Heat Wave: How Our Grandparents Stayed Cool

Heat Wave by Family Tree VideoHave 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?

As a video biographer, 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.

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The Home

To start, houses were designed to keep occupants cool in summer. Wide eves and deep porches provided shade while catching the breeze. Heat Wave by Family Tree Video 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 would head to a nearby park or beach.

Outside The Home

Heat Wave by Family Tree VideoDuring the day, children cooled down 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 aircondtioning 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.

Clothing was made of cotton and natural fibers which allowed the body breath, helping it stay cool.

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Did you grow up before air-conditioning? Let us know how you stayed cool in the comment section below!

~ Legacy Videos ~

Capture your parent or grandparent’s life story, family history and life lessons for your family to know!

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

To learn more about capturing your parent or grandparent’s life story in a Legacy Video, visit FamilyTreeVideo.com!


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

Susan Saunders
Video Biographer

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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.


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