We flip a switch and the lights come on... It's a simple action we take for granted, but until 1934 most of Edina did not have electricity.
Electric power came earlier to Morningside, Country Club District and housing areas at the north end of the city, but rural Edina had to wait.Residents of Cahill community, located in southwest Edina near 70th Street and Cahill Road, were so thrilled with getting power, they celebrated throughout the year, according to Dorothy Grant Palmer, a long-time resident.
"In the early 1930's the entire Cahill community was still not being supplied with electric power. Even telephone service was very limited - only a few fortunate people were lucky enough to have telephones. It was in 1934 that North States Power finally brought electricity to southwestern Edina. As the electricity was turned on in the various homes, 'light up' parties were held to celebrate the 'blessed event'. It was a year that was filled with many happy social gatherings. Even the little group of Lutherans, who met in the Cahill School house, had a special gala dedication to celebrate its first service with electric lights."
Dorothy wrote down her memories of living in the Cahill community during the 1930s and 40s, and submitted her essay, "A Wedding in a One Room School House" to us in 1985 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her wedding in Cahill School, which served as a church for the few Lutherans in the mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood. That church later became Calvary Lutheran, now located at 6817 Antrim Road in Edina.
What were you doing when the lights went on in Edina? Did you attend any "light up" parties? If you have photos of any of the events or memories to share, please contact me.
I am very fond of Elvira Vinson. While I have never met her (and won't since she died several years ago), Mrs. Vinson lives on at the Edina History Museum.
I often consult her scrawled notes documenting an interview with a pioneer resident or her history articles tapped out with a manual typewriter on lined notebook paper. Long before the Edina Historical Society formed in 1969, Mrs. Vinson was collecting, preserving and telling the history of Edina.
Residents knew her from her work as the librarian at Wooddale School or at the Morningside library housed in the Westgate Theater building on Sunnyside Avenue. She made children wash their hands before handling library books, and she carefully looked up new patrons in the phone book to ascertain that they were actually residents of the neighborhood.
What people may not have known is that Mrs. Vinson was working on a book of her own about the history of their community. While her writings never made book form, her research notes and articles are housed at the Edina History Museum and are often used by researchers.
Now I am working on documenting Mrs. Vinson, perhaps our city's first historian. While we do have some information about her in our files, I hope to talk to people who met her and know about her life. Please call or email me if you know anything about Mrs. Vinson's background. I hope to write an article for the winter issue of our newsletter.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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