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Efforts that Arkansas Pioneers took, to beat the extreme heat

Posted by 
Gin Lee
Gin Lee
 3 days ago

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Early pioneer daysDesygner/Virginia Watkins

Efforts that Arkansas Pioneers took, to beat the extreme heat, during the summertime in Arkansas

Early Arkansas settlers had to contend with lengthy, feverish summers and swarms of mosquitoes (Much like we still do in today's time). Back in the day, Arkansans often equipped their beds with some type of frame that was then covered with a fine mesh netting material, shaped like a screened-in canopy. These were often placed around their beds, which kept the mosquitoes out.

Houses were once built to cool naturally, with large windows; which could be open at the top or bottom. When the windows were opened at the top, the hottest air could exit from their homes. Hence, this helped their houses to cool down faster. Their homes were built with a lot of windows, closely together, in every room. This allowed a stiff breeze to move freely throughout their homes.

Screened porches were also added onto their homes, which not only blocked out the direct sunlight from entering the house but it also blocked out millions of mosquitoes, and other unwanted pests. Many people slept on porches on the hottest days of summer. Adults often would let their children sleep alone out on the screened-in porch for naps during the day, and also at bedtime during the night. During the day, and evenings people benefited from the porches, and sat outside in the shade, drinking sweet iced tea and iced lemonade.

When it came to keeping food cold, many homes back then had cellars, they were either built under their homes or built separately in their yards. My great grandparents told me (back when I was a kid) that many years before refrigeration, big blocks of ice could be bought off of a delivery "ice truck." The blocks of ice would then be placed down in the cellars, to extend the freshness of meats and various other foods longer, and they were also used sparingly for drinks.

In addition, their houses often had the kitchen off to itself in an adjourned structure, to reduce the amount of heat from cooking. Some people just opted to cook outside over an open fire.

Trees were also planted around their homes, also to create better shade, and to help create a better breeze flow through their homes. As the wind would blow, so did the trees; which functioned "in the same manner" as nature's biggest fans. When electricity became more common; people acquired electric fans, and swamp coolers to help cool their homes; and of course, air conditioning came last; although fortunately, it was eventually invented. Still, in the nineteen seventies, and even nineteen-eighties; some Arkansans were only using fans in their households. Because their houses were older and not yet equipped with heavy-duty electrical wire, or they simply couldn't afford ac units.

Besides, how people lived in their homes; they also used common sense and made their clothes out of light-colored, light breathable fabrics; such as plain and simple cotton fabric. They wore sun hats, and sunbonnets to keep the hot sun from their faces and out of their eyes.

Looking back into Arkansas weather history; Franklin County carries the record for the hottest reading. It was documented that the record high was over one hundred twenty degrees on August tenth, in the year of nineteen thirty-six. Since there wasn't weather broadcasting, to share weather-related news and to issue weather warnings; many Arkansas pioneers relied on folklore myths.

While it is factual that Arkansans, within the pioneering days, weren't (and Arkansans' are not now) the only ones who lived (and live) in extreme heat and high humidity; this article was written specifically about and for Arkansans alike.

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