When your a/c goes on the blink these days and the temps of summer have arrived we think to ourselves just how did we survive times like this back before we had air conditioning? We look to the generation of today and more than likely tell them we just were tougher in those days and go on. I’m pretty sure that is anything but the truth.
There are several factors that went into how the heat was beat so to say. Number one was that more than likely we spent most of our time out in the sun working in fields or gardens etc… For men who worked in the factories where the temperatures would pass 100 degrees on an almost daily occurrence stepping outside of the factory and maybe under a shade tree must have felt awesome. The second thing was almost all homes were shaded by large trees and would keep the sun from soaking its’ way through the walls into a home. Our house also was a brick home that was three layers of brick thick and a corrugated tin roof on it. During a day the house maintained a somewhat cool feel to it but it was about one to two a.m. when the heat finally soaked through and would then make sleeping almost unbearable.
We even had a screened in front porch and I have carried a blanket and pillow out there and slept on the glider. Wasn’t the most comfortable place to sleep but it was cool. Mom always kept a lot of water in jars in the refrigerator along with a large supply of iced tea so we could stay hydrated and help in staying cool. There were many things we did to assist in the hot sweltering summer nights and days to help manage surviving.
One major aid in overcoming the heat was since we had never had air conditioning we had never missed it. As a matter of fact a home might have a fan or two but those were more for show I think as they really didn’t cure cooling down a home. Along with the home not having a/c neither did our car or truck. We had what was referred to as four sixty a/c in our vehicles. (That was the car going sixty miles per hour and all four windows down!) Sounded funny but truth was passengers weren’t much cooler. After spending half a year at least doing our best to seal up the house to keep the hot air in we spent the summer doing our best at looking to find more ways to open up the house to allow more air to pass through it.
It seems to me there were more outside events being held. We spent less time in the house other than sleep time and meals. I know we grilled a lot just so we could eat in the shade of our big pine trees. I will admit that if we entered into a rainy spell and the temps stayed high getting by was put to its hardest test and for the most part everybody suffered. But like I said we spent more time in the heat and under the sun. A farmer’s tan was something they acquired early in the spring and only got darker as the summer passed onto fall. That tan to some degree protected a person from the heat. Also in those days people just plain out sweated more often and a lot of it. It wasn’t given a thought that sweating was uncommon or undesired for sure.
Now these days we like our air conditioning and not just in our homes but in all our vehicles and our places of work and of course where we shop at. We stay in climate controlled environments almost 24 hours a day. As for sweating why that has almost been labeled uncivilized unless you are participating in a sporting event. As a society we have grown soft. Not having a comfortable place to sleep is just plain wrong! Here is where I want to be the first person to admit I am spoiled and demand where I am at to be climate controlled.
Growing up I would never have uttered those words where my parents or neighbors could hear me. To be labeled a wimp was a tag I absolutely didn’t want to earn. So as the thermometer went up I just I guess stood my place and kept any complaints to myself. Growing up I would camp out with my cousin Walt or the Marshall Brothers. We felt it was cooler but probably wasn’t. However it was a fun way to pass a hot summer’s night.
As a matter of fact it wasn’t just the boys in the neighborhood that slept outside. I had a great uncle named Roy and he was it is safe to say unique. I am not sure just where he got it but he obtained an army cot. On the hot nights he would set it up in his yard by the door and sleep on it under the stars. I never saw him on the cot but have seen the cot setting there in the yard. Uncle Roy was a man near 6’3” and lanky and in his ‘80s. I have always had this picture in my mind of him on that old cot with his feet hanging over the end. He said he always got a good night’s sleep so who was I to argue with him. Besides it made for a good tale to tell.
So as my wife and I set here in that good ole day’s hot air and wait for the air conditioners’ part to arrive it is safe to say we are far from wishing to return to these good ole days when we hadn’t heard of air conditioning etc. It is safe to say that I could write this story about hot humid days in comfort of climate control just as well as sweating this one out as I type. Yup it is safe to say that not all of the days that have past were good old days. At least not this topic.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at email@example.com.