Yep, it’s gettin’ hot out there, but thanks to our air conditioning it’s nice and COLD inside the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall at 4443 E. Speedway. The onset of our annual heatwave here in Tucson got me to thinking about how Tucson’s residents used to stay cool back in the day.Sleeping porches, cooking outside, light cotton clothing, wide brimmed hats, water soaked sheets, thick adobe walls, a fan blowing over an ice filled bowl, and getting the heck out of town! These are some of the ways folks used to survive the hot desert heat.
Some time in the early mid twentieth century some enterprising guys started tinkering with Rube Goldberg machines in an attempt to invent an evaporative cooler. They experimented with chicken wire, charcoal, excelsior, wallboard and electric fans. These contraptions were known as “swamp boxes” or “swamp coolers.”The first successful swamp coolers were homemade wooden boxes installed in windows. Charcoal, packed with chicken wire was placed on one side and a hole one-foot in diameter on the other. The box was placed in the window with the hole facing inside the room. Outside, a garden hose slowly dripped water onto the charcoal. An electric fan was placed inside the box to draw air through the charcoal.
By 1935, Phoenix had about 1,500 of these window coolers and a year later the number was up to 5,000. Evaporative coolers soon were seen on roof tops and windows of homes and buildings across the state like wildflowers sprouting after a heavy spring rain.
Nowadays some of us still have swamp coolers, cool drinks, wide brimmed hats and cotton clothing to help us stay cool. Of course with the advent of air conditioning in our cars, homes, and businesses we can stay nice and cool no matter how hot it gets. So pour yourself a lemonade made from our local Tucson citrus then maybe come on in to the antique mall cuz baby it’s *cool* inside.Carol Fenn 3-2017