Turning the lights on...

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November 24, 2016 12:00 AM

This is the way Lloydminsterites saw at night before finally seeing the light in 1907.

Nowadays, we take it for granted that our homes will be lit up with a flip of a switch. 
The introduction of electricity must have been quite an experience for the Barr Colonists. 
The spirited pursuit of establishing a local electrical plant resulted in “lighting Lloydminster.” 
I hope to shed some light on this development (no pun intended).
Fueled by kerosene or coal oil, parlour lamps were originally used for reading, sewing and lighting the home. 
When lit, they produced a homey warmth and glow. 
Homemade candles and the fireplace were also a source of light. 
Lanterns were used to guide the homesteaders’ way to their outbuildings and traveling to town.
Initially, townsfolk used electricity to provide light. Its second major use was seen on Mondays, the designated day for washing the weekly household laundry.
An early advertisement in June 1907, by the Morrison Bros, Electric Supply Plant in Lloydminster, promoted many advantages of switching from the expensive coal oil and gasoline to the new convenience of electric light.
“No more dirt, smoke, smell, or unpleasant noise.  All you have to do is to touch a button, and we do the rest…to all those wise folk who at present are struggling against the inefficiency of the present antiquated system of illumination, we will be pleased to give any information that will (en)lighten them, and show them the way out of their present darkness.”
The Morrison Bros. indicated that a six candlepower lamp consumed a half-gallon of coal oil per week of 35-hours use at a cost of 20 cents. 
In comparison, an eight candlepower lamp consumed one unit of electricity per week of 35 hours usage at a cost of 15 cents.
Any building could be wired economically and quickly.
Candlepower was an early term used to describe the amount of light from a candle.
In July 1907, a petition signed by half of the Lloydminster Municipality was presented to town council.
It requested the granting of a $400 bonus and an exemption from taxation for five years to the Morrison Bros. for the building of a local electric plant.
The bylaw to grant Mr. William Johnson the franchise to supply the town with electricity was approved in April 1910. 
An expert would inspect the plant in May and the electrical current would be turned on shortly afterwards. 
This plant’s direct current was generated by steam.
In July, council placed a 32 candlepower electric light in front of the fire hall. 
By October, three more electric lights were added to residential areas with plans of more to follow. 
Lloydminster now proudly claimed to be the “best-lighted” town between Edmonton and Saskatoon. 
The village council (Alberta) installed two new arc lights and a number of smaller ones on the main streets in November.
The Saskatchewan side entered into a 15-year contract with the Johnson Brothers for the supply of electricity in April 1919.
The Alberta side reached an agreement eight months later. 
In the fall of 1927, the Power Utilities Board of Alberta approved the 20-year franchise agreement between Lloydminster and Mid-West, an Alberta based company for the supply of electricity. 
The previous agreement signed in June having two separate electrical suppliers, the Johnson Brothers and Mid-West, for the two Lloydminsters was cancelled. 
Mid-West bought the privately owned plant and lines from the Johnson Brothers. 
The name later changed to Canadian Utilities Limited.
Lloydminster’s plant was rebuilt to handle the increase in demand. 
This plant’s alternating current was generated by diesel. 
They served approximately 420 customers from the roughly 1500 townsfolk. 
This plant was located east of the fire hall and also provided much needed employment for locals. 
After the Second World War ended, an eight per cent tax was imposed on the domestic sale of electricity. 
The average annual consumption was 505 kilowatts, increasing to 3,600 kilowatts by 1954. 
The following year, the local plant was replaced and transmission lines now flowed from a plant in Vermilion. 
Then again, the nostalgia of enjoying a home cooked meal by candlelight or perhaps relaxing in the homey glow of a parlor lamp doesn’t have to be lost in the past. 
It only takes a flip of a switch.

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