June 25, 2010
Every year about this time, I am reminded of what a great invention air conditioning was. When I was a child, men wore dress white short sleeved shirts and bow ties in the summer because most people's offices were just a few degrees cooler than the temperature outside. We didn't have air conditioning at my house, and neither did many other people. When we got a window unit, everyone sat in the living room in the evening because it was the cool spot. Prior to that development, and even after it, most folks had a big attic fan that you turned on after cracking your windows. It was a pretty loud contraption, but it had a set rhythm, like most machines. The cooler night air got accelerated a little bit by coming through the window, and would be enough to keep you in sleep mode as the air flowed over your bed. Since A/C became the norm in the South, attic fans have become almost extinct. They really should have a place, at least part of the year, because they are much lower in cost than trying to run a big cooling unit, and just as effective. And thinking of air conditioning, I have always wondered what the South would be like now without it. It wasn't until A/C became commonplace that the South took off economically, and the great migration from the Eastern Sea Board and Rust Belt began. I'm not sure that would have happened if New Yorkers had felt like they'd have to wear bow ties with their searsucker suits in order to fit in.