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Column: The customer and the power company

Posted: November 5, 2018 4:03 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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When I was growing up on our family farm in the Cassatt Community, 1938-46, the Duke Power Company had high tension electric lines mounted on towers that ran from Lake Wateree across land we owned or rented. As a youth of 12, I looked up at those lines while plowing underneath them and wondered why we did not have electricity in our home.

When I quizzed my father, he stated we couldn’t afford it. He explained that it was too expensive for the power company to build a line to our home a mile away when there would be only two customers on the line. I sort of understood his explanation, but still wished we had electricity and running water in our home.

I knew some families similar to ours had power and I asked him this. He began to explain the federal program known as Rural Electrification Authority. He said that authority had run power lines along main roads and that placed some families only a short distance from them and made it cheap enough for them to run power to these homes. He did not know when connecting lines would be run from the Porter Road by our home to Duke’s lines at U.S. 1.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 12, 1946. When I returned home in December 1947, those lines had been run a few months before. We now had power, running water and internal plumbing. Outhouses had been retired.

We don’t worry much about the availability of electricity today -- except when there is a power outage or when we go to pay our electric bills. Paying that bill has become more onerous as time has passed and rates have increased.

In the Midlands, we have a variety of power companies today, such as Duke Power, S.C. Electric and Gas, Santee Cooper, various electric cooperatives, etc. The state agency known as the Public Service Commission sets rates and regulates the power companies.

In the course of setting rates, problems have developed with the S.C. Electric & Gas Power Company and their rates to fund two nuclear plants being constructed at Parr Shoals. They recently abandoned the construction of those plants, but wish customers to continue rates paying for them several years into the future.

The customers of this company are asking the Public Service Commission and the General Assembly to relieve them of that responsibility. Decisions about this matter likely will be made some time after the General Assembly convenes next January.

The Parr Shoals site has an interesting history concerning the generation of electricity. As early as 1875, Mr. Parr began to lead a movement to establish a hydro-electric plant at the site of the family grist mill on the Broad River. This finally occurred when a hydro-electric plant was constructed there, 1912-14.

On this past Labor Day, I journeyed Upstate and purchased more than 100 documents and 35 photographs about how Henry Lakin Parr led in the establishment of a company that built a power plant at Parr Shoals, which would later be a part of the S.C. Electric & Gas Company. In 1964, Nell C. Payne authored South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, a history which includes a sketch of the building of the original Parr electric plant at Parr Shoals.

The collection I purchased provides additional information about the history of this plant. For example, Payne’s sketch did not include any of the photographs that are in the collection I purchased. A photograph of the dam under construction across the Broad River1912-14 accompanies this column.

The records I purchased also contain some information about a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was located on the property in the 1930s. One document shows the date the C.C.C. camp closed.

Information about this site will not reduce power bills, but when you receive them, you will have some additional information about the company that sent them. This Parr Shoals Collection is now in the South Caroliniana Library.

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