These days of hot weather with high humidity has me, first of all, grateful for the air conditioning in our homes, vehicles and businesses and, second, trying to remember what life was like when we did not have it.
When I think of those hot late July and much of August days of the ’50s and early ’60s when air conditioning was rare, I can remember hearing the sound of fans.
When it was the hottest and trying to get a night’s sleep, the fan was pointed directly at a person. It was still a blast of hot air, but it did help.
I also remember that since air conditioning was not common, we all suffered equally so all we did was comment on the heat and in general, keep doing what needed to be done.
We moved a little slower and stopped more frequently but stuck with our tasks anyway.
In late July 1957, my parents, two sisters and I made a trip from northern Iowa to California by car in our new 1957 Pontiac.
The car was typical of the time with no power steering, no power brakes, and of course, no air conditioning.
Would you make a trip like that with your family during late July from Iowa to California, returning by way of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and then north in a non-air conditioned car today? I would not.
We were gone a day or so short of three weeks and I remember there were times it was warm, but since air conditioning was not common we did not think we were under any hardship.
Comparing then and now, I can see times have really changed when it comes to our tolerance for the heat.
Thinking of traveling not only in the heat, but with the windows down, having to listen to the sounds of the outside while sitting in a blast of warm air sounds more like punishment than pleasure, but we did it and we enjoyed ourselves.
Before we left, there was a second cutting of hay that needed to be baled and corn that needed cultivating. That was in addition to the daily chores of the cattle, pigs, and chickens.
Baling hay was at least a two-person job with much physical labor in loading and unloading the flat racks.
Cultivating was a little better because the John Deere A had an umbrella so there was shade, but that did not do anything about the temperature.
The oats were not combined when we left so that meant it needed to be done when we got home in early August.
That was another two-person job with my dad driving the tractor pulling the combine and me on the tractor with the flare box.
Then the straw was baled.
Cabs were unheard of then and in the late ’60s when cabs were starting to appear on tractors, anyone buying a tractor with a cab was thought of as showing weakness.
Plus those early cabs were not that great. Poorly insulated and usually cramped, they provided shelter from the rain and protection form the wind and not much else. They were an improvement, but only a slight one.
Air conditioning ranks right up after running water in our homes and is a requirement in any vehicle we operate. That is fine with me.
As far as I am concerned, before air conditioning became common, I was living life like the pioneers. I can reminisce about the good old days, but being drenched in sweat is not a fond memory.
So let’s close the windows, set the thermostat, and forget about the heat. If I need a reminder of how it used to be, I will step outside and then I will be back inside before the door closes.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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