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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Hot Dog! (08/02/2006)
By Frances Edstrom


     
Okay, all you hearty Minnesotans and Wisconsinites, did I hear you complaining about how hot, hot, hot it's been? Have you been thinking Global Warming? Are you considering seeing a marriage counselor because your spouse doesn't want air conditioning in the house?

Well, I have news for you. As usual, the Greatest Generation manages to steal all the glory not only in heroics but in "hot enough for ya?" According to the weatherman, the temperature last Monday reached 102 degrees. (That's hot enough for me!) But that is not, repeat not, a record. In 1988, there was also a 102 day, but back in 1936, it reached 108!

Let's put that in perspective. In 1936, air conditioners were not commonly installed in homes or businesses. The first department store air conditioning went into Hudson's Dept. Store in Detroit in 1924, the year that southern movie theaters began to embrace air conditioning as a way to keep summer from being slump season. But it wasn't until after WWII that air conditioning became generally available and popular.

So, in 1936 when it was 108, what would my life have been like? I imagine that my office, facing south as it does, with huge windows, would have been unbearable, even with awnings and a little electric fan blowing over my legs. Oh, and those legs would not have been bare save for a short skirt or capri pants. They would have been encased in stockings. But wait! Nylon stockings weren't even available until 1940. So my stockings would have been silk (would I waste silk on a workday?) or cotton.

I suppose I would be sitting there, grateful at least that copy machines and computers were not yet invented to add to the already horrible heat.

What would my kids be doing in 108 weather? I imagine they would have biked over the old Wagon Bridge (which was barely wide enough for two cars at once!) and spent the day at the Latsch Island bathing beach. At that time, there was a large bathhouse with dressing rooms. Lifeguards patrolled the beach, which had an area marked by floats for the less advanced swimmers. Out a ways was the raft with a diving board. To swim out there, one needed permission from the lifeguard.

What could we eat without having to cook? A good housewife would have prepared by perhaps roasting meat ahead of the heat wave that could be sliced and eaten cold. Tomatoes and cukes from the backyard, pickles that had been canned the previous summer, and bread from the bakery would round out the menu.

After a cold supper, we'd go sit on the front porch, or lacking one, on the stoop, where we would fan each other with pages from the Sears catalog and start arguments because the heat was making us grouchy.

How would we sleep in such weather? Our old house has an enormous fan in the attic with vents into the second floor hallway. When turned on it is designed to pull hot air out and encourage cooler night air to flow through the house. I can tell you from years of experience that although the fan makes a noise that is intended to trick you into believing that you are cooler, in reality, you are still hot. Very hot.

We finally succumbed to air conditioning when we had to replace a furnace a few years back. Our kids were furious because they were already on their own. Why didn't we do that when they were at home, they asked. It's a question that it doesn't pay to answer, since there is no offspring alive who accepts "we couldn't afford it" as valid.

Thankfully, although I am confined, it is in a nice cool house. But I have an idea of how hot it was because when we let the dog in after his brief outing in the backyard, he was hot to the touch! 

 

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