March 17, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.
Electric cooperative celebrating 75 years in April

Community and cooperation are consistent themes for Jackson family

Community and cooperation are consistent themes for Jackson family
Community and cooperation are consistent themes for Jackson family

Nobody had to sell the Jackson family of Franconia Township on the benefits of joining a rural electric cooperative.

It was the early 1940s. "Nobody wanted to wait for electricity at that time...," said John Jackson, whose grandparents established the family farm in 1902. "We knew about co-ops very well in this area. The first co-op we had...our Chisago Lakes Fire Insurance, was organized in 1867, so we understood co-op principles. Of course, we had a lot of experience with co-op creameries. There was a co-op potato warehouse in Shafer for a time and a co-op oil company."

John's dad, Lott, was born on the farm in 1905 and John was born in 1933, nine years before PICK Electric Cooperative brought electricity to the Jackson place.

John remembers well the moment in 1942 when power came on in their home for the first time. "We went room to room turning on every light," he said, and lighting remains one of his favorite benefits of having electricity.

"I just liked turning on the lights. There were no dark corners. I'd always had a love of reading, and I thought I had it good with kerosene and Aladdin lamps. But, oh, having electricity was the greatest thing," he recalls.

He describes his mom, Lulu, telling the electrician who wired their house that she wanted an outlet in every room. "He thought that was awfully extravagant, but he could do it," John said with a smile. His dad went out "right off the bat" and bought three electric motors, one for the pump, one for the milking machine and the other for the cream separator. "We didn't have running water in the house yet, but it wasn't a great problem. You just went out there with a pail, started the electric motor and you had water," John said.

"An extension of the great benefit of having electricity" came in 1946, when the Jacksons got running water to the house.

John left the farm for college in the early 1950s, graduating March 1955 from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agriculture. The Jacksons advanced their use of electricity then, installing one of the first bulk tanks in the area. The state commissioner of agriculture and the media came to the farm to herald the new technology. A barn cleaner, an electric chicken brooder, and engine block heaters were some of the other improvements John remembers.

A refrigerator, an electric washing machine and an iron were among the first appliances. A Frigidaire electric stove in the kitchen was a special delight. "Mom liked it a lot," John said. "One burner would drop down into a well. Then it had this special kettle for making soup... and an attachment you could clamp on to the kettle so it had a lid for popping popcorn.

He recalls that the cooperative newsletter, "the Pickings," would run a list of the people who used 1,000 kWh in a month. "Dad was often on that list, and people would call and say, 'Turn something off over there so we can get our milking machine started,'" said John with a chuckle.

The electric service provided by the cooperative was "always really good," he said, and it became more and more reliable as time went by. "If power was out during the day, we called Braham," he said. "At that time, Albin Skalicky out of Pine City...would come. We wondered how they got out here ( to Franconia) so quickly."

Twelve years ago, a director who was stepping down from the co-op board approached Jackson about running. He has proudly served on the East Central Energy Board of Directors since, continuing his family's long legacy of community service.

"This family has always been active in the community," John said. "My grandfather was town clerk. Dad was on the school board in Taylors Falls. I've been town clerk in Franconia for 40 years."

Jackson also served on the Chisago County Extension Committee for 25 years, most of them in the chairman's role. After his dad died in 1972, John got his seat on the Chisago Lakes Mutual Insurance Board and continues to serve. He's also been active in the area's historical societies and with the Kahbakong Cemetery Association.

Editor's Note: "Building on the Legacy" is the theme as East Central Energy (ECE) celebrates 75 years of service in 2011. Special festivities are planned at the annual meeting Saturday, April 9. The meeting will be held at East Central Schools, Finlayson, MN, beginning at 9 a.m. with coffee and donuts. Members will have time to visit with their ECE directors, employees, and President/CEO Steve Shurts before the business meeting at 10 a.m. Lunch and family-friendly activities, including bucket truck rides, a pie walk and other carnival-style games, will follow the business meeting.


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