Thursday, July 5, 2012

Air Conditioning is Important (1953 ads)

 Good morning!

Of the many things I'm thankful for this summer...Cola icees, the Wave Country, gold braided sandals, the online presence of season 9 of Project Runway on Hulu...I have to say, my air conditioner is RIGHT THERE at the top of the list. It's a Trane model put in sometime in the early nineties'...I know this because I distinctly remember its installation for two reasons: one, a toddler-sized Susan crawled into the closet where they'd cut the hole for the register and fell under the house for a less-than-two-minute period (of great agitation and excitement) before my pappy hauled her out; two, I had some weird, five-year old's crush on the Dale-Earnhardt-resemblant head installation guy, and sat in my favorite tree and cried when they told me we had air conditioning now, but that I would probably never see Darryl again. Later that day, my broken heart somewhat mended, I came down from the tree, and enjoyed the fruits of my unrequited love's labor. And have been so happy with air conditioning ever since! It's about the only thing that has gotten me through the recent heatwave sweeping my beloved South.

Turn it up! However high it goes, turn it on that!

Which set me to wondering, naturally...what was life like, in the South, in the summer, WITHOUT the benefit of air cooling future technology? Probably like being within spitting distance of hell. From these 1953 ad clippings for a variety of air conditioning brands, I am convinced that a mid century me would probably sell my car to have one of these, rather than languish in heat-induced misery. Let's take a look at fifties' air conditioners, shall we?

The above clipping is from an ad for a Servel model which looks like a gorgeous console record player of the same vintage to me. What I love about this advertising tactic is the juxtaposition of a man who's so hot he's taken off his jacket (that's almost like being naked in public!) and is dabbing his brow with his pocket handkerchief outside, in stark contrast to the people having a ball indoors with their Servel Air Conditioner. Note the woman's smart kerchief and charm bracelet, the neat-looking bar cart to the left, and the standing man's striking resemblance to Peter Finch. Also, are the lady in blue and the woman of the house in green doing some kind of coded sign language to each other? Lady #1: "One more?" Lady #2: "Sure, one more for the road!" ((secret coded meaning: "Do not let Peter Finch drink anymore Long Island Ice Teas, fortheloveoftheLord....")) This air conditioner also comes in a mahogany model, which  I think speaks to the consumer's fear of having this ugly, metal, hulking object sticking out of their window. Even if it DOES provide a necessary household function, let's make it handsome!

Here's the mahogany model in another woman's bedroom. I think it would have been more effective to show the blonde signaling lady from the first panel, but no one asked me, did they? One of the most important parts of having an air cooling system is, in my opinion, being able to sleep at night. Though I usually can't stand to have the windows down in a car or a fan pointed directly at me in the day time, I sleep with an oscillating stand up fan in ADDITION to the air conditioning all through the summer. I think it's partially the sound of it, and partially the coldness, that keeps me umbilically tied to the dadgum thing. The man in the next ad agrees with me about the sleep-cool air connection:

Like the "Sunburns Murder Sleep!" ad from the other day, the drama in the man's face in the first panel is intense. Him: "Let me die! It's 12:40 AM for Pete's sake! I can't sleep because the sweat trickling down my handsome brow keeps waking me up!" I'm surprised he's kept on his striped pajamas... usually the first thing that happens when the house is too hot is me stripping down to my skivvies. The addition of a GE air conditioner, in the second panel, has changed his sleeping conditions from sad to glad. Look at that smile of contentment! I don't think the GE model is as pretty as the other, but it could be more effective. Plus, it offers "kitten-quiet operation" to "assure you of undisturbed sleep". What more do you want?

Because it seems like EVERY electronics manufacturer there was wanted in on this whole "air conditioning" racket, here's Philco's 1953 models. I think I may like the be-legged console air conditioner even better than the first one in the Servel ad. Doesn't it look dignified! And $229.95 with a 5 year warranty seems totally reasonable (cheap, even!) until you realize that's almost two thousand dollars in 2010's money. LAWD! We might have to do with a series of oscillating and box fans set up in a complicated pattern to provide air movement AFTER all.
But they're so fancy looking!
I think this woman's braid is artificial, and for some reason, with my haughty sense of my own braiding dexterity, this bothers me! What doesn't bother me: that Philco model humdinger of an air conditioner! I love the wavy grilles on this one.

Talk about heavy proclaiments and promises in advertising! Look at this one:

AS SURE AS YOU LIVE AND BREATHE. I love it! The Megan-from-Mad-Men-esque woman in the color ad below is adjusting the unit for maximum breathability just as she shoots a loving glance towards her pipe-smoking husband. Don't you love the house across the street, too? I think this is one of the most attractive ads with the least attractive products. You can't have it all, I guess.

