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Electricity came late to Dayton

Ruby McFarland
For the Nevada Appeal

We take for granted the electricity in our homes that run just about every appliance under the sun. Just take away the power and people panic. Not too long ago the electricity went out at my house after sunset. As I sat there in the flickering candle light, I was taken by how quiet it was. I could even hear the ticking of the clock. It’s a good experience to remind us all how we depend on electricity.

Rural electrification was slow in coming to a lot of areas in Nevada. Along with having incandescent lights, it also opened up communications with the outside world. It allowed folks to have radios even though they were crackly at best. If someone was doing something with a new appliance, it would make the radio inaudible.

Emma Nevada Loftus complained about the poor reception and would say, “Guess it’s sun spots again.” Believe it or not, the sun played a big part in whether you could get any reception. Often the men from the electric company came to Dayton to seek out what was causing the problems. The radios had tubes and a sudden surge of power would blow out the tubes and you could replace them from the radio store. Most people kept spare tubes so they wouldn’t be without their link with the outside world.

When electricity was brought to the area, the bare wires were strung along outside walls and across inside ceilings. It was held in place by an insulator that had a nail through it to hold the wires. There were a lot of home fires created by people who didn’t install the wires correctly or even if a rat ate through the wire.

It was many years before all the rural areas in the West had electricity. After WWII, more areas had the opportunity to get electricity. My own family lived in an area that didn’t have electricity until the 1950s. People had generators and Kelvinator refrigerators that ran on propane in those areas.

It’s great to have all the convenience that electricity allows us to have. However, I did enjoy the silence that evening when the lights went out and I sat watching the candles flicker in the darkness.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets 12:30-1:45 p.m. at the Lyon County Library, Dayton Branch Conference Room; 321 Old Dayton Valley Road. We meet the third Wednesday each month. All are welcome.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours: Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Historical lectures 11 a.m., Saturdays. The web site is daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-8382 or 246-0441.

• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.