Originally created 07/21/02

Do you remember life before air conditioning?



In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.

- Paul Harvey

These are the times that fry men's soles.

Strident weather warnings, dangerous heat indexes, the cooling shelters are open and ...

And most of us will hardly notice.

We'll get up each morning in that comfortably chilled box we call home, hop into a smaller box on wheels and set the AC to "MAX," then drive to a workplace where the temperature is kept so cold, every other co-worker keeps a sweater on the back of a chair.

If it weren't for the trips to the car, we'd hardly know that it was 100 degrees outside.

But that does not stop us from talking about how hot it is.

Maybe it's because we still remember.

We remember a time when July was really hot, followed by August, which was hotter still.

Don't you remember the water bottle kept in the refrigerator so anyone could get a sip of cold water ... and woe be to he who didn't use a glass for that sip.

Do you remember nights so hot that no one could sleep in an upstairs room, preferring instead the downstairs couch, or maybe a pallet on the floor or even the porch?

These were nights so hot, you couldn't stand to share a bed with a sibling, cousin or spouse because the heat of another human seemed like a furnace.

Do you remember when refrigerators had ice trays instead of ice makers, and this was the time when it couldn't freeze those little blocks fast enough, so you had to chill your drink with ice slush?

Do you remember blacktop roads or driveways in which the tar would bubble up, and for fun you would poke or break those bubbles?

Do you remember begging for change when you heard the music from the ice cream man coming down the street?

Do you remember shade when it was really shade?

Do you remember those big straw sun hats favored by great-aunts and grandmothers that made a usable cowboy hat if you felt like playing?

Do you remember midsummer revival week before religion became air-conditioned? There never seemed to be enough funeral home fans, but you learned quickly how to fold a program to make one of your own. (The terrors of hell seemed a lot closer back then.)

Do you remember summer trips before most cars had air conditioning? When they had metal dashboards and vinyl seats and your mother would keep a handkerchief under the seat to handle the searing hot steering wheel and bring a towel for the back seat so your little sister's bare legs wouldn't stick to the vinyl?

Don't you remember?

I do.

There's a sweater on my chair to remind me.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.