Last but not least, IT & T (not to be confused with AT & T, which was later and not-related) created the "Coolerator", which looks the most like in-window air conditioning units of the present, but isn't that a shame when they could look like that Cadillacky Philco model! They make up for in advertising props what the machine lacks in natural elegance. You've got a cool looking model, a driftwood and floral table arrangement, a neat hand printed fish wall hangings, and WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT a fiber glass mobile. This one looks a lot like it, but it also costs $500. That's not as much as an air conditioner, though! Maybe you could make one yourself with an apprising eye and a trip to the hardware store. But I digress...

How thankful are YOU for your air conditioner? Don't take it for granted! Do you remember the first time you had air conditioning, either in your house or your car? What would you do to keep cool in the summer before the age of modern conveniences? Which 1953 air conditioner would YOU most like to have in your home? Do tell!

See you tomorrow for Photo Friday!


  1. LOL! I dont know which made me laugh more, the excitement with Susan or this: "Let me die! It's 12:40 AM for Pete's sake! I can't sleep because the sweat trickling down my handsome brow keeps waking me up!"

  2. Perfect post Lisa, very timely! Yesterdayville fell victim to the recent wind storm that swept through the Midwest to the Atlantic this past Friday. We were without power for a few days, which got the Mrs. and I talking about staying cool. We didn’t get air conditioning until the late 90’s, until then, staying cool was a matter opening the widows in the evening to grab the cool night air and closing them in the morning and of course being near fans of every shape and design. In fact I just inherited my parents 1950’s round GE floor fan. If I was to pick a model from the ads, I would have to go with the “mahogany model in another woman's bedroom”.

  3. I LOVE air's such a shame that the A/C in doesn't work in any of our cars!!! Thankfully, we miss out on all the neat humidity that you guys are probably enjoying. I always wake up with a sore throat (major mouth breather) when I sleep with the A/C on. Apparently that didn't happen in the 50's??? I always love the images of public buildings/stores/theaters that would advertise their ice cold air conditioning. If I lived in pre-A/C times I would do like I've seen in the movies, a bowl (or block) of ice in front of a fan - instant A/C!!!

  4. oh my goodness. we put in central air when we bought our house, but kept the cute old forties vent. i would DIE without AC and my fan in the bedroom. we keep ours on all summer too. Lately our AC hasn't been able to get our house below 75 during the day, damn this heat wave!

  5. I feel a huge sense of eco-guilt, but I LOVE my air conditioner. Maybe sometime Paul can get an engineering job somewhere not so hot? Fingers crossed! Anyway, I'm the first person in my family since 1745 to live anywhere not in the South (before that they were in Scotland, where no one needs an air conditioner). Let me just say, that above the Mason-Dixon line it is just as hot but Kansas doesn't have the culture/architecture to deal with it. Where are the verandahs? Where are the mint juleps, I ask?

    I keep the central air thermostat on 78 all day because I don't want a $400 electricity bill, but we bought a window unit for our bedroom and I turn that thing down to 65. Otherwise, no sleep for me! I'd be like that guy in the striped jammies--except naked...

    1. I had that same nagging guilt for a while, Lauren, but now, well, screw it! Here in New Jersey we've staggered through 4 deadly heat waves, and if it weren't for that miracle machine, the air conditioner, I'd be dead or insane by now.

      Forgive yourself and stay cool!

  6. Ugh, I live in a condo that does NOT have central air! We do have ancient air conditioners that are built into the walls that are long overdue for replacement. Sadly, you can't have the TV and the air conditioner on at the same time or you'll blow a fuse!

  7. Haha, aren’t we just realizing more and more nowadays what a blessing it is to have air-conditioning in our homes? Especially with the heat being worse these days than it was in those days. Every day that passes, we can’t help but appreciate more just what a relief it is that air-conditioning is pretty much a staple in every home.

    Naoki Dieter

  8. I think the air conditioner is a great invention to keep us cool in the summer. I remember my father used to put ice in front of a fan to get cool during the hot days. But after we bought an air conditioner, my father just lied down on his bed and enjoyed the cool air from the AC every summer. He somewhat looks like the man in the GE room air conditioner ad when the A/C is out, haha! :)

    @Allan Willcox

  9. Air conditioners do not only make rooms cooler. In effect, they make spaces more habitable and comfortable for people. Also, there are air conditioning units that are equipped with air-purifying filtration systems. With such capability, air conditioners can help eliminate bacteria, dust and even house mites.

    Georgia Fuller

  10. Those are some pretty cool AC ads! How did you get those? In any case, it is hard to imagine how we can combat the sweltering heat on summer days without an air conditioning unit. Just try and think how people in the old days tried to cope with the summer heat, just with their hand fans. That must have been frustrating!

    -Jamaal Milner

  11. The AC was one of the amazing inventions ever created. It never fails to benefit us, regardless of season, and it’s good that as the years go by, it keeps on developing, moving forward to better provide us with comfort. I just can’t imagine life without ACs, especially now that we’re experiencing global warming. A salute to the ACs!

    -Mignon Her

  12. You will notice how air-conditioners have developed in time. It gets smaller and smaller, no? :) But I really find these earlier designs of AC very cool! They look like mini-cabinets or speakers to me. Haha!

    Lance Witts



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