By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Just before last fall’s devastating ice storm that saw him helping his many customers facing emergencies, a longtime Yukon electrician reached a milestone.
Tom Rackley, of Twin City Electric, celebrated 50 years in business last October.
“This storm has inundated my crews; a lot of folks are without power,” Rackley said early last November. “I’m getting calls, calls, calls. I need six electricians right now.”
Twin City’s owner and his team stayed extra busy – well, busier than usual – for two months repairing damage to homes and businesses caused by the ice storm.
Rackley recently sat down to talk about his career and how much Yukon has meant to his business.
It’s been a rewarding journey, but the 80-year-old Rackley is far from hanging up his pliers, wire strippers, voltage tester, and electrical tape.
Twin City Electric now has customers going back three generations who have grown accustomed to the company’s professionalism and dedicated service.
“I could not have made it without their loyalty,” said Rackley, who serves Canadian and several surrounding counties. “The customers in Yukon have just been extremely loyal.
That’s what keeps me going right now.
“I enjoy the work I do. There’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing you’ve helped a customer with their home or their business.”
Rackley has seen changes over the past 50 years since starting Twin City Electric.
“Technology has not affected our business nearly as much as the code,” he explained. “The national electrical codes have improved immensely over the years. Of course, it has caused prices to go up considerably.
“It’s generally safety issues. We’ve got tamper-proof receptacles and ground-fault interrupters now. There’s a lot of technology that’s improved the electric system in the home. We put them in the new homes and can upgrade older homes.”
FROM NAVY TO CAR SALES
Rackley has always had a strong work ethic, having grown up on a farm in Caddo County before graduating from Putnam City High School.
While Rackley has been an electrician for more than 50 years, he began his career in a different field.
While serving in the U.S. Navy as a radioman from 1957-61, Rackley attended an electronics technician school at a Naval Training Center in Norman. After military service, he moved to Yukon in 1962 when he bought a house on Diana Drive from Glen McKinney.
“I later went to radio school,” Rackley shared. “After I got out, electricity became a hobby, more or less.”
In the early 1960s, Rackley decided to make a living selling cars. He became a used car salesman at R.T. Ayers Chevrolet in Yukon before he and two dealership managers in 1967 opened a used car lot on 39th Street in Oklahoma City.
On Oct. 10, 1970, Rackley paid $5 for an electrical contractor’s license from the City of Yukon. He started his business in a converted 18-foot by 8-foot garage at his home on Hickory, but soon realized he needed more room.
About a year later, Rackley moved into a 47-foot by 70-foot space inside a warehouse on S 3rd that previously was used to store grain for the iconic Yukon’s Best Flour mill.
Rackley rented that space for $70 per month from John Ford of Shawnee Mills, who had bought the Yukon’s Best Flour milling rights, equipment and buildings.
A 1973 newspaper account described how Twin City Electric provides “personal attention” to every job:
“In electrical installation and service, they employ men qualified to work on jobs in both the residential and commercial field. Many of the homes and businesses of the area have been wired by the guys at Twin City Electric.”
Rackley shared plans to expand to a new, larger location in that ‘73 news article.
“First class electrical heating and air-conditioning service is our goal, not only for Yukon customers but for the entire trade area as well,” Rackley said at the time. “The new location will offer double capacity.”
Several years later, the Mid-Continent Farmers Coop owned the property and wanted to tear the rest of the old mill down.
“So, they wanted me out of there,” Rackley related.
The Yukon electrician set his sights on a 5,400 square foot building directly south at 107 S 3rd, that was built in 1961 and had served as the mill’s electric shop.
After buying the property for $65,000, Rackley and his crew moved there in March 1977 – and it’s been Twin City Electric’s headquarters ever since.
Business has been good, although Twin City Electric struggled in the mid-80s after the oil bust.
Rackley sold the building once after the downturn, because he needed the cash just to keep open. But he never moved out.
“In the sale, I agreed to lease it back with the option to buy it back,” he shared. “So, I exercised my option at the end of the lease and bought it back.”
WHEN TO RETIRE?
Rackley and his wife Virginia have three children, son Kip of Yukon and daughters Shelley of Tuttle and Mindy of Dallas – all Yukon High School graduates.
“I really have no idea when I’m going to retire,” Rackley said. “My wife wants me to retire yesterday; she’s been retired for 15 years from the FAA.
“I’m going to work until I don’t enjoy it anymore; that’s when I’ll retire.”
Twin City’s owner credited wife Virginia, who ran the office for 19 years.
“That allowed me to grow the business so fast through the ‘formidable’ years,” he said.
A longtime Yukon Chamber of Commerce member, Rackley previously served on its board of directors. He recently served a term as president of the Independent Electrical Contractors in Oklahoma City.
Rackley and his team of electricians stand ready to help their customers – new or repeat – when called upon.
Twin City Electric’s phone number has remained the same all these years – 354-5400.