As we in the northeast U.S. swelter under an oppressive heat wave--almost a week of over 90 degree F temperature--I am so grateful for central air-conditioning. Our house has a heat pump, which heats in cold weather and cools in hot weather. So, the sweltering heat is bearable, because we are cool inside.
But it wasn't always so--and in many parts of the world it is not so. Our daughter living in London knows that central air-conditioning is a rarity in homes. Most of the time, the weather cooperates, but when it does heat up--well, obviously things get hot.
The advent of air-conditioning in the modern era occurred at the outset of the 20th century when Willis Carrier (yes, that's why there is a brand of air-conditioners named Carrier), who had recently graduated from Cornell University, set about to solve the problem for a printing company in Brooklyn, New York. For several decades, air-conditioning was used in commercial settings, but not private homes.
Not doubt, many of you readers can recall a time without air-conditioning in your homes. So, what did we do to stay cool?
Swimming--I have previously written about my memories of swimming in an old swimming hole. Just as with little access to home air-conditioning, most people did not have access to private swimming pools. So, off we went to municipal pools, or to swimming holes, or to creeks. Nothing better on a steamy hot summer day than a swim in a bone-chilling creek.
Drinking Coca-cola--I spent one summer with my mother's sister, my aunt, and her family. My cousin and I would walk a half a mile from the house to the corner grocery store in the little village where we lived. Once inside, we would immediately head for the cooler for a bottled soda...or, I should say, pop. Reaching around in the cooler, hands in the watery ice mix, selecting our choice, pulling it out, removing the cap on the bottle opener attached to the side of the cooler, paying for our prize, and then walking back home--ahhh! That's the way to beat the summer time heat.
Sitting on the porch swing--wonderful old houses always had wide porches with overhanging roofs, and a swing hanging from the rafters. Even on a hot day, you could always sit on the swing, gently rocking back and forth, creating your own breeze if there were no other breeze around. For a time, porches (or verandas) went out of favor, but--thank goodness--they are back. That's one feature I could wish our home had--a lovely porch. With a swing, of course.
I am sure there were other ways we beat the heat. Or, if we didn't, we just put up with it. We sweated, we fanned, we rolled the windows down on our cars and let the hot wind evaporate our sweat. We slept without any covers. We managed.
Enough of this stroll down memory lane. Frankly, as fond as these memories are, I think I'll stay inside on these lazy hazy days of summer....and enjoy our central air-conditioning.