Nostalgia Alert: What Summers Were Like Before A/C

By Shirley Li

This summer has seen record-breaking temperatures, and if you’re melting in a pool of sweat, travel back in time with Arthur Miller’s nostalgic piece on life in New York City before easy access to air conditioning.

His 1998 story in The New Yorker recounts how people would leave their overheated homes to find oasis in Central Park or dive into the Hudson to cool off. Reading Miller’s humorous yet genuine anecdotes, you may just feel an appreciation for the breezy air conditioning we now enjoy.

Take the one about city dwellers riding the bus back and forth for example:

Broadway had open trolleys with no side walls, in which you at least caught the breeze, hot though it was, so that desperate people, unable to endure their apartments, would simply pay a nickel and ride around aimlessly for a couple of hours to cool off.

Life has changed since the late 1920s, but the slice of city life in the summer is relevant even today. So pour yourself a cool glass of lemonade and take a trip down Miller’s memory lane.