How did people get through the Texas heat before there was A/C? (Dallas: apartments, house)
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I have been wondering how did people up with summer heat in Texas before A/C was invented? People sure have lived in Texas for hundred of years before A/C or even electricity was around. Did they have some secret to keep them cool from the summer's heat?
Butter. Seriously, enough butter to cover your entire body will keep you cool all day no matter what the temperature. You should try it sometime. I think it was invented in ancient Egypt and was well known across the Sahara.
As has been said:
Shade trees, awnings, wide porches to shade the roofs and windows from the sun.
Windows and transom windows that would allow air to flow through the house or building.
High ceilings so the heat would rise and then flow out with the air flow mentioned above.
Less concrete to absorb the heat and then radiate it back into the air.
The main meal/dinner was usually at noon, so that the cooking could be done before the afternoon heat. Supper would be leftovers or a cool meal. You didn't want anything hot then anyway.
If possible, you had a screened sleeping porch to take advantage of any breeze that came by.
Besides being acclimated to the heat, most people were not overweight and got plenty of exercise going about their everyday life. Made it easier to work in the heat.
For the most part, people drank more water and less caffeinated drinks, keeping them better hydrated.
When homes in the south did acquire electricity, electric irons and fans were the most popular items purchased. The flat iron had required that you keep your stove hot through the day to keep those irons hot. Brutal for the wives in the house and then the men that came home to that same house. Electric irons were so much cooler to use. The electric fans need no elaboration.
Clothing was made from natural fibers, which seem to be more comfortable in the heat than man made fibers.
People both acclimated, and they built houses that were more in tune with the climate than houses are today.
We live in a house that was built early in the last century, and then moved out here to the ranch in 1970. The house has windows that open, that are placed so that breezes will go through easily. The ceilings are high to allow the heat to rise. Whoever moved it out here placed it carefully to take advantage of the prevailing breezes. There are wide porches front and back (sadly not a wraparound porch which would be even better) to shade the windows from the sun. Plantings were done to provide shade from the hottest part of the day.
Most years we don't turn the AC on (and then it's window units) until mid-June to early July. (Last year was an exception, and we turned it on a couple of days this spring, not sure why, my husband did it.)
But I also don't feel really not until it gets up to 100 or more, usually.
Wow, that is interesting information. Most of houses building last few decades in Dallas seemed have been designed with AC in mind. More example, 2 years back my AC broke during summer and the house felt like boiling pot! I guess people also do get used to heat, I don't think I mind as much as I used few years back when I moved to Texas.
Originally Posted by H'ton
- office buildings had canopies shading the sidewalks. Residential houses had covered porches
-building layout encouraged cross breezes
-building layouts allowed hot air to escape. Hot air rises so they vented to interior to the outside to keep the cool air in.
-they utilized fans and porches
- the city centers were more dense and the buildings were closer together and more integrated with nature. This kept things cooler. Today's wide 'concrete' streets create a 'heat island' scenario making it hotter.
I personally think that EVERY BUILDING in an urban area in Texas shoud have a canopy shadign the glazing of the building and the sidewalk below. Yes, every single building in a downtown area.
A perfect example of this is the Rice Hotel in downtown Houston. Those canopies are there because they made sense. Somewhere along the way, architects, developers, and city planners lost their common sense.
Yep, I am surprised these great ideas to keep places cool were done away with. I hate walking through concrete downtown in the heat! Canopies doesn't seem like it would be expensive to put in, but guess people don't bother about it anymore these days.
Originally Posted by Dallaz
Older schools in Dallas had ventilation windows above the classroom door and at the top of the classroom wall. When the exterior windows were opened the air traveled through the window out into ventilation windows. As the air traveled though the building it cooled slightly, helping cool down the building. Classrooms were also centered around courtyards so that every classroom would be able to open the windows for air. Now, the schools have A/C. Since the school didn't have A/C the ceiling was drastically lowered to house the A/C duct. (That's why the ceiling height is higher in the classroom and not in the hallway) The ventilation windows are still there but they have a huge vent running through it.
South Oak Cliff High School, Dallas, Tx
Thats good information on South Oak Cliff High School's design! I don't think I have seen such design to handle heat in any of school I been too. And defintely not in any of new school out in the DFW suburbs! If they lost A/C, I bet they would have shutdown the schools these days!
I went to public schools in Abilene in the 50's and 60's. Of that time, 2 years in Jr high were air conditioned. But as someone has said above, buildings were situated to take advantage of air flow.
In our home, we had a swamp cooler and it worked pretty good. I always slept next to an open window. A few years later I met up with some friends living in Houston when one of them brought up the topic that 'Now that we've grown up and live in the big city, what did we miss most about Abilene.' We all replied at almost the same instant, 'the swamp cooler'. They're like that tea commercial, falling into a pool of water.
I read an article from a Houston newspaper about those days without A/C. Men and women going to work, returning from lunch, crowding onto an elevator, odors of the day.
I'm not sure we knew how good we had it before A/C.
I will add that I think people lived differently back then than they do now. I remember the entire family sitting outside at night after supper until time to go to bed. Sometimes we'd have friends/neighbors over and make ice cream or eat watermelon iced down in #3 washtubs of ice. Other times, we kids would play and Mother and Daddy would sit and talk. I think people went to bed earlier and got up earlier than a lot of people do now days. It was just a different way of life.
Not quite the same thing, but this reminded me of our first central air conditioned house. It had what we called a water tower out back. It was about seven feet tall with redwood slats, when the unit came on water showered down. I remember a float in the bottom and sometimes my Dad cleaned had to clean it out. I have no earthly idea how the thing cooled, but it worked great, lol.
For one thing, as mentioned, we were more acclimated to it. I didn't grow up in Texas but in and near the So. CA desert with temps commonly up in the 100s. One thing we did was to close everything up in the early morning and wet down the roof and walls of the house (the evaporation helped cool things a bit). We also used fans (I still have one of those fans and it works better than all the new ones).
And, yep, our feet got tough during the summer running barefoot across the hot pavement as well as playing in the fields with all the stickers, cactus, etc.
We had a little portable swamp cooler. It looked kind of like a window a/c unit, and it sat on a black metal floor stand that put it at about the height of a bed. It usually sat near a window in mom and dads bedroom with it pointed towards the bed. During the day mom would point it so that it blew down the hall, into the living area and my bedroom. During the hottest part of the day, and I would take a nap on their bed, with the swamp cooler blowing over me. It felt heavenly.
Swamp coolers really work best in dryer climates. You still see them used frequently out in west Texas and New Mexico.
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