An illuminating tale

Let There Be Light: The Story of Rural Electrification in KentuckyBy David Dick.Plum Lick Publishing. 314 pp. $22.

The recent ice storm left large portions of Kentucky without power for several days. The daylight hours were tolerable at best, but when the sun fell below the horizon, with flashlights and candles we fumbled and grumbled from room to room until bedtime.

When the pole climbers, fingers numb from cold, finally made repairs and once again restored that which has long since been taken for granted, perhaps for just a few seconds we understood what it must have been like nearly 75 years ago, when rural Kentuckians first experienced the miracle of electricity.

In Let There Be Light: The Story of Rural Electrification in Kentucky, author David Dick tells the story of the 26 electric cooperatives that brought rural Kentuckians out of the darkness.

It all began May 11, 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037, which paved the way the next year for the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration.

When the REA came into existence, 90 percent of the rural areas in this country had no electricity.

Extensively researched and compellingly written, this is the story of "the humble beginnings, the early struggles and the ultimate triumph of the electric cooperative idea in Kentucky."

To tell this story, Dick — an Emmy Award-winning former correspondent for CBS News and author of more than a dozen books who lives in Bourbon County — used rich and sometimes intimate interviews with those who lived through the days when dark nights became a thing of the past. This methodology provides the reader with a keen sense of perspective and a genuine appreciation of the efforts of those who changed Kentucky's landscape forever, as well as those on the receiving end of those changes.

Dick dedicates the book to the late J.K. Smith of Meade County, "a leader who guided the creation and maturity of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives." He writes about Charles "Bo" Bean, who was only 13 when electricity finally reached his Nelson County home on Cox's Creek in 1938. Then there's Randall "Randy" Powell of Henderson, who told Dick, "when Mother got her Maytag, she was on top of the world."

Dick, in the usual perceptive, sharply observed approach that his readers have come to expect, has told the much-needed story of the REA.

Conceived during the Great Depression, this act has affected the lives of rural residents from one end of this commonwealth to the other. This book is not just a captivating read; it's a unique historic document that every Kentuckian can enjoy and appreciate.

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