How people dealt with cold weather in old-time Phoenix
Although most people think of warm weather, and even terribly hot weather, when they think of Phoenix, it can get cold. No, not as cold as Minneapolis, where I grew up, but I gotta tell ya, it can get cold enough to be uncomfortable, even in my snug little suburban house. And while all I have to do is switch from A/C to heat on my thermostat, I've been thinking about how it was for people back before this modern convenience was available.
The first thing to realize about Phoenix is that firewood is not abundant. It's in the desert! Sure, you could take your buckboard up north and chop some firewood, but it wouldn't be the same as if, for example, you lived in Minnesota, where there are trees everywhere.
And burning something is the most basic way to warm up a dwelling. In old-time Phoenix, there must have been plenty of arguments as to what was worthwhile burning. Certainly mesquite wood would have been the first choice - it grows naturally in riparian areas around Phoenix, and it even smells good. There are other things that can burn that don't smell good, I'll leave that to your imagination, produced by animals. I suppose it's better than being cold!
Just like today, it came down to wealth. The wealthier people had the luxury of paying for things to burn, and the poor people just had to suffer. To this day I know people who consider it a true Phoenix "badge of honor" to never turn their heat on all winter. I know that there are people who can sleep when the temperatures get below freezing outside, and aren't much more than that inside, but it's not me. I would imagine that there were a LOT of people in old-time Phoenix who did that, and were just fine, and wondered what all the fuss was about. There's no doubt that I'm a modern "hot-house flower"!
Of course technology improved, and heating, along with air conditioning, became something that people take for granted in Phoenix. I can't imagine the city being livable without that. Especially the air conditioning! My house is heated and cooled with electricity, which would have been the latest thing in Phoenix in the 1890s (electricity, not heating). And while I take it for granted today, like the computer that I'm using right now, there was a time when people had to do without. It must have been terrible, but people did it!
Image at the top of this post: Superstition Mountain in 1949, Apache Junction, Arizona. Scenic beauty, but no much firewood!
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Posted by Brad Hall