Living on the Gulf Coast Without A/C

The other day a friend asked how on earth (she later changed the question to WHY on earth, and I’ve wondered this myself) did people live here on the Gulf Coast without air conditioning? I remember how we did it.

We didn’t have an air conditioner until I was in the 5th grade. I remember having to get used to shutting the door every time I went in or out of the house. I was told by a neighbor that my parents couldn’t air condition all of Texas, so it really needed to be shut.

Before that we had an attic fan in at least some of the houses we lived in. The one I live in now had one. (I lived here for a few years when I was growing up.) It was in the ceiling in the hallway. There was a switch on the wall and when it was turned on and the windows were raised, the fan pulled all the really hot air out of the house and into the attic, where it was then released through the whirlybird things on the roof. With the windows open and the air being sucked out of the house, it caused the less hot air that was outside to be pulled in through the windows. A lot of houses also had windows that could be raised at the bottom and lowered at the top. Since hot air rises, it could go out the top window and cooler – or, less hot – air came in the bottom. Houses that were built before air conditioning was common were also built with windows and doors positioned for cross-ventilation.

At night we could leave windows up without having to worry about 90% of the neighborhood trying to climb into the house. We only had to worry about 10% in those days. And when the night temps dropped to the mid-to-upper 70’s the attic fan was pulling that cool air in – moist though it is, it was cool – and it felt good to sleep near a window. In older homes some even had a bedroom with a sleeping porch. It’s too ‘buggy’ around here for me to want to sleep outside without a tent or mosquito net, but that’s just how I am.

And speaking of bugs, at night my Dad would get a newspaper and fold it up and go on Mosquito Patrol. All through the house he went, swatting mosquitoes on the walls. They were usually high up near the ceiling. At least, till they got hungry then they came down looking for us.

The summer that my brother was born, it was really hot. I remember my mom putting a tub of ice in front of a fan and setting it up to blow on my new baby brother. She needed cool air to help him stay cool since babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperature very well.

Well, the bearings in our fan motor are no good. This evening it made a really weird noise so we called our favorite a/c company. The technician who came to check it said we shouldn’t turn it on at all. Our 20.5 pound cat is all sprawled out on the floor with his belly up. We will be sweating it out till Monday. I sure wish I had an attic fan!

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