Monday, June 29, 2015

Summers without air conditioning ~ My column from Sunday's paper

This week, it’s been hotter than Satan spreading asphalt. Early this spring, I heard people whining about the rain, so I hope they’re happy now. When the rain did move off to the east in April, it left a sweltering sun and humidity as thick as honey.

Heat never seemed to bother me when I was a kid. I don’t remember anyone having air conditioners in those days.

Thinking back, air conditioners would have been a waste in those old camp houses because there were cracks in places wide enough to toss a puppy through. The only insulation people used was tarpaper siding and old newspapers stuffed into the cracks to keep the winter wind out.

We had an old belt-driven window fan with steel blades that we ran in the evenings. The fan was installed in an open window. The whirring blades sucked cool evening air through our open bedroom windows, making summer sleep possible.

When we built our new Jim Walter house in 1966, Daddy bought a new window unit from Sears, and the house seemed like a refrigerator compared to the old place.

When Jilda and I married, we spent the first 10 years in a trailer without air conditioning. We spent a lot of time outside in the shade, swatting mosquitos that seemed as big as pigeons. It’s always been hot here in the South, but we survived. Thankfully, we can afford to keep the air conditioning humming in our house these days.

I noticed an issue with my truck this week that I feared would get into my back pocket. When the bank thermometer blinked 106, it seemed to take the air conditioner in my truck longer to cool the cab than it took last summer. I ran down to see my buddies at Sayre Auto Parts to have them check the coolant.

Jerry, who is one of the owners, raised the hood and checked the metal pipes connected to the unit. He then stepped back and bent over to look underneath. Water puddled on the shop floor from the engine’s innards. I thought there was a leak, but he said it was condensation, which is a sign the unit was functional.

“I’d be willing to bet the coolant is not low,” he said.

He turned to me as he started back across the street to his office and said, “I actually know what’s causing the problem.” I listened as he pointed out that it was 103 degrees outside, I was driving a black truck and I was a year older.

A few moments later, the mechanic appeared and hooked hoses with gauges to the air conditioner. He watched intently for a few minutes and tapped the dial with his finger for good measure. “It was full of coolant.”

I walked across the street to settle up the bill. I sheepishly told Jerry he was right about the coolant.

He and a gentleman standing there got a good chuckle at my expense. I had to chuckle a little too but had he not been a friend of mine, I would have been tempted to lean over and smack that smug smile off his face.

I told him all I needed was a smart aleck mechanic, which only made him howl a little louder.

When I asked how much I owed him, he smiled and said, “No charge.”

They were still laughing when I drove out of the parking lot.


  1. Oh Gosh-I would be doing the same thing as you. I could never handle the heat well. My internal thermostat never worked well. I don't really sweat. My mom had the same problem and so did her father so I think it must be genetic. My body gets really hot and I can look beet red. My hubby will say, "God, You're Hot, don't come near me-you're too hot." Too bad he didn't mean it in the other way(wink, wink). I hate the heat and prefer the nice winters over the hot summers. I can layer clothing in the winter but I can't really strip down to nothing in the summer..I mean people will talk and the police may have something to say:)

  2. Your early encounters with heat and primitive air conditioning sound much like mine. How the heck did we survive? I too suspect it was because we were young. Yes, thinking back to let the light of other days surround me, the heat was there --just didn't care that much. Now, I want real refrigeration in the home and car, but still, still I remember groaning with the other boys when we got called in for supper from our baseball games on plowed ground.

  3. thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment .

    obat maag

  4. Thinking back to GGrandpa's house, shaded by 4 Big oaks. That was a blessing, the trees.
    Good entry and column. I have no problem remembering NO A/C, I sure like A/C even in the Motor home.
    Good entry. I like being there with you!

  5. I remember those hot summer days in my youth and we could go down to the brook and cool off in the fresh running water, swim all day with our friends until we looked like dehydrated raisins. My poor mom having to bake bread everyday for us, the sweat pouring off her forehead and never a complaint but she would always make jokes about the heat. No A/C in those days...

    The only explanation I can come up with is that we didn't missed what we never had.

    Stay cool and happy.

  6. We've had the opposite and wet. Yesterday I took a walk in the cemetery with an umbrella and the drip of the drops as my companion....only about 60de. I promised I wouldn't complain about the weather this summer after the crazy winter we had so I just smiled big this morning when the sun actually made an appearance! With today off I'm heading out to mow...I remember those youthful days with no AC..just that GE fan moving back and forth. Chicago can be a heat pump in summer too! But I'm eternally grateful for AC these days. Unfortunately my 14yr old car decided it wanted a step back in time and won't work...that's OK, I can survive my drive to and from work without it! Loved your column today...brought back memories! Have a good day today Rick!

  7. Glad you have a/c and that your problem was an easy fix. Sometimes all we can do is laugh at ourselves...

    1. Anonymous12:29 PM

      At 80 years old, I find myself doing that more & more!!

  8. Sitting under my grandmother's weeping willow or hiding in my grandfather's cedar grove was where we went to cool off. Or we would sneak to wade in the creek. Most houses were built so that there was a good cross draft if the doors and windows were open. Screens kept some of the bugs out. The best days were when my father would wait until the end of a hot afternoon and use the water hose to spray the house. It would cool things of plus we got to run in the water as he sprayed.

  9. The huse I grew up in didn't have A/C and it just meant we could stay out late until the house cooled off.

  10. We had no air conditioning when I was a child, and in fact we didn't have it for the first 10 years of living here but wouldn't be without it now, in fact we have three now one in the kitchen which is the main one that is used it is a big 2.5 horse power one and we have smaller .75 ones in the bedroom and Tim's office. How we coped back then I don't know but I guess because we didn't know any better we just managed


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