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Think it's hot? Here's what life was like in Houston before air conditioning

Back then, people opened windows, they slept outside and used fans to cool off. Could you survive?

HOUSTON — We take it for granted now, but there was time only decades ago when we didn’t have the luxury of living in air conditioning. In fact, air conditioning has been so influential, it’s one of the reasons Houston has grown so much today. 

In downtown Houston on a hot summer day, you’ve got the cars, construction, and the feeling you might combust.

If you think it’s hot today, let’s take you back to a time to B.A.C -- before air conditioning.

“If you were to go back. You wouldn’t like it," said Dr. Gene Preuss, associate professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.

A hundred years ago, imagine how Matilda Alice Sweeney felt sitting on the sea wall or sweating in the sun alongside some Sugar Land teachers.

“People were still wearing wool suits. So that made it very terrible,"  Preuss said.

The heat and humidity made life so hard back then, it’s why many people just didn’t live here. Those who did just figured it out.

“Houses and buildings were built much differently, you had higher ceilings because heat rises, so you build higher roofs and higher ceilings to draw the heat up,"  Preuss said.

When they couldn’t cool off inside, can you believe, they went outside?! Or to places like The Majestic Metro.

"That was one of the big selling points to this place is there was cool air inside," said Majestic Metro property manager Jason Wozniak.

With AC units installed in 1946, the Majestic Metro became the first theater in Houston to have AC. Those units are the ones they still use today.

“No thermostats to them; they’re either on or their off. I can freeze you out of here. I can burn you out of here if need be," Wozniak said.

Back then, people opened windows, they slept outside and used fans to cool off.

It was the only life they knew, but a life we’re lucky not to live.

“There were ways of getting cool, they were just a little more creative than we are today," Preuss said.



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