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#CoServ80: A Look Back at Our 80th Anniversary Celebration

Plus, a few new stories to tell

Sharing our history with Members in 2017 is part of what has made celebrating 80 years of serving North Texas so special. 

From longtime Members who remember when the lights first came on in the 1930s to younger Members enjoying their first CoServ Annual Meeting, we’ve been honored to hear and share their stories.

Here’s a sample:

Mitch Schmittou recalled watching his father, Floyd “FC” Schmittou, work as a CoServ lineman from the mid-1940s through the 1960s

Nebraska Furniture Mart and CoServ share the same anniversary, humble beginnings and exponential growth

Monica Shamkin Poe, a 1988 Government in Action Youth Tour winner, said the trip to Washington, DC, deepened her love of history enough to pass similar experiences on to her three children

It is hard to imagine how far we’ve come since our first line was energized in 1938. Today CoServ provides service to more than 330,000 meters. We continue our celebration with three more stories below. Find them all at CoServ.com/80.

Here’s to the next 80 years!

Different Time, Same Community Service

It was 1938 when Denton County Electric Cooperative opened its doors at 120 E. Hickory St. in downtown Denton.

Now known as CoServ, the electric cooperative’s first headquarters was sandwiched between J.A. Cook Grocery and Crable Bakery.

The 65-foot by 120-foot building was built in 1918 just behind the First State Bank of Denton, as it was known. The current multi-storied structure houses Wells Fargo with a parking lot in the spot CoServ once called home.

The location, split into three separate businesses, served as the electric cooperative’s office until 1956 when it moved to a new facility just off University Drive where Cracker Barrel now sits.

For 18 years, employees in the long, narrow workspace could conveniently fill their grocery list on one side and pick up treats on the other.

A 1939 Denton Record-Chronicle advertisement touts fresh-baked Betty Anne bread, pies, cakes, cookies and even “tested donuts” at Crable Bakery.

“Warm weather foods” along with fresh fruits, vegetables and tender meats were available at J.A. Cook Grocery on the other side. The grocer also carried chicken feed. For delivery, all you had to do was dial 174.

It was a unique time to be in Denton when the Square served as the hub for residents and those living on nearby farms to gather and visit. 

While in town, they might catch a matinee and shop at H.M. Russel & Son Co. across the street on the west side of Hickory. Or stop into Evers’ Hardware for a Philco radio. 

Ice cream and malts were popular at The Aristocrat. And the Duke & Ayers five and dime store on the Square’s southwest corner lured young and old alike. 

Friendly customer service and quality work were the keys to success in the 1930s. So, too, was getting to know your community. 

Today, CoServ continues to be inspired by these traits and humbled by the heritage we share with so many North Texas families.

What Do These Longtime Members Like About CoServ?

CoServ energy assessments trimmed costs to keep Wayne and Deborah Svenson’s Copper Canyon home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

“We have really low bills,” Deborah said. The assessments identified areas the Svensons could improve to reduce monthly energy usage.

The couple relocated to North Texas in 1973, settling in Highland Village before building their current home. 

Wayne, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, and his wife, Deborah, retired from Lewisville Independent School District, have had CoServ as their energy provider since moving to the area from the northwest.

“We’ve had 44 years of constant service,” Deborah said. “And CoServ has always been friendly and helpful.”

One CoServ program close to Deborah’s heart is the Electric Cooperative Youth Leadership Tour. 

A former librarian, Deborah encouraged students to submit applications to join more than 50,000 high school students who have visited Washington, DC, since 1964. Texas Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association coordinate the tour with an estimated 1,500 students across the country participating every summer.

“It’s a really good program,” she said. “They take you to places that, if you were a tourist, you wouldn’t be able to get in to see. It really teaches them a lot.”

Applications are currently being accepted for one of seven positions for North Texas high school juniors to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Austin and the nation’s capital – sponsored by CoServ.

Reminiscent of Another Era

When CoServ began as Denton County Electric Cooperative in 1937, George Luster recalled, a person could see lights in Denton, Muenster, Sanger and other towns from his home in Era.

“I wondered when those things would come on down here,” George said. Fifteen at the time, he was helping his father tend cattle and work the farm. 

It would be two years before a 17-year-old George saw DCEC crews arrive in his hometown. 

“I watched them dig the holes and put the poles up, and I wondered if this was going to work,” he said, chuckling. The crew used “long, funny-looking shovels” that appeared as if they were long-handled spoons. They grabbed post hole diggers, a crowbar and then the special shovels before putting in a much shorter pole than is used today.

Lights made a difference with early morning milking chores, George said. His family installed a single light bulb in the hall on the north side of the barn. “It would light that barn up where you could see.” 

George said his family paid $1.25 per month until a meter was installed. 

Times were simpler though not easy. George, his five siblings and parents piled into a Model T for monthly trips to Gainesville. And staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer was not as easy as flipping a switch. They’d wrap flour sacks around their feet to stay warm inside a house that had floor cracks wide enough you could count chickens roaming underneath.

“We were very poor,” George said. 

At 94, the lifelong Era resident appreciates the amenities that electricity brings. 

His family, originally from Tennessee, bought Cooke County acreage in the late 1800s. They worked the land with mules – a trade George would later continue, taking mules and wagons to major events in the area to show youngsters what it was like when he grew up. 

In his barn, a 40-year-old mule harness is as supple today as it was when in use. He still spends time in the barn, working on harnesses and reminiscing about times gone by.

Farewell to a Friend: George Seals, 1931–2017

When Denton County Electric Cooperative connected his family’s Ponder farm to electricity in 1939, George Seals was 8 years old.

Seventy-seven years later, Mr. Seals visited with us to discuss what life was like before and after electricity.

“We thought we were rich,” he said, citing the profound effect an energized homestead had on everything from cooking and refrigeration to chores and entertainment. 

His story was the first installment of this year’s “80 for 80” communications initiative – 80 stories to mark our 80th anniversary – and it set the tone for the 79 that followed. 

Mr. Seals passed away in July, but not before more than 3,000 CoServ Members viewed portions of our conversation with him a month earlier at this year’s Annual Meeting.

We’re grateful to Mr. Seals and all our Members who shared their stories with us this year so that we can share them with you. You can find them all at CoServ.com/80.