Sunday, August 14, 2016

Life in the South Without Air Conditioning

It’s so hot and humid right now that I find myself hanging out more and more in the comfort of my air conditioned house. I have so much gratitude for whoever it was who invented air conditioning.

When I was 5 years old, Pop transferred from a small weather station in Luthersburg, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina. We landed at the airport on a hot summer day in Charlotte back in the days when you left the plane by walking down the movable stairs straight onto the hot tarmac. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant where my sister and I had broccoli for the first time and liked it. And then Pop took us to our new home he had rented for us on Mayfair Avenue—a house with no air conditioning, not even a window unit.

Pop was concerned about the heat since none of us were used to it. He wanted to keep the curtains closed in the heat of the day and had my sister and I take midday naps—not that either of us really wanted to take naps. At night, we kept the windows open. Yes, open windows at night back in those days when families didn’t feel threatened by home invasions, child kidnappers, and the like. Hard to imagine such freedom these days.

When the weather turned humid, I remember the discomfort of trying to sleep between damp sheets and wishing for a breeze to come through that window. Rain, even thunderstorms were welcome on most occasions because they brought with them a temporary relief. Of course, there were those times when rain just added to the humidity.

Pop did try to bring relief to us when he installed an industrial sized air conditioner which operated on the theory of evaporation. He hosed down the huge unit’s special padding every day and turned that thing on. It blew in cool air, but since it was operating on evaporation, it added to the humidity and misery. Also, it caused mold to grow on anything leather. So much for those expensive shoes and pocketbooks. So we went back to plan A with open windows and darkened rooms. Honestly, it was a greater relief to go out and play in the shade of the woods and splash around in the creek during the day.

When Mom and Pop bought a house, it was one with high ceilings and a hallway downstairs that helped move air through the house. This was the house where my sister and I grew up and we quickly acclimated to the lack of a central heating and cooling system. Because of Mom’s heart disease, Pop did get a window unit air conditioner for their bedroom to allow her some comfort. My parents were Yankee transplants having been born and raised in the mountainous north central Pennsylvania, and therefore, had a harder time adjusting to the heat.

Like most people these days I have central air. I try to be conservative by keeping the temperature at 76-78 degrees during the day and 74 at night. Ceiling fans make a huge difference in my tolerance to the heat. As long as I have those wonderful ceiling fans, I’m good. Still, there are times when I look back on those days and wonder how we survived the heat and humidity of summer. I have a heap of gratitude for that hard working air conditioner in my backyard.  

No comments: