Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Light Bill Or Electric Bill?

My life in appalachia Light - Paying The Light Bill

I was in head start when we moved into the house Pap built. I think my room was pink in the beginning-then it was yellow-then purple-then finally a tan color. Even though the wall color changed during the years I slept in the room-the light switch cover didn’t until I reached adulthood.

Just before I met The Deer Hunter, I painted the room a light tan color. It was then I noticed the old number light switch cover-I mean how could numbers go with my new mature look I was working on? So I politely unscrewed my Elves and their friends and went down the hallway-where I took Granny and Pap’s beige light switch cover and gave the Elves a new home.

Once I left home for good, Granny turned my old room into her sewing bedroom.

Years later, after I was a married mother of twin banshees, I was down at Granny’s looking for something in the back bedroom when I noticed the light switch cover was the one from my childhood days.

I was up the hill in a flash. In no time flat I had the old cover switched with the beige one from my baby girls’ bedroom-and there it’s been through the various colors of their room. It started as builders beige, then there was yellow, then there was the years of orange/green combination (the first time I let them choose the color-yikes!), then a soft green, and as recent as this summer-a chocolaty rust color.

I told you all that to ask you:

Do you cut the light on or turn it on/cut the light out or turn it off? And do you pay the light bill, electric bill, or the power bill?

I cut the light on/off and I always pay my light bill-even though I wish I didn’t have too.




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  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Interesting…I’d never heard of cutting the lights…. My husband says turning the lights on and off and I have always said turning the lights out. We pay the electric bill. (And Lord knows I wish we didn’t have to!) What I’d give for a wood burning stove!!! Perhaps in my next life time I’ll have money for one. LOL

  • Reply
    September 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

    We cut off the lights and pay the power bill!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams Musings
    September 4, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I say turn the lights on/off and it’s a light bill here. Kinda like light bread. lol
    I get laughed at for saying light bubs instead of bulbs too. Listening to our Pastor Sunday morning made me giggle and smile a little as he says light bubs too. I kinda nudge hubby and told him, “see I ain’t the only one”.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I turn the lights on and off and pay the electric bill (I usually call it the FPL bill – that is Florida Power & Light). By the way, my wife retired from FPL 4 years ago after working for them for 42 years!
    I think I have always said turn the lights on and off, but I have lived down here in South Florida (there ain’t nothing Southern about it) for so long with all these transplants, my language has probably gotten corrupted.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    September 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    We turn the light on and when we don’t need it any longer we turn the light “out”. I wonder if this language is related to coal oil lights? You turn the knob on the burner to raise the wick and make the light brighter, then you turn the knob to lower the wick and turn the light out. In those days light was fire and we build fires and put “out” fires.
    We pay our light bills and my grandparents insisted that the bill be paid in person, with cash at the light company. They also followed the same rules for the gas bill (it was butane) and the phone bill (it was a 9 party line with a ringing partner).
    I also remember the Delco System that Don Casada mentioned. My grandfather had a dairy and used the Delco system for a pump to circulate cold water in “cooling vats” located in the “milk house”. This cooled the cans of milk over night before taking them to town the next morning. This modern “farm expense” also provided a well pump so that water no longer had to be drawn from the well in a bucket. Electricity really changed the way we live our lives over so many years, from the old Delco system to micro wave ovens. I wonder if there will be something that changes the lives of Chitter and Chatter the way electricity has changed mine.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Light bill-once again, I had no clue that it was called anything else!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I turn on/off the lights and I pay the electric bill (or the FBEMC bill)

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    September 3, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    OK! I turn the lights on or turn the lights off. I pay the electric bill. Turning things on/off just sounds right, but then in a movie or a play, they say cut the lights. I use electric because it is part of the power company’s name, but more important, I need electricity to work the many electrical items I have. But then again, I will say put the lights on so we don’t trip in the night, or put the lights out. I think this whole thing is an oxymoron.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    September 3, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Yep, cut off the lights but pay the power bill.
    Dad and grand dad called the windows in a house winder lights. Don’t be throwing rocks around the house,you’ll bust the winder lights out!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Question for Don-
    Does electricity actually flow through the wires and if so how far does it go before it reverses direction?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Tipper-Ethel mentioned her great grandparents were from Italy and settled in the Northern foothills. Could you ask her if they were Waldensian perhaps and if they were chased out of Northern Italy because of their religious beliefs.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Charline-Like your friend-I say cut on/off for all sorts of things too!

