Early OPALCO – From a Child’s Memory
I was three years old when we moved to Orcas. My Dad, John E. Harrison, was born and raised in Eastsound, served in WWI, then was a bank teller in Seattle. The Great Depression was not kind to bank employees. In 1932, we moved to Orcas, updated the old family home and moved in. Having experienced the advantages of electric power, Dad was determined to bring power to the island. With the assistance of Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and the later the REA, the dream was accomplished.
As plans to develop a headquarters became necessary, our living room became the “office.” I remember the big roll-top desk coming in and displacing Mother’s piano. Our home remained the office until a building was constructed near the Plant.
During this time, E.W. Johnson resigned as manager because of “unusual circumstances” and Dad was appointed General Manager.
Getting people to sign up for power was not easy. Farmers were reluctant to give easements over their fields because (of their fears that) the power would “spook the cows.” People that had always kept their food cool by lowering a box into a well could see not need to buy a refrigerator.
Dad’s dream was to get all the islands connected and then be connected to the mainland and Bonneville Power. As soon as all this was accomplished, Dad knew it was time for an electrical engineer to take over, and he resigned as General Manager.