By Norris Chambers

             Many, many years ago it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, much as it is today. However, there was one slight difference; in the summer time the good old country people had no air conditioners or other convenient means of keeping cool. In the winter time most homesteads were warmed with a cast-iron heater or an open fireplace. The kitchen area was kept comfortable with the big iron cook stove. Kids who were busy playing outside usually had a big bonfire that kept them from turning into chunks of ice.

            Temperature control in the summer was not very easy. Most houses had windows and halls that took full advantage of any summer breeze and helped to keep the inside temperatures bearable. One of the first efforts to combat the hot weather at night was to move beds outside. Usually the complete bedstead was moved to the breeziest spot in the area. A location under a big tree kept the bed cooler during the day but at night was more likely to accumulate spiders, scorpions or other undesirable insects that could drop from the tree limbs. For this reason most beds were placed in an open area and bedtimes were delayed until the hot bed had time to cool a little after the coolness of the night developed.

            The outside beds appealed to the family’s cats and dogs as accommodations to nap in the sunshine and a few families carried the mattresses and other bedding materials inside during the day.

            A few families did not move their beds outside but hung wet, porous cloths in the windows taking advantage of any slight breeze that might cool the room by evaporation. Of course someone had to get up from time to time and re-dampen the cool curtains. This method helped some but most people thought it was more trouble than it was worth. We never tried it.

            The ordinary hand operated fan was an old standby and was in almost constant use during a hot, sultry day. Many types of fans were available without cost. The fan was considered an excellent advertising freebie and many merchants were glad to give them away with their advertising printed on both sides. Fancy fans were also available for a price. These included simple folding fans that could be opened and used when the need was evident as well as very beautiful models that were designed for stylish use in high-tone assemblies where the temperature might rise above the comfort level. Many of these models folded into nice, compact packages that were easily kept handy!

            Clifton and I and most young characters of our age spent considerable time splashing around in the muddy stock tanks. The water was a little warm but the dampness tended to cool us considerably. It was probably just the evaporation that did it. We didn’t suffer much from the heat when we were just taking it easy under a nice shade tree.

            One day when discussing the hot nights Clifton mentioned that it was pretty cool in the cellar and that he hadn’t heard of anyone moving a bed down there. That was something to think about. The cellar was considerably warmer in the winter and was several degrees cooler during the hot days of summer. Maybe the cellar would we be a good place to spend the night.

            This was such an interesting idea that we decided to try it. Moving a couple of folding cots to the cellar was a simple matter. The cellar was located on the north side of the house, perhaps thirty feet from the kitchen door.

            We retired a little early on a hot and sultry night to test our cellar sleeping experiment. The access door was a foot or so above ground and was sloped at about a 20 degree angle to allow water to drain away from the cellar. We decided to close the door since there was a nice ventilation pipe passing through the log and dirt roof.  With the door closed it was very dark and quiet. As the old timers say, “We slept like babies” and the heat didn’t bother us at all. We spread the news of our successful experiment. Several folks said they would try it and a few wondered why they hadn’t thought about it.

            One ambitious farmer built a summer sleeping structure near his house. He constructed a nice concrete cellar with a screened building above. On moderately warm nights family members slept in the nice screened building and on excessively hot nights they retired to the cool cellar below. Clifton and I mentioned building such a fancy contrivance but we never found time to do it.

            Was there any fun in trying to sleep on those hot nights? We always found a little fun in everything but I now find it a little difficult to remember what it was!