  • Reply
    Buffy Lowe
    September 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    So does nobody “shut out the lights” or “shut off the water?” or get shut of that dad gum dog.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I still pay my “light bill” and
    cut my lights off/on too. When
    Duke power bought out our power
    company, Nantahala Power and Light
    Co., they changed the billing to
    “Duke Energy”. (Was that to justify raising the rates?) My
    daddy helped build Nantahala Lake
    back in the early 30’s and it
    don’t cost any more today than it
    use to, to power the generator.The
    last time I checked, water still
    runs downhill.
    Today, everything costs much more
    than it should…Ken

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I cut the lights on and off and I pay the light bill.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    We used to pay our bill to Nantahala Power & Light, so apparently they thought there was a difference. Now I pay Duke Energy so who knows what I’m paying for.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Here in West GA the missus says “turn out the light”, I say “turn off” and for decades I’ve always paid the ‘lectric bill though most everybody around here calls it the light bill and I have caught myself doing the same. What can one expect from a recovering Yankee? The spousal unit also asks me to “Push the door together” if it’s open a crack, but she’s a bona fide mountaineer.
    When I was a kid we lived in an area that was well-populated by immigrants, especially Italians; my Dad told me about “open the light” and attributed it to the Old Ones’ use of gas lamps in their younger days3. He also said that it was why a lot of us said “Turn on the light” because there was a little valve on the gas lamp that had to be turned (opened) to make the gas flow. Dad also said, I think it was in the same conversation, that people asphyxiated themselves or blew up their house when they ‘blew out the light” as though it were a kerosene lamp, without turning off the gas. The lamp would go out but the gas still flowed.
    As a parting shot, I’d like to inform y’all that in the Big Siddy Up North, the gas company is still called “The Atlanta Gas Light Company”.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    September 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I “turn off or on” the lamps, since they have a little key thingy type switch…I “cut off” the stove…I cut the car lights out…I “pull the switch” for on or off.. in the laundry and one closet…I “flip the switch” for overhead lights…I “move or raise my hand” for the motion lights outside…No wonder I’m always in such a state…I need to decide to turn on or off or cut out or cut on…LOL
    Don, I would love to have a Carbide light system…liken’ the olden days…but not a miners lamp!
    Thanks Tipper, PS…I do pay the light bill….or our county…Our bill has actually gotten cheaper since they now read the meters from the district office instead of sending meter readers around…I think their eyes just got bummed out in the cold and then the summer heat!
    Loved this post!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    September 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    We always say “cut the light off/on” and we always pay the light bill. How funny, I never noticed that before.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    September 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

    My parents always called it the light bill. We get one bill for everything, so we call it the utility bill. Plain ole light covers here!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    We turn the lights on and off and pay the electric bill. That seems kinda long, so many of us just say “did you pay FPL?” My parents always said “light bill”. A very good friend of mine from VA says “cut” on and off for everything from lights to fans to TV. I’ve been told some of my husbands departed PA-Dutch relatives said “offen the light” to turn off. Now,I MUST do something about my boring switch plates!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I remember my grandfather reading the comics to me and telling to, “Get out of my light.” I would look at his kerosene lamp over on the mantle and say, “Me not in you wight”. Many years after he died I realized he wanted me to move from between him and the window.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Turn the lights on and off. The bill has always been called the light bill because it used to be paid to City Light. The water, sewer, garbage bill is a separate bill, paid to the City. Who knew it could cost so much $ to throw away garbage!

