By Sarrah Peters
On Friday, May 1, Alabama Power Company employees, Attalla officials and Etowah/Gadsden Chamber members and ambassadors gathered in downtown Attalla for a unique ribbon cutting. The ribbon cutting was held for an antique sign, now displayed and lit like it was originally designed. The antique Alabama Power Company sign features a man made of electric bolts named Reddy Kilowatt.
Only two Alabama Power Company offices display the old Reddy sign, Attalla and Abbeville. Attalla has kept its sign since it was first installed.
Attalla has always had a close relationship with Alabama Power Company. It was in Attalla in 1903, three years before he founded Alabama Power Company in 1906, that W.P. Lay first experimented with hydro power on Big Wills Creek. In fact, many folks in Attalla claim their town as the birthplace of Alabama Power Company.
For 60 years, Reddy Kilowatt was the most popular face of the electric utility industry. Ashton B. Collins Sr., commercial manager of Alabama Power Company, created Reddy to be the easily recognizable symbol of the company after supposedly seeing an odd man-shaped lightning bolt. Reddy’s design has changed over the years. At first he was thin and kind of sinister-looking. Now, he has gained some weight and looks much friendlier.
At first, Reddy was used only for the Alabama Power Company, but in the 1930’s began being used at various other power companies, including the Reddy Kilowatt Inc. company owned by Reddy’s creator Collins. Within a few years over 200 privately owned electric utilities worldwide contracted to use Reddy as their corporate symbol. He is still used as a corporate symbol for many electric utility companies worldwide.
As a corporate symbol, Reddy took on a lot of different jobs. Besides helping brand electric companies and market electric appliances and services, he was used to help companies with their rural electrification, safety and community outreach programs. He appeared on electric bills thanking customers and reminding folks when their bills were overdue. During World War II, he urged people to buy war bonds, conserve energy and save scrap for the war effort. Cartoonist Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker even used Reddy in a number of TV commercials and in his animated feature “The Mighty Atom.”
The company named after Reddy is now a communications counseling firm. The company changed its name to Reddy Communications Inc.
To see Reddy for yourself, visit downtown Attalla’s Alabama Power Company office, located at 313 5th Avenue NW.