Summer Heat, No A/C and Childhood Memories

My life before Denton, which began about 1974, was filled with great memories from childhood in Oak Cliff, south of downtown Dallas.

BeckFamilycirca1954The Becks circa 1954


When we bought the grand old home on Sherman Dr. back in late 1993 we did so for obvious reasons that met our need to house 3 adults and two children.  My wife’s father was with us less than a year before he passed in 1994.  The 3-bedroom, 2 full bath, 3000 square ft home was a move up for us and intended to be our last move.  To that last point it has held true.  We are still here today.

But it’s been the last couple of days that has reminded me of the other reason that drew both my wife and I to this spacious home built here in Denton, Texas back in 1957.  Its design reflects the era we both grew up in as kids. I wasn’t quite nine when the house was being built and my wife was not yet 3 years old.  A house this old today would surely turn away many buyers but we saw something in it more than a roof over our head.  It reflected a time in the fifties and early sixties when as children the smallest things would become imbedded in our mind that would serve as memories for the rest of our lives.

At 67 today I tend to forget what happened last week, yesterday, sometimes even earlier that morning.  That may be seen as a sign of dementia by some but it’s really more a case of sensory overload and where mundane things no longer impress themselves upon our memory.  Daily routines that we have done for decades become insignificant to us because they hold no real value in who we are and what touches those inner most feelings that make us truly human.

Most memories revolve around events that flush increased amounts of adrenaline through your blood system like the time our 1949 Buick slid out of control on a rainy day heading to school, spinning aimlessly downhill towards an open culvert that was filled with a heavy rushing stream of water the current storm had brought.  But for the well-placed existence of a large piece of 4×12 timber that stopped us from heading into that rushing water, I might not be here today to tell you about it.

I was only 6 or 7 then but I’ll never forget it.  There were other traumatic incidences during these formative years and they usually entailed a fall of some kind from a tree, a second story walk across joists in a gutted old house or my vain attempt to mimic Superman from our garage roof.  But it is often the more inconsequential moments of this time that I’m reminded of that catch me off guard as they rise up in my consciousness and spread a bit of warmth over the entirety of by being.

For the last couple of days our A/C has been on the fritz.  Two days and nights without the means to fight off the humidity that plagues us from so much rain over the last few weeks.  It was such days that I experienced throughout most of the fifties when few homes had air conditioning of any kind, much less central heat and air.

What we would have to help tolerate the sweltering heat of Oak Cliff nights in South Dallas would be whole house fans that would help draw air in through open windows.  We might have an evaporative cooler in a window or two that was the next best thing to a window unit air conditioner.

For those too young to remember what an evaporative cooler is it was a window unit in our case (like the one on the left in the illustration below) that would cool outdoor air by passing it over water-saturated pads, causing the water to evaporate into it. The 15°- to 40°F-cooler air is then directed into the home, and pushes warmer air out through windows. This was great during a hot, dry day but after the sun went down the cooler air drawn in would also be moist and stuff up my nasal passages.

Screen shot 2016-05-25 at 2.47.34 PM

Ceiling fans were around but only in commercial buildings or the more upscale homes that could afford them back then.  My most favorite means of keeping cool at night would be the big box fan in the window directly over my bed.   I would lay there in my BVD whitey tidies only and allow the fan to chill the tiny sweat beads that my body produced from the still warm evening, eventually effecting a hypnagogic state with me.  Sleep for me back then would come quick and natural, unlike today that often requires some pharmacological aide.  Thank you Zolpidem.

After a longer than expected wait and a cost that ran about $600, the A/C is up and running now.  And though I had a brief but pleasant moment of reflection on times past in my life, this is one memory that I would rather not be induced in a similar fashion for the foreseeable future

Beck kids around 1955Here we all are in 1955 standing by our home on Brooklyn St. just a few blocks from the Texas Theater on Jefferson Blvd. where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured 8 years later.

The porch window you can barely make out had an old box fan in it that kept me cool on those sweltering Texas summer nights.

7 responses to “Summer Heat, No A/C and Childhood Memories

  1. Interesting memories. I’ve often wondered how we ever survived without a/c. My early years in Boston meant hot and humid where an evaporative cooler wouldn’t do much good. Then there were summers in Utah where they called it a swamp cooler and it did a great job except for the rare occasions when the humidity would jump up.

    What I miss from my youthful days are the soft cooling summer rains in Boston. Oregon seems to have two seasons: wet and dry. Luckily the summers rarely get too hot with the cooling winds and mist coming off the Pacific.

  2. (He’s alive! He’s alive!)

    Ah ha!…So you helped to kill JFK and set up Oswald? Trump’s got the photo evidence on you now.

    • No doubt. Trump has all kinds of conjured up shit in his bag of tricks.

      The Texas theater was a regular hangout for me my entire youth. It was there that I saw “To Kill a Mockingbird” when it first came out.

  3. Ah-ha! So, you were the “theatre contact” who never showed up to help evacuate Oswald to Mexico. Instead, the cops showed up and the Patsy was…Clined?

    P.S. Who knew those old cameras where the photographer put his head under a blanket and used a minor explosion on a palate as a “flashbulb” could take such good pictures? 😉

    • My pro-photographer uncle had one of those and used it occasionally, mostly for black & whites. His worked really well. Shit, I took pretty good pictures on a “pinhole camera” I made out of a cardboard box when I was a kid. Won me the science fair at my school. Must be in the genes.

      All these damn iDiots walk around with cell phone cameras in their hands all day long & take hundreds of pictures a day. But barely any of them could take a half-decent picture if their life depended on it.

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