June 8, 2012

Oh It's So Hot — Summers in Uptown

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Corresponent

Oh it's hot out. Oh, my, what will we do?
Oh, turn up the air conditioning.

But back in the day before air conditioning, we had Conditioned Air: a fan and a block of ice. The ice man came through the alley and looked up on the back porch to see if the ice sign was in the window.
Now the amount of ice needed was told to him by the placement of the sign. A 12"-square with a number printed on each edge so the number showing right side up told how much ice to bring. He would chip out a size of ice block to correspond to the  price shown.

The ice  block was placed in a porcelain tin dishpan with an oscillating fan behind it , usually in front of an open window. This was the Conditioned Air of the Day.

That is if you could afford ice and had a fan.

When it was real hot  at night and we couldn't sleep we would all pack up ourt bedrolls and head for the park. Sis, Mom, Dad, and me walked up Leland Ave to the park. We would meet a lot of our neighbors doing the same thing. Nobody was afraid then and the Park District Police patrolled regularly.

I don't even remember any bugs. I used to lie there and watch the rabbits run around, and then as it got later watch some couples wrapped in blankets. 

Today I heard on the news that if you get too hot you can call the Fire Dept. and they will take you to a cooling center. (I won't comment on this.)

I am glad that I had the opportunity to grow up in an age where people took care of themselves rather than to rely on others. As  our doctor told my wife and I, people from your generation were tougher; you just sucked it up and walked it off. As a kid I might remember one person that took a prescription drug, today I don't know any one who doesn't.

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