by Estee Manfredi | Aug. 4, 2022
Have you ever seen one of these gold medallions on the wall at a home in Hawaii? At my grandparents’ house, I remember seeing this and it was prominently displayed next to the front door. When I was little, the plaque around the doorbell felt neat, but I didn’t know what it signified. It wasn’t until recently, when I came across another house with this medallion, that I started to wonder what it really represented. Here’s what I learned:
The “Live Better Electrically” program launched in March 1956 when General Electric and Westinghouse started a nationwide campaign to promote the benefits of electric power. The program was supported by over 900 electric utilities, 180 electricity manufacturers and it was heavily promoted. The main spokesman for the campaign was the host of the “General Electric Theater” Ronald Regan.
By the end of 1956, five all-electric homes were featured in The Honolulu Advertiser’s Parade of Homes publication. At Hawaiian Electric, home economists were busy demonstrating the newest electric equipment and the company won four national advertising awards, including ‘best single advertisement promoting the use of electricity.’
Because of the interest in wiring homes for all-electric living, a Certified Modern Home Wiring Plan standard was created by the Pacific Coast Electrical Association and a Certified Modern Home Wiring Committee was formed. This committee, with representatives from Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, Hilo Electric, Kauai Electric and other companies, would inspect and certify a home wiring system to ensure it met the standards. The committee would attach an emblem to the service equipment, provide the owner with a certificate and even install an outdoor sign upon request.
In October 1957, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association expanded the program by launching the Medallion Homes campaign. In order to qualify as a Medallion Home, the house had to be completely electric, meaning it had to be equipped with an electric oven, refrigerator/freezer, water heater plus one other major appliance from an approved list. The goals of the program were to:
- provide prospective homebuyers with a nationally recognized symbol of electrical excellence
- raise the electrical standards in new construction
- help builders sell homes
- introduce electrical features and fixtures to existing homeowners
- give national support to existing programs that were being sponsored by local utilities to upgrade home electrification.
Hawaii was granted statehood on Aug. 21, 1959, which was followed by a period of rapid growth and a boom of construction. By 1961, 85% of all new homes and 68% of apartments that were built were deemed all-electric, and work on Honolulu’s first all Medallion Home subdivision had started. The company provided customers with the newest information and technical advice in order to assure the most economical use of electricity.
Hawaiian Electric connected service for its 150,000th residential customer in December 1971. By this time, 80% of customers had all electric homes compared to 65% in 1960.
It is difficult to imagine not living in a home that is powered by electricity. Today, I can just flick a switch or ask a smart device to turn on a light. Finding this medallion in the scrap pile made me sad because at one time, it signified that the house it was affixed to had met the standards and requirements and was deemed all-electric. My grandfather was an electrician so it was probably a big deal for him to have this. These medallions are probably disappearing from homes, but if you keep your eye out you may be able to still find some!
Estee Manfredi is a corporate librarian at Hawaiian Electric.