Rural Missouri - January 2011 - (Page 32)

N E I G H B O R S gained Lawrence. He moved to Ironton, Black River’s headquarters at the time, and became a working foreman. World War II was lack River Electric Cooperaraging, but Lawrence was classified tive serves some of the most 4-F by the draft board and allowed to rugged terrain in Missouri. stay home. The Fredericktown-based coWhile work was slow in the ’40s op’s lines snake through a landscape due to material shortages, Lawrence formed by ancient volcanoes, leaving got involved in most of the cooperabehind the tallest peaks in the state. tive’s early efforts. One project went Building an electric system in this north from Ironton to Caledonia and inhospitable terrain would require an Bismarck. Rival utility Union Electric individual with an indomitable spirit. also was building into the area, and Such a man is Lawrence Standley. the first done would get the load. Born into a family that brought Lawrence’s crew worked twice some of the first electricity to southas fast and sealed the deal when he east Missouri, Lawrence spent 42 years installed a small generator to serve supplying electricity to rural people. the new members until a transmisAt age 89, he’s one of the few rural sion line could be built. electric pioneers left. The work was demanding, LawYou could say Lawrence was desrence says. A lot of the wire was tined to work with electricity. His pulled in by hand in those days. father, Frank, and uncle, Bill, provided Mules and draft horses were pressed the first reliable electric service to the into service to take power lines where Bootheel town of Steele in 1922. As trucks couldn’t go. To get power to Lawrence tells it, his father worked one farm, Lawrence and his crew carfor a company that was draining the ried the poles by hand. Bootheel swamps. His job involved Lawrence volunteered to move the keeping the diesel engines that powco-op’s radio antenna to the state’s ered the draglines running. City leadhighest point on Taum Sauk Mouners felt if he could do that, he could tain. He was perched on the tower, keep a power plant in operation. 100 feet high, when the section Frank Standley enlisted his brother above him collapsed. For two hours to upgrade the existing power plant in he was pinned to the tower with a Steele, which later served Holland and broken arm, while his groundman Cooter. “He did not know one ounce frantically tried to get help. Once about electricity,” Lawrence says. “But down, he was taken to the hospital, they wanted electricity.” where the doctor declared Lawrence When the swamp work was comhad reset the bone and just needed pleted, he looked around for other Lawrence Standley holds a drawing of him by artist Tom Runnels. He began a a cast. He returned to work the next communities that needed electricity. 42-year career working with electricity, most of it with Black River Electric, at 15. day. He settled on Van Buren. “The felHe says one of the most satisfying low that owned the paper had built parts of the job was seeing people get a little generator to serve just the electricity for the first time. “It meant square,” Lawrence says. “They wanted more to the women than anyone else. to expand. It ended up, my dad and We started turning those lights on and uncle got that one started.” she’d start apologizing most of the Lawrence would take his first steps time. ‘Boy, I didn’t know I had cobinto the business in Van Buren at 15. webs and dirt in so many places.’ It People were desperate to get electricwas amusing at times, but it was sure ity in that era before rural electrificaheartwarming, too.” tion arrived. It wasn’t long before a Lawrence left the co-op to work line was extended from Van Buren for a contractor in the 1950s. He supervised the power plant, and they turned the whole town to Fremont. Later, the family built construction of a line for Laclede Electric and off instead of throwing the breaker.” another power plant/ice house in later worked on a line for Howell-Oregon Electric. Lawrence graduated from Ellington High Ellington and also provided power to Ironically, he knew this area well because it was School in 1939, and he convinced his Eminence. part of the operation once owned by his family. father that he needed a more formal When school let out for the sumFredericktown After 11 months with the contractor, he was education in electricity. He attended mer, Lawrence worked for the fledgling • hired back at his original job. One day later, the Coyne Electrical School in ChiVan Buren Light, Power & Ice Co. Crawford Electric offered him a similar position. cago, graduated and returned home. At 16, he gained experience in every Twice, Lawrence turned down offers from His education paid off immeaspect of power supply. “While I was in Black River’s board to be manager. Finally, he diately. “They had me doing a lot of school, me and the superintendent got agreed when he saw the board courting a candiwork then, both at the plant and around town,” along very well,” Lawrence says. “If he had any date he thought would be bad for the cooperaLawrence says. “People had me doing a lot of wirelectrical problems, he would come in the class tive. He retired as manager in 1983, after a storied ing in their homes.” and tell the teacher, ‘I need to borrow Lawrence.’” career spanning 42 years. Lawrence soon became the only lineman Three times Lawrence got shocked in those earSince then, he’s traveled extensively with his taking care of the operation in Eminence. But ly days. Once, while working at a meat plant, he wife, Ozeline, and has spent time increasing the the small-town electric business wasn’t making grabbed a pipe that was energized. His hand conenergy efficiency of his home near Fredericktown. enough money to satisfy its investors. In 1942, tracted from the current and would not release. “It’s been quite a ride,” Lawrence says of his Black River outbid Ozark Border Electric Coopera“I was hollering quite a bit,” Lawrence recalls. career. “I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy the manager’s tive and took over the operation owned by the “Around the corner was a post office. The postjob as much as I did the other, because it was Standley family. Along with the power plants and master came out the back door. I was hollering to hands on. Now I’m just taking it easy.” lines in Van Buren and Ellington, the co-op also have them turn it off. He went in and called the by Jim McCarty jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop B Power Pioneer Lawrence Standley built the first lines that brought electricity to southeast Missouri 32 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2011

Rural Missouri - January 2011
Contents
Comments
Columns
Doing Wood Right
Mail Bag
Blackwater’s Bucksnort
Out of the Way Eats
Huntin’ With Hawks
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Billards Meets Bowling
Getting $mart in the New Year
Meet Yorik, One Tricky Dog
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4kids

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