When the hot, humid days of summer arrive in the Ohio Valley, a lot of us stay inside -- where it's air conditioned -- as much as we can.

A large number of us still remember what life was like before air-conditioning.


And sticky.

Air conditioning is one of the world's greatest inventions.

But my parents didn't install central air until after I left for college in 1965.

We had an attic fan that stirred the hot, humid air and made it tolerable.

But at night, we quickly learned what "cool as the underside of a pillow" meant.

In 1936, the hottest year on record here, people slept on their porches or in their yards, trying to get relief from the heat.

A lot of people didn't even have electric fans then.

In July 1933, the Empress Theatre in Owensboro advertised that it was "air conditioned by the washed air process."

In April 1935, Gabe's restaurant downtown advertised that it was "Owensboro's only air-conditioned restaurant."

Air-conditioning was slowly moving into Owensboro.

In 1941, the Real Electric Co. of Owensboro announced that it worked on air conditioners.

In 1948, Griffin Electric Company and Duncan-Whitaker Electric Company both advertised that they serviced air conditioners.

By the 1950s, stores, motels and theaters were advertising "air-conditioned" comfort during the summer.

Theaters referred to themselves as "cool" -- as in "Cool Strand" or "Cool Malco."

But schools were among the last places to get air conditioning.

After all, they were only open in the fall, winter and early spring.

But when hot, humid air arrived early or lingered late, schools frequently had to dismiss early because of the heat.

It was the summer of 1983 before Owensboro schools finally invested in air conditioning.

Today, most homes and businesses are air-conditioned.

And that is a wonderful thing for those of us who still remember the alternative.

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