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    September 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I am citified on these questions, I guess. I turn the lights on and off, and I pay the power bill or, sometimes, the electricity bill.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve heard ‘turn, cut and put’ from my wife’s family bur only ‘turn or flip that switch’ from my family.
    In Spanish the word ‘prenda’ means to turn on. When we moved to Arizona the Mexican neighbors said ‘abran la luz’ I wondered about ‘open the lights’. I knew that a circuit was involved and the circuit had to be ‘closed’ to have light and ‘opening the circuit would end the current to the bulb. Years later someone explained that in many languages actions are based on concepts. The light was contained in the bulb – moving the switch in effect ‘opened’ the bulb and allowed the light to emerge.
    My wife wants me to ‘pull’ the blinds every evening. I keep telling her that I turn the wand to close them. My sister raises windows ‘up’. I keep telling her I can’t raise them any other directon so I just raise them.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

    We use the term flip the lights for both on and off.. never really thought about it till now, LOL. We pay the extortionist bill every month, (power/electric/light) Someday when we build our home we will be off the grid, am learning all I can about it between now and then.
    I have a wooden bear switch cover in my room (I made with scroll saw) also made my roommate sister a wolf cover also. My son took his eagle cover with him when he moved out, so need to think of something for the guest room, cannot abide the boring white/tan covers!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    September 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

    We turn lights on or off here and we call it the electric bill. But since installing a photo-voltaic system last year, the electric bill hasn’t exceeded the hook up cost of $8. Not so conscientious about turning off the lights anymore.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    September 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

    We cut the lights and pay the light bill here in the holler : )

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I usually use turn, though sometimes I say ‘put’. We pay the power bill, only so long as it takes us to get off the grid! Counting on our wood stove keepin’ this place nice and toasty during winter, so Mr. Power gets as little as possible:)

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    September 3, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Old habits die hard, but I’ve called it the “electric bill” for years now. The old timers called it the light bill, though, since that and the refrigerator was about all they used it for.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 9:19 am

    i turn the light on only if i have paid the electric bill. and i have a bunch of vintage fancy white ceramic switch covers with handpainted flowers that i have because they came as a set when i only wanted one. if you or the girls would like one (somehow i don’t think they’re the type?) i could bring with when i come up at christmas…

  • Reply
    Phyllis Salmons
    September 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

    We always “cut” the lights on/off and paid the “light” bill.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I turn the lights on—when I have them on –I prefer to be in a dark room?!! I pay the electric bill –to be that bill is more than just lights—-I have hand made wooden light switch plates thru out the cabin and a friend once made me a burnt log cabin switch plate so that is here as well.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    September 3, 2012 at 8:54 am

    We cut the light on — turn the light off, and that reminds me, I’ve got to pay the power bill. Seriously, it’s due tomorrow. It would be bad to get a cut off notice when you actually work for the Power Company..

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

    We cut the lights on/off and pay the light bill. When we moved into our “new” old house, I was on a mission to banish the boring beige switch covers. My two youngest boys got a cowboy themed cover and my oldest requested John Deere. Over time, I have replaced most of them with pretty ones. And, yes, when there are a multiple number of little blessings close in age, as mine are, those blessings can become banshees at the drop of a hat! :o) I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I was born, raised, and still live in Mississippi. A little removed from your beautiful mountains, but not from your values. It all resonates! Thank you!!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    September 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

    If the first couple of paragraphs of nerdy engineer stuff below don’t put you into a stupor, you might find the latter ones interesting.
    Even though it is often called the power bill (including by yours truly), most of us don’t get billed for power at all – we pay for energy. Typically, only large industrial users pay what is called a demand charge, which applies to their peak power demand during the billing cycle.
    Power is the instantaneous rate at which energy is used. So if you flip on all the lights in the house, turn on the stove burners (which don’t burn), open up the refrigerator door, and turn down the air conditioner thermostat so the compressor kicks on, your power demand will be high. But if you only do that for one minute, the effect on the energy for which you’ll be billed for the month (which has over 40,000 other minutes where your power is much lower) will be negligible.
    Don’t tell anyone, but if every home in the country did what I described above at the same time, the entire grid would likely collapse.
    You didn’t mention it, but of course the reason it still goes by light bill is that when electric power was first available, the primary (or at least most visible) use of it that many folks made was for lights.
    Something else which maybe one or two of your readers might remember their parents talk about is a Delco power system. It used a gasoline started, kerosene run engine which powered a dc generator to charge a battery bank (32 volts). The system provided electric power not only for lights, but for a variety of home electric devices, including motor-driven equipment such as washing machines, refigerator compressors and well pumps. The mother of a classmate of mine remembers having one when they lived in the Bushnell area, which now sits under about 300 feet of the water of Fontana Lake.
    See here:

