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THIS I REMEMBER: ‘Isn’t it hot?’


When I was a little boy growing up in West Plains in the 1950s, I can still hear my Aunt Rogene say, “Dennis, isn’t it hot?” And keep in mind, not only were we experiencing one of the hottest and driest periods in Howell County — 1952, 1953 and 1954 — but also add to that, we did not have air conditioning in our homes.

I remember years later, 1970, living in West Plains on Fourth Street on the Shoe Factory side of town with my wife, Sue. Sue was pregnant, ironing clothes in a 100-degree house with no air conditioning. Two Mormon boys came to the door and Sue asked them in. While one of the missionary-minded boys was speaking, the other boy fainted and fell onto the hardwood floor.

My wife Sue helped revive the young boy, and Sue telling me the story helped persuade me to get a new Sears & Roebuck window unit for our Fourth Street rental. It cost $400, but oh, the joy that filled our hearts!

That little Sears & Roebuck air conditioner improved our lives dramatically. We slept like babies. I’m sure we just looked at each other, Sue and myself, and just smiled; not a word spoken, we were so happy! The Willards were “moving up in this old world.”

And that 1966 Oldsmobile Delta, four-door, beige, sitting in our driveway, was pretty nice, too. We had $1,000 invested in that little baby. I can’t remember if it had air or not. The first air conditioners in cars began to appear around 1970, when 50% of all cars sold were equipped with a/c.

But people in the rural communities were a little tougher to sell these luxuries to, like the automatic transmission. Standard transmission cars could be started with a push or parking on a hillside if your battery was dead. Automatic transmission cars with a dead batter were a dilemma.

Young people have no clue what I am writing about. It is not that they do not have their own special problems — but one thing has not changed: “Boy, it sure is hot!”

P.S. We appreciate the mouse story in the Friday, June 3, paper, but hope it doesn’t give “Tom and Jerry” a bad name!

This I remember.