The North Building collection
Early electric curling irons, hand-crank telephones and portable ovens are part
of a unique collection of old appliances stored in EWEB’s warehouse and put
on display in the North Building at utility headquarters.
The collection includes a 70-year-old working refrigerator with the original instructions
on the inside door.
The collection’s curator, Bill Eaton, worked as an EWEB engineer from 1946
to 1958 and then gave tours and presentations until his retirement in 1976. Bill
died in June 2001 at age 85.
Since one of his tasks was to lead tours
of the electric and steam plants, Bill began collecting the old appliances to show
how electricity was used since the late 19th century. He also would shop for old
artifacts at thrift stores and garage sales. Customers who heard of his collection
also began calling and donating items.
Electric appliances were rare in Eugene until the late 1940s, but they caught on
quickly when the cost of power began dropping significantly as the federal government
stepped up construction of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River system.
The next time you find yourself in the North Building, attending an EWEB meeting
or a community gathering, wander out in the hallway and browse through the display.