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Air-conditioned Memories

August 7, 2014


Air-conditioned Memories


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



With August stepping into summer, Milwaukee is enjoying a splendid week of not-too-hot summer weather.  Sunny skies keep shining over this year’s Wisconsin State Fair.  Since tonight is the big 4-H Auction at the fair, I am thinking of the times we went to the Indiana State Fair.  On one very hot and humid August day at the state fair in Indianapolis, the fragrance from the cattle barn was not at all tempting me to enter.  Tall electric fans were circulating the air, but not dissipating the odors.  Although I knew that we would probably be able to visit with our friend Sue Secondino inside the barn, I told my Aunt Zita and my sister that they could go into the cattle barn while I waited for them outside one of the doors.  Sue, who had been raised on a farm and then joined her husband in having their own farm, had a quick reply when my sister told her that I stayed outside because of the smell.  Sue quipped, “It smells like money to me!”  (In 1957, Sue’s Hereford “Honeymoon” was awarded grand champion steer at the International Livestock Exposition, in Chicago; radio and television star Arthur Godfrey bought the steer.)


Sue’s mother was a favorite teacher of both my sister and me.   While she was my teacher for the second semester of third grade and all of fourth grade (1959-1960), Mrs. Lenderman taught my sister in third grade (1955-1956).  Mrs. Lenderman’s handwriting could have rivaled the Palmer Method posters that were displayed above the chalkboards.  With style, grace, artistry, strictness, and kindness–Mrs. Marguerite Lenderman was one of the outstanding teachers of Jacksonville Grade School and of that era.  Through following her example, my sister and I eventually became better teachers.


In the two-story, brick Jacksonville Grade School of Blanford, Indiana, we never dreamed of an air-conditioned classroom.  Since the lower story was partially below ground level, the first- and second-grade classroom, as well as the third- and fourth-grade classroom, stayed relatively cool in warmer weather months.  Of course, the upstairs rooms were warmer; but we 88 students never seemed to mind the room temperature.  In the ’50s, none of the Blanford homes had air-conditioning.


The first places which I remember having air-conditioning were the two movie theaters of nearby Clinton, Indiana (seven miles from Blanford).  I think I remember a picture of a polar bear on a block of ice which advertised the coolness of either the Palace Theater or the Wabash Theater (both on Main Street).  I believe the first building in Blanford to have an air-conditioner was my Aunt Zita’s restaurant.  While window air-conditioning units kept the dining rooms and the bar room cool during the summer months, the two kitchens were still hot at times.  Nevertheless, I do not remember anyone complaining about the heat.  In our small rural town, I recall that the first home to have an air conditioner was the residence of the Gisolo family because their daughter had severe hay fever and other allergies.  I was not in an air-conditioned classroom until I went to Indiana State University in 1968–only some of the buildings were air-conditioned.


In the years before our Blanford home acquired a window air-conditioner, electric window fans brought in the cooler evening air.  During the day, the large maple trees, which had been planted by my maternal grandfather, shaded our yard, front porch, and house so that hot August days were not too bothersome.  Eagerly, I awaited those hot days of summer so that I could go swimming at the Aragon Swimming Pool, in Clinton.


On a hot summer evening when I was young, sitting on the front porch swing with my dad was a special time.  Before air-conditioning drew us indoors–our extended family, friends, and neighbors certainly enjoyed front porches more.  Who needed air-conditioning then?


Sometime after I moved away from home and into my own apartment, my parents had central air installed in our Blanford home.  Now, Lake Michigan–Mother Nature’s air conditioner–often cools off the east side of Milwaukee during the summer months.  Although I frequently miss my Indiana home, I do not miss the Hoosier humidity.  During the 23 years that I have lived in Milwaukee, I have become spoiled by the lake breezes.  Unfortunately, during last summer and this summer–the smells, dust, and sounds of the construction in my area have prompted me to use my central air conditioning much, much more than I would like.



Enjoy these last weeks of summer!



August 6, 2014, Wednesday



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  1. Alice, your “Air-conditioned Memories” warmed my heart with thoughts of special people, places, and times.
    With love from sunny Colorado,

  2. Fran Rayce permalink

    I too remember Mrs. Lendermen as a gracious and lovely woman who served as an excellent role model for the young women in the township schools. We didn’t have air conditioning but we had many other advantages provided by some very dedicated and talented men and women.

    Anyone who has experienced an Indiana summer knows that nothing compares in humidity, lovely, exciting, but sometimes frightening summer storms, and pure abundance of produce. What could be lovelier than a tall field of corn by the roadside?

    From the sunny, cool, but not so humid shores of Lake Erie,

    • Fran–Thanks so much for adding your nice comment.

      Hoping all is well on Lake Erie–Alice

  3. Bring on the Polar Vortex! I never paid much attention to the heat in the summer, even as I rode around town on my bicycle with a baseball glove under my arm. It was summer after all, and the high sun surrounded by the warm temps was cause for cele bration.

    Great post Alice. Thanks for sharing. dp

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