By Jared Olar
Although it has been 13 years since CILCO – the Peoria-based Central Illinois Light Company – was acquired by Ameren, for many long-time Pekin residents it may still seem strange to speak of paying “the Ameren bill.”
For them, the monthly gas and electric utility bill will probably always be “the CILCO bill.” With a corporate history that began in 1913, the name of “CILCO” – and the old R.S. Wallace Station which for decades was a landmark on the Illinois River in East Peoria – will likely linger on in local memories for years to come.
One of the items recently donated to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is a 1988 brochure published to mark the CILCO’s 75th anniversary.
Titled, “CILCO and Central Illinois: Growing Together for 75 Years,” the 15-page brochure reviews the company’s history using narrative and photographs. The story begins with the merger of seven area companies to create a larger company to provide Peoria and 26 area communities, including Pekin, with gas, electric and steam power.
The brochure also tells of the formation in 1923 of the Illinois Electric Power Company of East Peoria, of which CILCO was a part. The new company built the R.S. Wallace Station as a steam electric plant, located where East Peoria’s Super Walmart stands today. In January 1958 came the addition of the company’s familiar mascot, the lightning-bolt-bodied and light-bulb-nosed Reddy Kilowatt, who displayed the time and temperature for drivers over the Murray Baker Bridge.
Also recently donated to the Local History Room collection are several old “Cilcograms” from the early to mid-1950s. These small pamphlets, often featuring Reddy Kilowatt on the front cover, used to be sent out with the monthly CILCO bill. Cilcograms provided information on electricity and wiring for homes, along with promotions of local charitable activities and sponsored advertisements.
Those who would like to learn of, or refresh their memories about, CILCO’s history may stop by the Local History Room.