Mildred was born and raised in Friday Harbor, where her grandfather was a doctor and owned the local pharmacy. As the youngest of four, Mildred did not have many chores to attend to, but she remembers her brothers cutting wood for the family’s wood-fired cook stove, and the kerosene lamps that provided light. Mildred’s father traded some of the family land to the L.T. Mulvaney’s Friday Harbor Light and Power Company in exchange for free power, but the agreement evidently wasn’t transferred when OPALCO purchased the company in 1941.
Mildred went to Spokane for her secondary education. When she returned, she married and moved out to the country on San Juan Island, to a house with OPALCO power. Soon after Bonneville Power laid its first submarine cable to the island, Mildred remembers Senator Henry Jackson making a speech and, perhaps jokingly, telling islanders that they each owed him $10 for his role in getting the Bonneville Power out to the islands. Mildred took exception to this and wrote a scathing letter to the editor of the Friday Harbor Journal, saying “We don’t owe you one cent!”
During the big snowstorm after the Christmas of 1968, Mildred and her husband had no power for two weeks and had to pack water from town to water their cows. Finally the power came on, but for just two hours out of each 24 until the cable was repaired.
Mildred has five children and 14 grandchildren. She is especially proud of her grandson Roger Sandwith, who is a Journeyman Lineman for OPALCO on the Orcas Island crew. Roger, also a San Juan Island native, came up through OPALCO’s Apprentice Program.
Looking back, Mildred appreciates running water and the microwave oven as great advances brought by electricity—but nothing as much as watching tennis on television. An avid tennis player herself in her younger days, she doesn’t like to miss a match.