Life without air conditioning, if you can imagine

DOOPer's memories

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John Stanger

When I was a young guy, it seemed that summer started on June 1st and didn't end until October 1st, and there was no air conditioning in either the schools I attended or our house.

The classrooms were particularly miserable partly because of the clothes we wore. The boys wore chino pants with belts, buttoned shirts and either loafers or oxfords with socks. The girls wore dresses or blouses and skirts with saddle shoes or loafers with socks. The male teachers wore suits with ties and dress shoes. Women teachers dressed like the girls, but they wore high-heeled shoes.

Many days, the temperature in the classrooms reached 90, even with all of the windows open. Papers stuck to our arms and sweat dampened our clothing. It was difficult to concentrate, especially if the teacher was a lecturer. I often saw fellow classmates doze off during a lesson.

In regard to gym class, the teachers would take us outside, but if it was raining and we stayed inside, the gym would soon feel like a sauna despite the fact that we wore shorts and T-shirts during class. Even the shower at the end of class did not relieve the uncomfortable feeling.

Our house had high ceilings, so some of the heat would rise to the top. We used fans as much as possible, but they only stirred up the hot air. When rain came, we were happy, but when the rain stopped, the tropical conditions returned. My uncle Hubert said the heavy, moist air reminded him of when he was on Pacific islands during World War II, so, as he claimed, the heat we experienced in the summer months did not bother him at all.

We ate many evening meals on the screened-in back porch, and later in the evening some of us would sit on the front porch and simply talk. This scene played out with many of our neighbors, too.

One place in the house that was cool was the basement. After my uncle Gene and I spent a year constructing a recreation room down there, most family members spent many an evening watching programs on the 16-inch RCA television.

After supper, my grandfather would generally retire to his bedroom on the second floor, open all the windows and sit at his desk and either read or study the stock market figures. When 8 p.m. arrived, he would stop what he was doing, turn on the radio to either a Sox game [if they were playing] or a comedy broadcast and light up a Robert Burns cigar. Even with the windows open, the cigar smoke hung in the air and the smell permeated all the rooms on the second floor.

My uncles slept in the bedroom on the third floor, but when it was hot at night, Gene would put his bedding on the second floor porch and sleep out there. Hubert, however, would stay in the third-floor bedroom

The hot weather didn't stop the kids from playing baseball or other physically active games, and it certainly didn't stop my family members from assigning chores to me.

I will also add that cars, churches and most stores and office buildings were also without air conditioning, but we lived with the conditions as they were and adjusted accordingly and, of course, we survived.

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