Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Those were some hot summers

Local residents recall trying to survive the heatwaves of the ‘30s

July 19, 2000

Ted Duncanson remembers the hot summer days before air conditioning.

"For a time in the '30s, it was regularly 101, 102 degrees or hotter," said Duncanson, a longtime Tonganoxie resident. "I think we had higher temperature back then than we do now."

He said even though there were a few methods used to keep cool, most people became accustomed to the heat.

"We knew there wasn't any relief. We had to condition ourselves to it," he said. "We knew it was going to be like that day after day so the daily work went on, regardless of the weather or temperature."

Tonganoxie resident John Quasa said several farmers worked straight through the hottest part of the day and would wear long sleeves to keep from getting sunburned.

"They weren't hotter than anybody else," Quasa said. "Whatever you were used to, that's what you'd wear.

"I knew several people that would wear heavy clothes year-round. They'd get hot and sweat and then the wind would blow on them and make them cool."

Dorothy Hunter said the house would be hot because there wouldn't be any air.

"When I was a little girl, to get cool, we'd get in front of the screen door where the air was blowing and just lay there," Hunter said.

On special occasions, she said she was allowed to buy ice cream.

"We had an ice cream place we went to," she said. "It was a real treat to go get ice cream."

Agnes Kissinger said her family would fix homemade ice cream throughout the summer because of winter preparations.

"We'd go out in the winter and the river would freeze over. Dad would cut ice off of the river and put it in the ice house where he'd pack sawdust around it," Kissinger said.

The ice would remain frozen until August and be used for ice cream among other things, she said.

"We had an old-fashioned ice box at the house and dad would bring a hunk of ice to keep the milk cool," she said.

Even though the ice house remained cold throughout the summer, Kissinger said she was never allowed to go inside.

"That was a no-no," she said. "They didn't want us to leave the door open and have the ice melt. The only one allowed in the ice house was dad."

Ted Duncanson's wife, Vera, said during the day, the kitchen would be just as hot as it was outdoors.

"It was really hot. We'd use hand fans and drink well water. The water was always cold," Vera said. "You just had to think cool."

Her husband said it really didn't cool off once the sun went down. He said it was so hot in the house he slept outside.

"We'd have a makeshift cot or old bedsprings and sleep under the tree," he said. "We'd fight our way through the evening."

Ted said the heat was just part of the life.

"It's one of those things that happened," he said. "It was an experience to go through.

"We could have given in to it, but we fought it and went on."

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