BC, AD, and BAC

Fanning copy

©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.

 

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Death At An Early Age

Grim Reaper 2

©2017 Bill Murphy

Death presented itself early in my life.

The first death of which I was aware effected me in a profound way. It was the sudden and unexpected death of my uncle in Bogalusa, LA, on October 1, 1946. I was 5 at the time.

Uncle Fred was the husband of my mother’s older sister, Lily Padget. To family and friends, she was known simply as ‘Sister.’ After Uncle Fred’s death Sister moved to Jackson (MS) to live with her parents (my grandparents), who lived next door to my family on Evergreen. Sister was always dear to me, but living next door, she became someone very dear to my heart. Sister and I were always close – even more so after Uncle Fred’s death. I treasure my many years with Sister.

The second death came 2 years later, March 4, 1948. I was in the first grade.

It was the death of my beloved grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild, Mom’s father. I was old enough by this time to realize what had happened, and experienced the heavy loss his death dealt to me. He had been my ‘best buddy‘ for 7 years.

My parents were very ‘protective’ of my sister and me. We were kept away from the funeral home and grave service. But I keenly remember the day he died. He’d been taken downtown to Jackson Infirmary, located on the corner of North President and Amite. My sister and I were required to sit outside in the car as the adults went inside. In that era, hospitals didn’t allow small children as visitors. An older cousin sat with us. We sensed that something ominous was happening. The profound grief expressed my my mother told it all.

My next experience with death came only a few years later. I can’t recall the exact year. I was in the 4th or 5th grade. What’s ‘amazing’ about this is that I know I was YOUNG – 9 or 10 at most.

A younger lad from our church was tragically killed in an auto accident – and 5 other boys of around my age were enlisted as pallbearers. (We had adult men at the head and foot as assistance.) I supposed by this time Mom and Dad had lifted some of their protective blanket.

Most folks have never heard of children serving as pallbearers for other children. That experience is etched in my mind. I recall those halting steps to the grave side as if it were only yesterday. Perhaps the reason why memory remains so vivid is because of my fear of tripping that day, and not of death.

I had an unusual friend in the 6th grade, Eldridge Hawkins. He and I were polar opposites.

I came from a solidly stable, loving family. From what I heard from him, his family was a bit different from ours. He was older than the other kids, maybe having failed a few years. He was quite rough around the edges, and due to his age, larger than most of us. But I became good friends with this boy from what some called ‘across the tracks’. My mother didn’t approve. We never hung out together away from school, but were usually together on the playground.

Again, I’m not sure of the date. I have the newspaper clipping which Mom pasted into my grade school photo album. She didn’t included the dateline.

But Eldridge and a boy who live down the street from us on Evergreen – hung a long rope off a railroad trestle spanning a large creek and were swinging from it. Eldridge slipped and fell into the creek – and drowned.

Earlier in the school year, for show and tell I had taken to class an 8 x 10 photo of my Grandfather Fairchild standing in front of the locomotive he engineered. When passed by Eldridge, he signed his name on the back! That photo now has two tangible remembrances attached to it – that of my beloved grandfather, and of my friend, Eldridge Hawkins.

Many of my classmates at George Elementary School followed me to Enochs Junior High, and on to Central High. Death came back to visit us with a vengeance at Central. Over the course of those 3 years, death claimed 7 of our classmates, the last one on graduation night.

At least one died of cancer. Several had sudden, fatal heart attacks. One of those deaths came to a classmate in ROTC. He was buried in his Army ROTC uniform. His was a military-style funeral. Although I enjoyed every minute – well, to be honest, most minutes of ROTC, I didn’t want to ‘spend eternity’ in uniform! I made my parents promise that if something should happen to me – I wanted CIVILIAN clothing – or else I’d come back to haunt them!

No doubt, we’ve all come close to death in our lifetimes and never known it. But once I was told just how close I’d actually come.

I’d had a persistent cough for several weeks, treating it myself with off the shelf remedies. But finally, very late one afternoon, my cough morphed into fever and pain. I could not stand erect. I should have gone straight to the emergency room, but didn’t. The next morning it was worse – so we went straight to my doctor’s office – only blocks from Baptist Hospital. After examining me, he FOLLOWED us to the hospital, where he orchestrated my immediate admission. Within minutes, he inserted a long metal rod into my side, between my ribs, and into my lung – all without sedation! Afterwards, he explained to my wife (Carol) that he’d never removed that much fluid from a person who survived! He said that should I have delayed treatment longer, within hours I would have been gone. What a sobering thought. And – oh what a fool I’d been for my delay in seeking treatment.

I wrote this essay on death neither because I’m fascinated with the subject, nor that I fear it. Truthfully, death is simply a part of life. It may be the end of mortal life as we experience it in the here and now – but it’s far from the end of life as we know it to be. I’ve been blessed to walk in many amazing, historic, astounding and truly breathtaking places. I’ve walked where kings and queens have walked – where presidents, dignitaries and famous military, science, entertainment and sports celebrities trod.

But I’ve never walked on gold.

It’s funny how we mortals view golden streets as the very pinnacle of paving materials – after all, we pave streets with common materials, asphalt, concrete, sea shells, rocks and stones. But then, God does this also! In heaven, gold is an everyday, common commodity – only fit to walk on!

I hope to see you there!


Illustration from clipartfest at https://clipartfest.com