I’ve been working outside today. It is hot and humid. The sweat has been pouring. It is so great to come into an air conditioned house just to cool off. We didn’t have air conditioning when I was a kid, not in the car and not in the house.
On the hot, humid northern Florida nights we slept with the windows up. There was a box fan in one widow pulling cooler outside air in and through the house. During the hot afternoons we found a shade outside. When I was very young, especially if there was a baby in the house, Mom would take a quilt and make a pallet in a shade and we would take a nap. Before drifting off to sleep we would look for animals in the clouds. On other days I liked to play under the house; it was the coolest place I could find. Unfortunately, playing there always led to a bath.
In the mid-sixties Mom and Dad bought a small, one-room window air conditioner for Dad to use when he had to sleep in the hot afternoons. He just used it a few weeks and carried it to the dining room. He said he didn’t feel right staying cool while we were burning up in the front of the house. How cool is that?
As the sixties progressed air conditioning in a car transitioned from a luxury for the elite to a status symbol for the middle class. Whenever the subject arose (“Dad why don’t we have air conditioning?”), he had a stock response, “We have air conditioning. It’s Armstrong. Use your arm and roll the window down.”
I was a little surprised one hot Saturday evening. Someone suggested we stop at the 7-Eleven and get an I-Cee frozen soft drink. The first surprise was that Dad agreed. I was hopeful; after all, Darlene, the baby, was in the car and had chimed in with her approval of the idea. But I was surprised, none-the-less.
The second surprise came when a middle aged couple parked next to us in a brand new sedan. Jimmy and Shirley were in the store getting our treats. Our windows were down. Their windows were up. He got out of their car to go into the store and left the engine running.
Dad looked across the front seat at Mom and said the most romantic thing I think I ever heard him say. “Honey, one day I’m going to buy you a car with air conditioning. And I’ll leave the engine running just so you can stay cool.” A man can’t love a woman more than that.
In 1968 he did buy her an Oldsmobile 98 with air conditioning. From time to time he kept the rest of that promise. When they retired in 1986 (87?), they built a house on the farm and for the first time in their lives they lived in a house with central heat and air conditioning.
As for me, I can live without central heat. We heated this house with our fireplace one entire winter rather than go into debt to replace the heat pump. We finally replaced the compressor the next spring when we could pay cash. Two years ago the entire unit went out in early summer. It was replaced that week and we only have eight years left to pay on it. I am thankful for air conditioning.
June 5, 2010