James Robert Vinson was born in Macon County, North Carolina on December 17, 1912. Growing up, his family did not have electricity in their home. They lived on the opposite side of the Little Tennessee River and the power company would not cross the river. "We cooked on a wood stove and most everybody had a fireplace." Water came from a nearby spring and was carried to the house. Mr. Vinson remembers that the women had it hard in the summertime. "They didn't have any freezers. They had to can everything and it was pretty hot canning... in the summertime." Later in his life his family used "gravity water" to bring water to the house. In his case, the water ran down the mountain through a channel under the back porch. "You just had to step off the back porch and put a bucket under that spout." By the time Mr. Vinson returned home from World War II the REA had brought service across the river. When asked about how he felt about electricity he said, "We need it. It would be bad if we had to go back to those old kerosene lamps. I would hate to do without it. If we didn't have electricity we'd still be carrying water from the spring."

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