Katie Jensen wrote (April 2012): “The Jensen connection to OPALCO began in November, 1953, when we rented a house on North Beach Road with Tina (age 6), Judy (age 4 1/2) and Eric (4 months). Fred had Air Force orders to an Aleutian Island air base, which serviced military aircraft and Northwest Airlines, a stop on the way to Japan and other Far East destinations. He had a month to help us get settled in for his two-year absence, so getting the power connected and getting acquainted with the new venue made the time pass all too quickly.
Word got around fast about the “strange” family moving in. The nicest gesture possible was made by Atlanta & Eber Bruns (Mr. & Mrs. OPALCO to us!), who heard we needed a crib for the baby, and showed up at the front door with the loan of a cradle, which was gratefully accepted.
Oil for the heater was delivered by Elmer Cramer, who operated the Standard Oil dock on Madrona Point. I ordered wood for the fireplace from the Ammermans, whose truck became mired in the wet soil, so they left it there until we got it unloaded. Tina and I were working on it, and while she was tossing chunks off the truck, my head got in the way and I wound up with a gash on my scalp. Knowing by then that there was no doctor or clinic available except a couple times a week, I called Marge Burney, the resident nurse, who invited me into her home to take a look. She decided it wasn’t severe enough to need stitches, but carefully gathered strands of hair from both sides of the gash and tied them together. It healed just fine.
My neighbors are remembered with great fondness, even Janice whose favorite entertainment was listening on our crank-phone party line. Across the street was Frank Ferris, brother of Captain Ferris in Kangaroo House, whose picture I took with Josie, the young kangaroo he brought back from Australia. Next door was Nonie & Frank Dorrance, stand-ins for grandparents to Tina & Judy. A few houses away Andy Johnson, missing a foot from diabetes and expecting to move to a VA home. A special angel was Henry Lohman, a true island character, always ready to offer help to anyone who needed it, and handy in many ways, whether topping a tree or helping kids with their math. I still feel badly about turning down his offer of a fresh-killed pheasant, not feeling up to the necessary plucking and gutting!
My darkroom hobby found a niche in the pantry, once I figured out how to meet the need for running water for washing the prints. The roadside ditch seemed to run very clear, so I punctured an old wash boiler which fit into the ditch very nicely. It worked well, except for the need to run out frequently to keep the prints from clumping. The road crew came by one day cleaning ditches, tossed it in their truck, and I ran hollering after them to rescue it. Just another confirmation of the “strange” label, I guess.
At OPALCO’s 1955 annual meeting, held that year at the Eastsound IOOF Hall, I won a prize – a Dormeyer Hurri-Hot Electric Cup, one the of the handiest little appliances I’ve ever been blessed with. It looked good, boiled water quickly, and served us for many years. It went with us to Florida for three years, came back to Orcas, and was recently laid to rest when I was lucky enough to find a second-hand replacement. It’s too bad they don’t make them anymore. (eBay has one in “mint condition” for $35!)
I don’t recall any outages of note during those almost two years, but those wonderful generators were kept ready by Eber Bruns and crew. I feel an affection for it being an REA Co-op, recalling so well what a difference REA made back in Minnesota when I worked for a couple high-school summers in a dairy farm home. The first year, 1938, they had no electricity, and a daily job was cleaning and trimming a number of oil lamps. The dairy equipment was run off a generator, but the next year the power had come in. What a difference, just in the ambience alone, at night! All those dark corners, having to be careful in walking about with a lamp held high, seeing how different the rooms looked all lit up.
I still keep oil lamps on hand; it’s nice to know all about keeping them clean and glowing, the wick properly trimmed, and oil on hand, but I’ll take a good old light switch via REA and OPALCO any time.