Heritage Hints From Mama – Days Before Air Conditioning

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Today my mother, Janice Davis, shares her memories of the summer days before air conditioning! I sure enjoyed reading this and hope you will, too. Gratefully, Christy

Do you remember the days before air conditioning?  We got  our first air conditioner when I was five years old and we moved into our new home.  I remember the noise that it made.  Until we got used to it, the sound was deafening.

Before we moved into the new home, we lived in a small house in a close knit neighborhood.  We had a box fan that was installed into a window in the living room.  All of us kids would sing into the fan.  It made singing a great pastime as it threw the words back out at us.  It didn’t hurt that we also had the cooling breeze in our faces.

My grandmother had a small oscillating fan that sat on a table in her living room.  We loved to put our finger on the center circle of the fan as it spun around.  The grownups always fussed at us and told us that we were going to cut our fingers off and not to do it.  I think the danger of it is what encouraged us to always give it a try. No one ever cut their finger off that I knew of though – but that isn’t to say that today’s fans couldn’t accomplish such a thing (in other words, don’t try this at home!).

We lived next door to my grandmother.  I remember one day that my cousin and I wanted to play in my house.  My grandmother kept us during the day and we weren’t allowed to go in house because my parents were at work.  We decided that if we were sweating really bad that my grandmother would be worried that we were too hot and would allow us to go there to cool off (We had air conditioning but Mama Reed didn’t).  We went to the hose and doused ourselves from head to toe with water.  I’m sure my grandmother knew what we had done but she let us go next door to play.  I can still remember us trying to decide how wet we should be in order to be convincing enough.

Thinking back about the hot days of summer,  I didn’t really remember the heat so much as the memories of the summertime days.  Playing with friends and family and enjoying the carefree days  took over the memories of how hot Southern summers were.  I hope that you have nice childhood summer memories also.

All of these are memories that our children will never know.  I don’t remember thinking that it was so hot outside or anywhere else we went.  There was no air conditioning in stores, churches or restaurants.  Everyone was used to the heat and seemed to cope pretty well.

Kids would get up in the morning, eat breakfast and then head outside for a day of play.  There was no reason to stay inside since the temperature inside was usually at least 10 degrees hotter than outside.  We ran, played in the hose, built clubhouses, and caught honey bees in fruit jars.  Heat sure didn’t slow us down any!

Now parents have to try to get their children to go outside and play.  Children nowadays are used to being inside where the air conditioning keeps the house nice and cool but I can’t help but think they’re missing out on one of the best parts of a childhood.

Do you remember the days before air conditioning?  Do you remember playing in the hose because it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?  Did you have a large box fan in your window?

I look forward to reminiscing with you in the comments below and remember, Mama loves you!



Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

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  1. I didn’t have air conditioning until I was married. My grand kids beg me to tell them stories of when I was a child and played outside all day, every day. My mother didn’t have to keep up with where we were because the entire town helped. You dared not get in trouble with an entire town ready to tell on you. I don’t ever remember it being hot but I do remember sitting on a blanket and eating warm tomatoes right from the vine. Those were the best days of summer.

  2. I can relate to just about all of the comments I have read. Left the house after breakfast didn’t return until dinner. Mom never worried about us and as someone said it was a different time then. We loved to lay down on the top of a hill and roll down to the bottom over and over and over. Unfortunately when it came to bath time those chigger bites would set me on fire. Still was a good time though.

  3. Before AC became almost universal in our 1940’s neighborhood, we could hear the neighbors after dark when the night’s silence surrounded us. The houses weren’t that close — just an ordinary suburb with maybe 7 or 8 houses to a city block — but everyone had their windows open to get any breeze that happened by. I don’t recall any loud arguments or unseemly sounds, just the murmur of conversations.

    Our first AC was window units on the bedroom side of the house for use at night and on very hot Texas afternoons, strategically placed fans kept the rest of the house livable.

  4. Oh, I remember playing outside until Dad whistled for us to come home! Rode my bike 9 miles to town on a main highway to visit friends, times sure are different.

  5. What wonderful memories!! Just takes me back to some of the same. I guess that we
    have finally met Southern Plate’s MAMA!! Love it, Love it!!! Thanks so much for
    sharing your Mama.

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