8 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE Telephone Cooperative Association, which lobbied for federal support for a telephone infrastructure. When electricity came, rural Americans quickly learned the value of a kilowatt-hour. They kept track of how much energy they used — especially since they often read their own meters and figured out their own bills. Customers of Verendrye, for example, paid a minimum of $3.50 plus 7 cents tax for 40 kilowatt-hours per month, and many of them used electricity sparingly to FOUNDERS FACED CHALLENGES THE COOPERATIVE WAY Whatevertheproblem,itcanbesolvedbypeoplecomingtogethertosupport each other. The founders of NISC’s predecessor organizations believed in the cooperative way and lived that creed, inspiring rural communities to invest in themselves and each other. “If we work together in mutual understanding for the common good, then we need have no doubts or fears of the future,” J.K. Smith, a Kentucky cooperative leader and one of the founders of Central Area Data Processing Corporation, said in a 1970 speech. Leland “Chub” Ulmer of Mandan, North Dakota, saw co-op work as neighbor helping neighbor. “Growing up, I learned compassion. I wanted to help others and not sit on the sidelines,” he told a reporter with the Mandan Pioneer. By 1963, American businesses were gaining efficiencies from computers, and rural cooperatives didn’t want to be left behind. Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck, which generated power for rural distribution co-ops, offered the services of its comptroller, Arnold Ketterling. Ulmer worked with Ketterling to establish the Electronic Data Processing division of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric and Telephone Cooperatives, the first of its kind in the country. Ulmer had a larger-than-life persona. When he returned from service in World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his bravery, Ulmer opened Mandan’s first drive-in restaurant. His slogan: “Ulmer’s Kitchen — Seats 10,000, 20 at a time!” He became a lawyer and turned his passion toward cooperatives, finding others just as dedicated, including Leon Birdsall, a farmer who was an incorporator of Basin Electric and director of Verendrye Electric Cooper- Precomputer bill calculation on a comptograph, or large adding machine. continued on page 12