©2017 Bill Murphy
We’re familiar with the terms BC and AD. From the Julian calendar: BC (Before Christ) and AD, (anno Domini, in the year of our Lord.) For the purpose of this post, I suggest a 3rd – BAC. BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING.
The past is nothing more than HISTORY, and because I lived it, I believe I can speak FOR it. Heaven knows my grandchildren are baffled by it! In spinning these yarns about the good ole days, I consider myself simply ADDING to their education!
That said, I well remember BAC. The first A/C school that I attended was COLLEGE! Our old home on Evergreen had no A/C. And we really didn’t think we needed it.
The windows in our house were made in two sections, upper and lower. The lower section was RAISED 12” to 18” upward, and the upper section LOWERED by this same amount. Because warm RISES, warm air near the ceiling was allowed to flow OUT of the upper opened section and cooler (outside) air could flow INSIDE through the opened lower section to replace the hot air. On days when it was not HOT, we didn’t need the attic fan. Adjusting the windows to the above configuration sufficed. The windows in George Elementary School, Enochs Jr, Hi and Central Hi all worked this way. But on days when the house got HOT inside, we had our large attic fan.
This 36″ fan was located in the attic over the small hallway in the front of the house. It lay HORIZONTALLY, blowing UPWARD into the attic. When turned on, all the INSIDE hot air was sucked up into the attic and expelled through vents to the outside. Outside air was sucked INTO the house, to replace the air expelled OUTSIDE. Hey, it WORKED! Or at least we thought it did. (It also sucked in dust and pollen!) But honestly, I can’t remember being miserable.
Yes I do. I remember that 2 or 3 times, CHS was dismissed around Noon or 1 PM because of excessive heat. But we survived. My great-grand-kids cannot relate to living through that.
A/C came to merchants long before it came to Evergreen. And those businesses who ‘bit the bullet’ and paid for that huge ‘extra’ expense was duly proud of their outlay – and flaunted it! Plastered across the front entrances they proudly proclaimed, “We Have Air Conditioning,” written in blue lettering with snow on top of each letter and icicles hanging below! Dad’s old store, Jitney No. 2 on Gallatin didn’t have A/C, but when Jitney No. 19 was built in Mart 51, it did.
We never had central air on Evergreen. Later we had window units.
And my first personal window unit (during college) was not a true A/C. It had no compressor, and no coils, and of course, no REFRIGERANT. It was basically a metal rectangular box, with a deep ‘pan‘ at the bottom. It had a fan which pulled air through a thick screen of something resembling MOSS. A garden hose was attached at the top (outside) and water was allowed to ‘trickle‘ through this moss as air was sucked through it and blown into the room. A pump brought water up from the pan and back down through the moss. The garden hose was to re-supply water that evaporated. Yes, it did cool – slightly. But the air it expelled was also very HUMID!
Our last vehicle without A/C was a ’55 Chrysler, which we took across country to Vancouver and San Francisco. Dad purchased a new-fangled automobile ‘window unit’ just for that trip. It was nothing more than a 9″ metal cylinder about 18″ long, with a trap door on top. It attached to the window, and held in place when the window was raised. When filled with ICE, air entered the front air scoop, over the ice, and out through a vent that opened to the inside the car. It was rendered useless by the deserts out west.
I believe it was ’67 before I lived in a house with CENTRAL A/C. And yes, I really do appreciate the BLESSING of A/C. When you’ve lived WITHOUT something of value like A/C, you don’t take it for granted.
I suppose that’s my ‘lesson‘ in the post.
I remember the years without air conditioning too. We didn’t miss it so much when almost no one had it. But my family and I were blessed to be able to take a lot of road trips together, and I do remember that they were hot and miserable a lot of the time. We’d look carefully for restaurants and motels that advertised air conditioning. When I wasn’t used to air conditioning, whenever we’d walk into a restaurant or motel room that had it, there always seemed to be a unique, wonderful smell — sort of crisp and clean — but really rather indescribable. Now days, living in air conditioning all the time — I almost never notice that smell. But occasionally — very occasionally — I come across it just momentarily, and it takes me back to those fond memories.
Oh, by the way — I meant to add that I had never — until today — heard of either one of those contraptions you mentioned using in your college room or your family car. You are just a storehouse of amazing information.
Also —- you know, if I decided what I wanted to say and organized my thoughts BEFORE WRITING, I wouldn’t have to keep making separate additions. I should practice what I preach in my classroom. Anyway — I just wanted to say that I’m so smart that I figured out what the B.A.C. stood for before I came over to read your article.
Hey, don’t forget — if you ever want me to publish a couple of your articles in the “Debut Writers Journal” connected with the writing classes, just let me know. But don’t feel that you should. It’s completely up to you. I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to be actively taking a class for me to put your stuff in there.