Childhood Memories Friday: The Heat is On

childhoodmemoriessummer1970s split levelHere is the house where I lived from August 1966 to November 1978.  I was just a year old when we had it built, and when I think of my “childhood home,” this is the one that comes to mind.

The garage seemed so big … and to think it was one-car (we currently have a four-car garage).  The split-level look now seems to scream Brady Bunch and 1970s, but I was fascinated by it.  We had stairs – about 6 steps to upstairs, and 6 to down.

What I’m really thinking about today, however, is the heat.  We seem so spoiled today, with almost everyone having central air.  When I was growing up, we didn’t have it – and I don’t think anybody did that I knew of.  Sometimes people would have “window unit” air conditioners in one room (incidentally, when I taught school, our 100+-year-old building had window units in just the teacher’s lounge and the principal’s office).

We had a ceiling fan, but not the kind people have now.  Upstairs, in the hall, there was a switch to flip and then vents would come open in the ceiling and a fan in the attic would turn on.  We used it at night to try circulating that humid southern Indiana summer air.

I remember on really hot nights, the whole family would sleep on the living room floor on the house’s main level.  We left only the screen door shut, hoping for a breeze.

A related “heat” memory:  when I went to Indiana University, there was no air conditioning in the dorms (you were allowed to bring a window fan).  Believe me, dorm rooms on the 13th floor got pretty darn hot in August.  And, the heat was turned on for all the buildings at once – on November 1st.  No matter the weather, that date didn’t vary – and it sometimes got pretty cold!  When I think of some of the helicopter parents out there today, coupled with the fact of apparently half the kids having allergies of some type, I’m assuming that things are different now.

What do you remember about the heat – or cold – of your childhood?

9 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: The Heat is On

  1. I lived in a big 2 story farm house in Dubois County with my parents and grandparents and an aunt. I doubt I even knew air conditioning existed. When I was around twelve years old we got our only fan – a GE revolving fan. We thought we had arrived! Hot summer days were just something we accepted. You can get used to about anything. If no one today had air conditioning, we would make it. When my daughters went to school, there was no air conditioning. In fact, they did not even have fans. Schools have really changed, but are students learning anymore?

  2. Believe me, the heat was on in my home in Africa! Most of the time there was not even electricity, so you couldn’t run a fan if you had one. If you wrote on paper, which you had to since there was no power for any other instrument of communication most of the time, your hand would stick to the paper because of all the perspiration on your arm and hand. Before I left there, we got electricity (when it worked). I could then use one of the ceiling fans you described having in your childhood home. I thought I had really arrived when I could go to sleep at night with that fan pulling air in from outside. Often at bedtime, it was in the 90s in my bedroom and the humidity was also that high. Many mornings I felt worse when getting up than I did the night before when going to bed. My pillowcase, my nightgown, and my body were all soaked. I developed the habit of taking the water pitcher from the (kerosene-powered) fridge and pouring a tiny bit of the cold water on a washcloth. That’s what I’d use to wash my face and neck in the morning. It provided at least momentary relief. Those were the days! I am definitely spoiled now!

  3. It is so nice to come to your blog and remember my childhood. My parents moved around California. While I was growing up I lived in 6 different houses. None of our houses had air conditioning, except our house in Fresno, it had a swamp cooler. We were a family of 7 and the last house we all lived together in was a two-story. All of us kids had our bedrooms upstairs. One summer the upstairs got so hot that we slept downstairs on the floor. I also remember walking to the nearby hamburger stand to get milk shakes or roller skating to the drug store and buying a soda pop. The only thing I remember about the cold, was when we lived in San Diego, our house had forced air heating vents on the floor. We used to stand over the vents in our nightgowns and watch them blow up. A great way to get warm in the morning. LOL

  4. Memories from my friend, Leona:
    I remember all of the same stuff that you do, plus even more. For example, on extremely hot 90 – 100 degree nights back home on the farm during the 1940s, my family would sleep out in the back yard for a night or two around once a year. We did not have sleeping bags (they may not even have been invented yet :), so we just put an old comforter on the ground for cushioning on top of the grass. It was fun to sleep under the stars!
    My older cousins and I would fill a galvanized wash tub with water from the outdoor hose to splash around in on very hot days. The colder the water, the better we liked it. Then there was the run under the garden hose thing that practically every kid has tried no matter what era. With no TV, video games, computers, etc., we played outdoors about 90% of each summer day. I might go fishing in our farm pond and fry the “catch of the day= blue gills” up for lunch. My neighbor girl named Rosemary and I would dig worms, catch the fish, scale them and eat them all within a couple of hours time…say 10am – noon. We’d stop by the garden on the way back to the house and pick some lettuce to eat along with our fish. I made a dressing for the lettuce out of sugar, salt and pepper, and a small amount of mayonnaise, and sometimes a little bit of cream or milk. We never had store-bought dressing or much of anything back in the 1940s and 50s! Those were the days when we had large gardens full of many vegetables to can or freeze and a large strawberry patch. The men (my uncles after my father died when I was 11) butchered hogs or a beef at home. I remember grinding out sausage in a sausage grinder and stuffing it in casings, which were actually part of the intestines, I think. We would work on that as a family down in the basement where it was cool since there was no AC. Grosses me out now to think of it!!!
    Liver, brains, sweet breads, and tongue were all parts of the animals that were eaten.
    Killing chickens on a large stump out by the wagon shed was something to see as well. Grandpa would take an axe and cut off the head of the chicken, afterwhich the remainder of the chicken would flop around all over the place until it died (fairly quickly actually). Then us kids would take a chicken dipped in boiling water and pick all of the feathers off. Not an easy job and rather smelly! That would happen on a Saturday to prepare for Sunday dinner, often attended by the entire extended family of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And those are now remembered as “the good ole days”.
    Didn’t mean to get so wordy, but you inspired me with your story of way back when.
    I was just thinking a few days ago that I spent 35 years of my life without air conditioning and another 35 with AC. While it is great fun to reminisce, I certainly wouldn’t want to give up today’s commonplace pleasures to go back to the mid-1900s.

    Besides fishing and swimming, we walked back a long lane or cow path to the woods to look for wild flowers, May apples, etc. And we played many outdoor games, such as lawn croquet, badminton, softball, Kick the can, and jumping rope. Long bike rides around the neighborhood to see all of the other kids were another big thing to do, too. I will no doubt thinks of more things, like catching fireflies/ lightening bugs around the 4th of July and climbing to the top of the old windmill or walking the barn beams (the Indian in me kept me steady for that) or playing in the corn crib to name a few. Sometimes one of the neighbor boys with a motor scooter would come over to take us rides. Most June/July evenings I would stay outside until dark, around 9 or 9:30 when there would be dew on the grass and some coolness in the air.
    Do I sound ancient or what? Growing up on a farm was loads of fun and hard work. I mowed grass in great big yards and drove the tractor quite a bit. We had a John Deere A and a smaller John Deere B, which I drove in creeper gear when I was only 5 years old…really the summer I was turning 6 probably.

  5. Nope, even tho I grew up in Florida, we didn’t have air. Well, one window unit for when company came, but it was LOUD!!! My mother didn’t seem to believe in fans, either. I remember curling up on the floor of my room to try to find some coolness some nights. What I think most about is summer camp. No air, no frills, no coddling – we loved it! Now it is totally different and they have so much for the kids to do, and so much “creature comforts,” I hardly know how they can call it camp!

  6. I’ve been thankful for my AC each day this past week with our 100 and near 100 temps. I do NOT know how they did it here in Texas back in the day. I wonder if all these conveniences make us a weaker people than our ancestors?

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