Electric co-op book features Tideland’s origins

Published 5:24 am Sunday, January 28, 2007

By Staff
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The day Sladesville resident Evelyn Carawan got electricity in her home, she didn’t want to invite the electric cooperative manager inside. Nearly 60 years later, she still laughs about the incident.
Carawan’s story is one of many featured in the book “Real People. Real Power.” The book chronicles the history of Tideland Electric Membership Corporation. The not-for-profit cooperative serves Beaufort, Hyde, Washington, Pamlico, Dare and Craven counties. The book is the first attempt to examine Tideland’s roots — how four local cooperatives eventually became one — and just what its service meant to rural eastern North Carolina.
The book, a three-year project, is a collection of information found in “stuff from moldy, dusty boxes” and personal interviews, said Heidi Jernigan Smith, Tideland’s director of public relations. Smith compiled and authored the book, with direction from William Stacy, Tideland’s chief executive officer.
Pamlico Power and Light, first called Pamlico Ice and Light Company, was the oldest of the four cooperatives that would eventually become Tideland. It was started in Engelhard in 1935, with the major shareholders being B.W. Godwin of Chuckatuck, Va., and P.D. Midgett Jr. of Engelhard.
In the late 1940s, an average homeowner’s monthly electric bill was around $2.50. Pamlico-Beaufort EMC decided not to install meters at churches it served, instead charging a flat monthly fee of $1.50 per church.
The minutes of the co-op’s April 1949 meeting detail what the report terms one such “instance of abuse.”
Smith said the book’s mission is to “preserve the memories” of Tideland’s older employees — “you can’t go back and get them once they’re gone” — and to show to that Tideland is still a “local, personal” cooperative even as times change.
Copies of the book are $15 each, with a $3 fee added if a book needs to be shipped. Orders can be placed by calling Tideland at 943-3046.