Friday, August 14, 2015

Life in South Florida




Moved here in the early 1950s.

No air conditioning

  • In cars
  • In homes
  • In most stores
  • In schools

Burdines had two signs in the display windows of its Miami Avenue and Flagler Street store.

One read "Se habla espanol" ("Spanish spoken")

The other read: "Conditioned air"

Now, 2015, Mike Lang of Air Around the Clock tells us that "Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury" and he amuses us with signs reading "Your wife is hot, better get you’re A/C fixed" billboards. (The sign also is seen in Texas for another company.)

I WENT THROUGH elementary school, junior high school and high school sans air conditioned classrooms.

We had windows that opened and sometimes fans - occasionally ceiling fans and occasionally stand fans. But no A/C. Not even swamp coolers.

    What's a swamp cooler? Wikipedia defines the device thusly:

    An evaporative cooler (also swamp cooler, desert cooler and wet air cooler) is a device that cools air through the evaporation of water. Evaporative cooling differs from typical air conditioning systems which use vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles. Evaporative cooling works by employing water's large enthalpy of vaporization. The temperature of dry air can be dropped significantly through the phase transition of liquid water to water vapor (evaporation), which can cool air using much less energy than refrigeration. In extremely dry climates, evaporative cooling of air has the added benefit of conditioning the air with more moisture for the comfort of building occupants.

When you sweat - perspire for the well-to-do - your body acts as a swamp cooler, with any breeze evaporating the moisture and giving you the temporary feeling of being cool.

When I graduated from a bicycle to my first car - a well-used 1950 Oldsmobile 76, yes Virginia, "76" - the car had "4/40" air conditioning - going 40 mph with all four windows rolled down. I can't remember when I finally had a car with A/C, but it was well after my time in the Air Force in the early 1960s.

    A round trip in a 4/40-cooled Buick between Orlando and Miami almost got me court marshaled for severe sunburn on my left arm - the arm that was hanging out the driver's side window. I reported for duty and avoided further punishment (the sunburn being sufficient).

While A/C in cars was unheard of when I was a youngster, many cars sold in south Florida also lacked heaters. These cars were sold mostly to folks relocating to "warm, sunny Florida" from "up north." Crackers and anyone who lived year-round in the Sunshine State knew that for a few days the temperature took a serious drop. (In mid-state, freezing or near-freezing temperatures were an annual fact of life.) But, heating, like air conditioning, was absent in most Florida buildings.

    You always could tell a newcomer. The first winter it was short sleeves every day. The second winter the newcomer had "acclimatized" and realized that a sweater or light jacket in south Florida was appropriate wear.

NOW most folks would agree with Lang that, in south Florida, "Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury".

I confess that when I am home alone and when the thermometer shows more than 84 or above I DO turn on the A/C; otherwise, it's open the windows and turn on a fan - one is blowing on my back as I key - can I still truthfully write "write" - this trivia.

'Course the problem with opening the windows and turning on a fan is south Florida's "liquid sunshine." While currently only teasing with brief showers, summer used to - and we hope will again - bring brief torrential wind-driven downpours. Unless a building had old-fashioned hurricane awnings, an open window invites the rain inside.

Before A/C became ubiquitous, visitors from "up north" accused Floridians - in fact anyone who lived south of the visitor's home town - of being lazy and slow moving. Now, with Florida Power and Light (FPL) generators working almost at peak, Floridians - at least those working indoors - are as "efficient" as anyone from the frozen north.

It’s hot and it's humid here in south Florida.

Maybe I'm nuts - a roasted nut? - but I love the heat.

I also love the fact that from the state line south, there are NO road sings telling me "Bridge freezes before roadway".

I happily suffer the heat and humidity to know that, while I DO have a light jacket, it only is needed a few days each year. I lived in snow country as a child and as an adult; enough is enough.

Sorry, Lang, this semi-cracker does NOT consider that "Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury".

No comments: