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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

1950s--fans, oppressive summer heat and nostalgia

As I was looking at the June 2010 issue of Country Living, there was an article about the nostalgia of classic electric fans. The fans they showed were round table models and one round type like a box fan. These are nothing like the fans that bring back memories of my youth. We had no pink fans! And, certainly no protection from our monster black fans.

When we would drive from Jackson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, we drove mostly at night. My siblings would sleep. Mama told me to sleep. But, sleep rarely came to me as we slipped through the dark, sometimes the only car on the road. I was fascinated to see the sun come up. Usually, I would rather have been asleep at sunrise.

In the early 1950s we had no air conditioner in the car or at home. (Neither did any of our relatives.) So, driving during the night made the trip bearable in the summer. We would leave about 3 a.m. Besides, my parents had four children, sleeping instead of fussing about who looked at whom, wanting to eat, needing to make bathroom stops, complaining about the heat, and a million other things we could think up on a long trip.

We arrived at our uncle's house and waited until everyone awoke. My grandmother lived in a tiny house out back, built just for her. Sooner or later that morning, I would be tired because of no sleep all night. Eventually, I would be so exhausted and begging to sleep that I would be taken to my grandmother's house to sleep on her double bed.

Mama always adjusted the fan to blow on me. I remember sleeping so soundly in the intolerable heat with a fan humming away, cooling me only a bit and leaving me with a sore throat. Our house was never that hot, and we never slept with the fan directly on us at such close range. AND, we never took a nap on the bed at home! I can close my eyes and see grandma's house and hear that loud, old fan.

When I was about eight, we still took naps every day of the week we were not in school. In the summer we slept on the cool wood floors with a fan stirring the air. Beds were too squishy to be cool. Mattresses held our body heat and pressed into our damp bodies, unlike the bare wood floors. When mosquitoes invaded the house and evaded my mother and her pump Gulf Spray, the fans kept us from being bitten. Mosquitoes did not land when a breeze buffeted them about.


Fans were just a way of life back then. At one house Daddy put two screens together and freshly-mown grass in between. He soaked the grass with water and turned on the huge, square, window fan to pull air into the house. We became very cold on even the most torrid days. Of course, no one knew we were all allergic to grass!

Just look at the picture. A grown man could just plunge his arm through to the shoulder. One whack of the fan blade, and he would only need one glove. (picture is way below and I cannot move it!)

We always had fans that were black table models. The one thing I remember that they all had in common was that they were DANGEROUS. Yes, the bars across the front to shield the blades from little fingers were three and four inches apart, allowing access to the blades. One day, when I was about fourteen, I walked into a room where a fan was sitting on a table just inside the door. As I entered the door, I dropped my hand--right into the fan. All four fingers look like they had been beaten and felt even worse. About two days later, I could finally move my fingers and the knuckles were not as swollen. That is how we often had lessons reinforced long ago. Never after that did I allow my hand near a fan.

Of course, everyone had to be vigilant about children just learning to pull up and those just learning to walk. They were the most likely to investigate. Toddlers were mischievous, and older children and teens were just not careful. For all the dangers in fans, I still remember them fondly.

In the kitchen a fan and open windows did not suppress the oppressive heat of the day and cooking in an oven. But, it was the best most people had. Folks, we just sweated lots. Living in the Deep South at that time in the summer was hard. Heat was just a fact of life for about eight months of the year. Electric table fans were our only salvation.

Right now, in the Deep South I am suffering. There is no central air in this house, just an ac window unit meant to cool several rooms. Since it was installed in the window in 1977, I suppose I am lucky it blows anything resembling cool air. I use a fan to pull the cooled air from a window ac unit in another room into the kitchen. This way, I don't have to run the ac continuously to make the kitchen bearable.  At dusk the temperature was 92 degrees. The temperature is not falling below 75 during the night!

The fans over 50 years after I napped with one are hunks of plastic with some metal. They have no style and no imagination. But, they do move air.

Is it hot where you are? Do you remember the old, black fans of the 50s?

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you writing again. To move a pic, go into edit post, edit html. Cut the html code created when you upload your pic, and paste it where you want it, between your paragraphs. HTH

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