In the 1930s, electricity had still not arrived in the Texas Hill Country. The days were brutally hot, the nights were pitch black and the farmers and ranchers lived the same primitive, hardscrabble existence as their pioneer ancestors. They hand-pumped water from wells and heated their homes with coal or hand-split wood. At night, they squinted over dim gas lamps, making it difficult to work, study or take part in leisure activities between sundown and sunup.
Meanwhile, just down the road, residents of Austin and San Antonio lived in modern, electric homes with lighting, refrigerators, radios and running hot and cold water. But lack of interest from investor-owned utilities, which cited the poor business sense in extending miles of line to serve sparsely populated areas, left rural America in the dark.
We’ve come a long way since those early days. Days when young Senator Lyndon B. Johnson paced the halls of Washington, D.C., advocating for electricity for rural America. Days when E. Babe Smith knocked on the doors of Hill Country farmers and ranchers with a petition to form the region’s first electric cooperative. Days when a band of hard-fighting locals came together to form Pedernales Electric Cooperative and make the Hill Country a brighter place.
Those grassroots efforts planted seeds of change that are still growing today. At about 300,000 active accounts, our membership has grown 100 times larger than the 3,000 families who put down a $5 membership fee to extend those first electric lights in 1938. But despite new technologies, new neighbors and new ways of life, we’re still guided by the cooperative and community values that led Smith porch to porch.
Follow us over the next year as we journey through our past and celebrate our present.