard the motor cut off. Always self-reliant, she figured she could fix whatever was wrong with this machine. She got up, opened the refrigerator door, examined its workings, and fiddled with any parts that would move. Eventually, the refrigerator warmed and the motor kicked on again. Satisfied that she had repaired the new machine, Gram returned to bed.
Before she could get to sleep, the refrigerator quit again. Not sure what she had done that caused it to work the last time, she retraced her movements until it began running again. Gram spent a restless night repeating her actions over and over. The next morning, she reported that the new electric refrigerator was defective and would need to be returned.
None of her descendants, experienced in the workings of a thermostat, laughed harder than Gram when she told this story on herself. I wonder what she would have thought if she had been told there would be a day when you could put your glass next to a lever in the door and get either ice or water?