Heat Wave: How Our Grandparents Stayed Cool

Heat Wave by Family Tree Video

Have you ever wondered how your parents or grandparents stayed cool during a heat wave? While air-conditioning was invented in the early 1900s, most families couldn’t afford one until the 1950’s. So, what did people do to stay cool when temperatures rose in the summer?

Below are a few tips I’ve learned over the years interviewing parents and grandparents who grew up in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

~ Heat wave ~

The Home

Heat wave by Family Tree Video

To start, because air-conditioning wasn’t available, houses were designed to keep occupants cool in summer (and warm in the winter). Wide eves and deep porches provided shade while catching the breeze. High ceilings and attics allowed hot air to rise. Double doors trapped heat in entryways and ceramic floor tile cooled the air. Windows, situated for cross ventilation when open, were covered by curtains and shutters to keep the sun out.

Stone and brick houses did a better job retaining cool temperatures while wood houses were often painted white to deflect the sun’s heat. Trees were often planted on the South and West sides of a house to provide shade.

Inside the house, Curtains, bedding and even furniture coverings were changed with the seasons. Lighter fabrics in the summer and heavier fabrics in the winter. Rugs were often rolled and put into storage as floors were cooler without.

At night, people often stayed cool during a heat wave by sleeping on porches, fire escapes, in basements or in a nearby park or beach where they could catch a breeze.

Outside The Home

During the day, children cooled down in the backyard, at public pools, the local watering hole or by playing near an open fire hydrant.

For a special treat, families headed to the shore or mountains to ride out a heat wave.

Movie theaters became popular after their owners realized air-condtioning was as big draw as the movie itself. As a result, many families would spend the day watching feature after feature to escape the heat.

Finally, clothing was made of light, natural fibers which allowed the body to breath, helping it stay cool.

* * *

Did you grow up before air-conditioning? Share your tips on staying cool in the comment section below.

~ Legacy Videos ~

Give your parent or grandparent the gift of a lifetime by capturing their life story for your family to know!

Legacy Videos by Family Tree Video

Here at Family Tree Video we produce Legacy Videos, modern-day memoirs that weave a filmed interview with a parent or grandparent, together with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia. The result is a beautiful “Moving Portrait” capturing your loved one as they recount their life story, family history and memories – a gift your family will treasure for generations to come.

To learn more about Legacy Videos, visit us at FamilyTreeVideo.com.

Family Tree Video LLC
Legacy Video Production
(312) 402-6406

Susan Saunders
Video Biographer

Like us on Facebook!
Follow us on Instagram!

“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children.
One is roots, and the other, wings.” — H. S. Carter

Heat Wave

Legacy Videos

Capturing Life Stories and Family History
for Future Generations

heat wave
Family Tree Video
Video Biographies ~ Heat Wave ~ Family History Videos
Family Documentaries ~ Anniversary Videos
Video Tributes ~ Heirloom Videos
Legacy Video Production
~ Since 2007 ~
heat wave

Heat Wave

1 thought on “Heat Wave: How Our Grandparents Stayed Cool”

  1. I do remember sleeping outside, but I also recall as a small child, my grandmother hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window at night.


Leave a Comment