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I turn the lights off when I don’t need them so that my juice bill won’t be higher than my paycheck.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 3, 2012 at 8:07 am

    In my world its always been power bill, power wires and power poles. The neighbors had light bills and light wires but telephone poles. Strangely enough when the finally got around to putting phones up the creek, it was buried.
    Apparently Stephen doesn’t remember the string we pulled to turn the light on and off. Or screwing the bulb in and out. And he has never had any caterwauling kids of his own.
    We never had more than one banshee of our own at any given time but there was/is always one or two or more strays at our house.
    My daughter Missy painted our bedroom for her mother and replaced the switch cover with a flower scene with the appropriate texture. That thing is a real knuckle skinner when its pitch dark and you can’t find it.
    I call that chocolaty rust color Rat Rod Red.
    Have you noticed that most of the younger generation don’t know how to turn a light off?

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I too cut the lights on or off and then I have to pay that dreaded light bill.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 3, 2012 at 8:03 am

    ‘Way back when we first got electricity (yes! I can remember that! in our farm home in the mountains) we pulled the string to cut on the light in a room, and we pulled it again to cut it off. And we paid the light bill, or else it’d do no good atall to pull that string. I guess later on there was some re-wiring done, because my Dad’s house eventually got light switches on the walls. Then it was on and off, like ‘most everybody else’s. But we still called it light bill, even though part of it in the fall was for the power to run the syrup mill.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    September 3, 2012 at 7:55 am

    In elementary school, or ‘grammar school’, our class was asked if anyone in our families spoke a different language. My hand shot up immediately with the response, “My grandfather says ‘light bub’!” Of course my parents died a thousand deaths when I told them about school that day. My mother, from Kentucky, most always referred to us as ‘youins’. My grandfather, from NC, called us’youngins’.
    Here in Maryland, which the rest of our family calls ‘up north’, and visitors from NY call ‘down south’, I ‘turn off the lights’ and ‘pay the electric bill’ (can’t wait to go off the grid with solar and wind someday). By the way, I consider myself to be a southern gal.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 7:45 am

    We keep the light bill paid so we will have power whenever we turn on a lamp. We don’t like those overhead lights (ceiling fixtures) much though for they cast a glare on a room. The rowdy ones (twin grandsons) are right bad to leave lights on in empty rooms all over the house. May your load be light this Labor Day!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 3, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Usually we pay the light bill, but with regards to the lights themselves I use both cut and turn. I’m not sure why I interchange them? Maybe my lovely wife’s fault cause she says “turn”. Nice story!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I turn the light and and pay the power bill. All my walls are white….life is simpler that way. I know most folks would consider that boring, but I prefer to think of it as simplifying my life.
    Most of my switch plates are white but a few are metallic, as in brass or bronze.
    Yes Stephen, banshees…little wild things. lol

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 7:38 am

    That is one well-traveled light switch!
    Orange and green – in the same room??? It never entered my mind till now, how difficult it must be to house two personalities (banshees, lol!) in one room.
    I turn the lights on and off, and pay the electric bill. However, my maternal great-grandparents were part of an influx of Italian immigrants to the northern foothills in the late 1800’s, they always said “open the light” or “close the light”.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 7:22 am

    i always say light bill, and used to say cut the lights off/on but now say turn the lights on. that is from 28 years of living with a Yankee

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 3, 2012 at 7:01 am

    We “hit” the lights and pay the light bill. We just have the plain ole beige/white covers.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    September 3, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Mmmm, I turn the lights on, so therefore I must pay the electric bill.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2012 at 6:13 am

    I turn on the light and pay the electric bill. And the light switch covers here are b.o.r.i.n.g. All but Our daughter’s room…she has a hand made one with a frog on it…lucky her! 🙂

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    September 3, 2012 at 4:20 am

    When I enter a room I flip the light on and when leaving I cut it off.Then once a month it’s time to pay the power bill.
    Too bad the lady bugs had to go when you decided to move the Elves.
    Banshees ??? LOL
    Have a great Labor Day 🙂

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