Eugene Just of Aulne will never forget the Christmas of 1948, when electricity came to the farmhouse where he lived with his parents, Wes and Laura Just, and three-year-old brother, Maurice. Eugene was 10.
The family had been anticipating electricity for a long time. Earlier in the decade, the Rural Electrification Association had installed lines along a road just a half-mile away. However, World War II put a stop to further activity for a while.
When activity resumed after the war, the Justs and their neighbors were informed that they would receive electricity soon. Everybody prepared their houses in anticipation of that great day. Wires were run through walls, outlets installed, and light switches put in place.
“Like most folks, we were given an approximate date to receive electricity,” Just said. “Time schedules came and went, but still we had a dark house. Finally, we were told we could expect a hookup by Christmas of 1948.”
As was their tradition, the Justs selected a cedar tree from the pasture and brought it into the house. In the past, they had decorated the tree using candles, but they never lighted the candles for fear of setting the tree on fire. This year, they strung colored electric lights on the tree and covered it with dainty icicles and ropes of sparkling tinsel.
Eugene and his little brother could hardly contain themselves in their anticipation. Pretending how the tree would look when the lights would shine, Eugene and his brother plugged and unplugged the cord in anticipation.
The family had restricted their living to just two rooms during the cold winter months. On Dec. 21, Eugene came home from Finch School. As he was changing his clothes to go out and do chores, suddenly the lights on the tree sprang to life!
“What a magnificent sight that was,” Just said. “That was a very special time.”
It was just the beginning of a completely new era in country living.
Just has told his story many times. It most recently was published in the December 2011 edition of “Kansas Country Living” magazine, a publication of Kansas Rural Electric Cooperatives.
No matter how often he recounts his story, Just said the thrill of that momentous occasion would never be dimmed in his mind.