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Dealing with the summer heat in modern and old-time Phoenix


The summers in Phoenix, Arizona are very hot. And I don't mean a few weeks of a "heat wave", I mean uncomfortably hot from the end of April right through to September. If you've ever spent a summer in Phoenix, you know. If not, it's probably impossible for me to explain it to you. It's HOT!

And yes, it's been that way since before Phoenix ever existed. In fact, the Sonoran Desert has been terribly hot since the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. So if you wonder how people deal with it now, and how people dealt with it in past generations, here's what I know.

Phoenix in the summer is best for people who like to get up at daybreak. I've been lucky, because that's me. I would be on the first tee when the sun was just coming up, and finishing up nine holes before the heat really set in (about two hours). I'm writing this at about 6 am, and although it will be close to 100 degrees today, right now it's about 70. In fact, I just checked the weather and it's 69. The forecast high will be 95, approaching 90 by noon. So if you're a late riser, you'll miss the nice weather in the morning. The people in old-time Phoenix knew about this, as they would need to do stuff, like tending to the farm, outside. They wouldn't be pushing the "snooze button" and wait until that terrible heat sets in.

By the way, if you're not a morning person, you may have seen people loafing around at about ten. It's a view into the world of old-time Phoenix, before air conditioning, to see people doing that. And that's because they were up at daybreak and have usually done four to five hours of work by then. They're taking a break when many people are just getting their day started.

Something that old-time Phoenicians understood was shade. Before air conditioning became popular, Phoenix was a city of trees. No one in their right mind would fail to have some trees to shade their house. Nowadays I see a lot of people living in Phoenix without any shade, so they simply go from their air conditioned car into their air conditioned house or apartment. And they wonder how people in old-time Phoenix could have lived without air conditioning. I suppose that the people in old-time Phoenix would wonder how people nowadays can live without shade.

It's six-thirty now and I'm getting ready for my walk to McDonalds for coffee. In the mornings it's just glorious, but by afternoon it would be absolutely miserable. When I get back home I'll be glad to have air conditioning, but I want to live like the people in old-time Phoenix as much as possible.

Thank you for walking with me, in the morning, in the shade!

Photo at the top of this post: Pickwick Gables in the 1940s, 2142 W. Van Buren, Phoenix, Arizona.

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