Once upon a time, there was a widely held belief — now
often viewed as quaint if not odd in the hallways of entertainment, media
and sports — that, in the “town square” of public opinion, it’s important to
establish and protect “your good name.” Traditionally, “your good name” was
translated to mean an amalgam of honesty, effort, integrity,
good-naturedness, humility and fair-dealing.
A good name was tough to earn but easy to forfeit; it was
often gained through years of living in and contributing to the business,
cultural, religious or civic life of your community.
Yet today, in our society, when notoriety means celebrity;
when braying and boasting, preening and prancing become the coinage of
success; and when infamy and fame are mistaken as close kin; well, the
notion of a good name may indeed seem like a relic of a bygone time.
The magazine you’re holding was born during this earlier
time, in 1946, in the giddy aftermath of a world pulled from the brink of
ruin by true heroes, the men and women of the “Greatest Generation.” In this
rosy afterglow, electric cooperative leaders in Virginia founded a
publication, a full broadsheet newspaper, that was (and still is) intended
to keep you up to date on the latest news about the electric cooperative
that you and your neighbors own.
Then called Rural Virginia, it captured the
all-things-are-possible mood of that time in the stories it told of farm
families, and the improvements in their quality of life made possible by
electricity. Inside the farmhouse, it joyfully covered all the new-fangled
appliances that were transforming rural domestic life from a daily grind of
hauling water and hanging wash to a labor-saving life of bathwater magically
made warm, and meats, dairy products and produce magically kept cold,
perishable no more!
The 1950s saw Rural Virginia adopt a more contemporary
magazine format, albeit still in black and white, with stories focused on
the growing wave of city dwellers moving out to the countryside and the
creature comforts that electricity now offered to virtually every corner of
The 1960s saw the addition of
glossy paper and the use of occasional color splashed across the magazine’s
pages. Columns on fashion, fancy cooking, interior design and outdoor
leisure pursuits reflected the growing affluence of rural Virginians.
In the 1970s, the magazine began regularly using
full-color photos and artwork, and changed its name to Rural Living (even
today, 40 years later, some long-time readers still call us Rural Virginia,
which pleases us). The magazine also began covering the serious issues
surrounding the oil embargoes of 1973 and ’79, and energy-efficiency
articles became a regular staple in these pages.
The 1980s featured an expansion in the magazine’s standard
size, from 24 pages to 32 and even 40, fueled by national advertisers
finally recognizing the buying power of Virginia’s, and America’s,
heartland. Also during the ’80s, the magazine intensified its coverage of
local co-op members, from “Duck” Carpenter, the Southside Virginia fiddle
maker, to “Bowling Green” John Cephas, the blues musician.
The celebration of cooperative people and places continued
through the ’90s, as the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996.
In ’97 we added a feature that was likely our most popular ever: “Down Home”
profiles of small towns, villages and crossroads communities.
Sixteen years and 160 profiles later, the series ended at
the close of 2012, succeeded by our “Stories from the Road,” profiling
interesting people and places found along Virginia highways and byways,
starting this year, appropriately, with Route 1.
For the third and, we hope, final
time, we changed our name to Cooperative Living in January 2000, to usher in
what we dubbed “The Cooperative Century.” (Sadly, 13 years in, this moniker
doesn’t seem to have caught on, yet we remain hopeful; after all, there are
still 87 years left in this century!) Our goal, through nearly 67 years of
publication life, has always been to properly represent the good name of
Virginia’s 13 locally owned electric cooperatives.
So, to answer the question posed in the headline: We hope
that our name is synonymous both with good and goodwill; perhaps a thought
worth pondering; information about your cooperative worth having; an energy
tip worth pursuing; a place in Virginia worth visiting; or simply a smile
worth keeping, from reading an article that brightened your day.