Sunday, July 17, 2016
Oh, those summer days and nights before air conditioning or when the unit goes on the blink, which you can count on when you need it the most. Out comes the old electric fans, both standing and window type to substitute for heat pumps. We sit directly in front of them to catch a flow of cool air.
How many of you have an old hand fan stuck around somewhere in case of need? I keep one on the table beside my chair for when an unexpected hot flash hits even during the winter.
Hot weather means fans. They have existed for centuries - the frescoes of the ancient Egyptians show slaves waving palm fronds to cool their masters. Homes had ceiling fans that operated on pulleys to send a small breeze down to the floor. Women carried folding fans by a strap on their wrists to provide themselves with a little refreshment and during the late seventeenth century it was fashionable for men to carry fans.
Southern ladies "glow," they don't sweat. I don't know how often I heard that comment, especially when there were drops of water dripping off my nose. I've never been considered a 'lady.' Perspire is a polite term to describe my summer condition, especially when I'm standing outside with the sun beaming down on my head - my hair gets soaked and then it works down until my clothes are drippy wet.
"Before air conditioning" all public place had hand fans for their patrons use: churches, funeral homes, libraries, courthouses, and other buildings. At church they were placed within easy reach with the hymnals. Fans provided for public use were an excellent means of advertising and were well utilized by local firms. Today those advertising fans still in good shape are rare collectors items.
The Internet and Pinterest are excellent sources for a collector of rare antique fans. Mine as the photo illustrates are the utilitarian variety, but I do have several fragile old ones that I've inherited.
Schools were murder, especially on the west side of the building on the top floor. The library (a later edition) was the only place besides the principal's office that was air conditioned. I had more class traffic when school began and near the end when most of the term papers were written and the teachers could cool off for a while. Many of you can remember when school didn't start until after Labor Day then hopefully the weather had cool a bit.
A friend had a marvelous photo on her Facebook page when their air conditioner went out. A woman's eyes over the edge of her fan was a fantastic way to flirt and not get really serious about making contact with an individual. Fans also hid a smile when one was not practical for the occasion.
Poets have written 'odes' on many memorable subjects, but I can't recall ever seeing one on the essential fan for summer evenings on the porch.