Memoirs of an Amnesiac: Early HVAC
I was in my early teens when our house was back-fitted with central heat. My family had already lived there ten years with just a kerosene heater on each floor and a cook-stove in the kitchen. In Winter we kept bedroom doors open at all times, hoping that some heat would waft in.
My brother and I shared a bedroom, and often lay awake at night listening to early TV shows in the next room. To this day I can only imagine what “Arthur Murray’s Dance Party” looked like. “Sing Along with Mitch”, “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie”, and “Lawrence Welk” (original air-dates) were some of the others we heard in the dark.
Sometimes there were sounds we weren’t meant to hear: Mom and Dad arguing. For little kids that was worrisome, not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Summer was “Lake ‘n Bake” time. When it came to that new-fangled technology called air-conditioning, we were not early adopters. You could cool off in Crystal Lake, although the effect didn’t last long. There’s a shallow well in our back yard, and on really hot nights Dad might hoist out a bucket of water which is always 40 degrees. If you dared to plunge your feet into that water, you’d discover how fast the human body can switch from sweating to shivering. Time it right, and you could be asleep in bed before your teeth stopped chattering.
At night we kept bedroom windows open to welcome any puff of cool air. One night Dad and Mom were awakened by a loud radio directly below. A patron from the local tavern had realized that he was too drunk to drive; so he pulled his car off the road right in front of our house, then fell asleep at the wheel. The driver’s side window was open. Dad reached in and turned off the ignition–but left the radio on at its lowest volume. That way, the battery would be dead by morning.
There was a price to be paid for disturbing the peace, and Dad had a flair for home-made justice.
Ron McKee, Averill Park