City Life Before Air Conditioning

Is it hot enough for ya? Don't you hate hearing that? Imagine a world in which no one, except maybe the movie theater, had air conditioning. In 1998, playwright Arthur Miller wrote a nostalgic piece about the New York City summers of his youth in the 1920s, during which people had to use their creative juices to beat the heat.
We kids would jump onto the back steps of the slow-moving, horse-drawn ice wagons and steal a chip or two; the ice smelled vaguely of manure but cooled palm and tongue.

People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Reading the essay might make you feel cooler, or at least appreciate the modern convenience of air conditioning. Link -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Arthur Leipzig)

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Several years ago, I drove a van full of octogenarians to a folk music festival. It was a hot day in the middle of summer in Florida. The heat was ghastly. But the older folks were perfectly fine and had nothing bad to say about the weather. They had grown up without air conditioning and the heat was normal to them.
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Did people not have electricity in their homes in the 20's? Fans and water[swamp] coolers make a lot of difference. I know water coolers don't work well in humid areas but they would be better than nothing at all. I live in central CA, hello 110', with no AC. Yes we suffer, but this article sounds like hell on earth. People must have dropped like flies. Ah, city life.
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I slept on my roof during a heatwave about four years ago.

Most people here don't have air conditioning because the temperature rarely gets about 90 or so at the peak of summer.

That year was an exception. I think it got up to about 110 in the day time and I lived upstairs from a pizza place. That place was bloody -effing hot.

So I slept on the roof.
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I have not had air conditioning nearly my whole life- I have found that the older I get the heat makes me grumpier, but overall, I have not suffered horribly from it. My Husband, who is from CA cannot deal with the humidity here in OH, so we have a window AC to use while he sleeps. I turn it off as much as possible though.
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My grandmother, living in OKC, used to have a sleeping porch off the back-end of her duplex. There were two beds out there, and at every summer family gathering where people slept over, there was a scramble to claim one of those beds. At least until she finally got air-conditioning.

It would be nice to see more of a revival of sleeping porches; let nature quietly provide a cool breeze.
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