By Jack Swift
Keeping warm during cold climates and keeping cool during hot climates are two basic needs of everyone. Even animals must adapt or find ways to survive either extreme on the thermometer. As I write this column for this week, I realize it won’t be long before snow covers the ground and “burr” will be on the lips of many folks around the world who live in climates that get cold in the winter months. Of course there are folks who must contend with the changing temperature and snow and ice in winter. People of course have their preferences, but count me in the category that likes the climate we have in Johnson County and East Tennessee: warm on summer days and cool in winter.
As a child growing up in Johnson County during winter, I remember our heating system wasn’t much to brag about. Early on we had a fireplace in the living room and or course a wood cook stove that helped with heating when my mother was preparing meals. A supply of wood was cut and ricked for the cold months of the year. The thing about a fireplace is that part of the heat goes up the chimney and also it was not the warmest method of heating a house. My room was away from the fireplace and consequently it didn’t get very warm. Ice often covered the window.
As I remember it, our next method of warming the house was with coal in the fireplace or in a cast iron stove that sat in front of the fireplace. It did a better job of warming the house. Later an oil-burning heater was bought and it was quite an improvement. Natural gas was not available as I recall, nor was propane. Central heating was not available to most folks in those days
As for staying cool in the hot summer months in my early days I remember that some of the stores and businesses in Mountain City used ceiling fans. One in particular that I remember was a huge ceiling fan just inside the entrance to Courtesy Drug Store. Some people purchased ice for their iceboxes before refrigerators came along in about 1915. An icebox consisted of a sort of cabinet with space for a block of ice and a place to store the items to be cooled. My maternal grandparents had an icebox with a spigot that allowed the melting ice to be drained out.
Later came central air conditioning and central heat to deal with the unpleasantness of hot days and cold times.