In 1950, kerosene and gasoline fueled lights gleamed from widely scattered homes around the Anza Valley and much of the surrounding areas - from Aguanga to the desert and Mountain Center to south of Chihuahua Valley - when we arrived in the Anza Valley. That was the year my
husband, Ed McClain, brought the children and me to Anza Valley. He was foreman at the fire station and we lived with four children and two goats for milk in a couple of trailers in back of the hill that the water tank stands on.
Across the street from the fire station, where the Bank of Hemet now stands, was Clark and “Nell” (Helen) Devaney’s store, gas station, Post Office and the only telephone in all of the valley. There was one other telephone at Clark’s store in Aguanga. Clark Devaney would take messages for people and deliver urgent ones in the middle of the night. At no cost either.
The Post Office was the heart of the area and Nell could tell you anything that was going on with anybody, which sometimes annoyed some of the people. The Devaney’s were both so good hearted they would do anything for you at any time that they were able to. They carried people on credit and you paid the next time your money came in.
Next door to the station was Lichtwald’s grocery-everything store. It burned down just after we arrived. Harry Bergman bought and rebuilt the place as it stands now and later sold it to Jack Merrit. Eventually it was bought by Rudy Whetstine and was known as Rudy’s until it was sold and subsequently closed.
The Community Hall was already in place. It had been built by community effort and money in 1949.
There were four ranches along what is now Johnson Road, Charlie Johnson and his wife Daisy (Contreras) Johnson, Clarence and Marie Contreras, Lincoln Hamilton and Westphalen. Westpahlen had the only other generator that I know of, besides Devaney’s. Westphalen used his to pump water as well as light up his home. We could hear the pump all night long when he was irrigating.
In early 1950 Bill Bradford talked to Rupert (“Rupe” as Bill called him) Costo about the frustration of getting cost effective electricity.
Rupert suggested applying to REA for the money and building The Anza Electric Cooperative Is Born Anza Valley ahead our own electric system.
That spring Bill received a note from Rupert: “Bill: Friday, June 9th at Terwilliger 8:00 PM.Petitions for REA will be distributed. Any information you may have will be appreciated. Telleveryone to come. Rupe.”
The dream caught hold at that first meeting and a second meeting was held June 27, 1950, with REA Field representative Bill Letcher. At this meeting Rupert was elected temporary chairman and Mrs. Frances Hack became temporary treasurer. The cost to become a member/owner with the right to receive electricity was $5.00. And so the struggle began.
Bill contacted California Electric, the power company that served the area of Aguanga at the time. They said they might run a line up the highway to Anza but it would cost Bill $3,000.00 to obtain service. It was only a distance of one mile but in those days, $3,000 was like $30,000.00 today. By the August 11th meeting there were 150 paid members. They met Aug. 18th, 1950 and picked “Anza Electric Co-op” as our name and nine directors were elected to the first board to represent nine districts.
To read more about the history of Anza Electric please click on the file below.