What life was like in ND before air conditioning

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - You don’t see construction workers going shirtless too often nowadays. But back in the ’50s, it was not an unusual sight.

Air conditioning didn’t become commonplace in North Dakota until the 1970s.

“It was hot. Follow the shade,” said Joe Thomas, one North Dakota resident who remembers that escaping heatwaves wasn’t as easy in his childhood as it is today.

”We would get fresh water from the well during the night when it was so hot in the house because we only had a one-bedroom house when I was that old,” said Lavina Benkendorf, who grew up on a farmstead in North Dakota.

Fifty years ago, people who didn’t have access to AC did creative things to stay cool. Erica Wangler is one of those people.

“For cooling off, a lot of times we went to the stock tank where the cattle drank water from and where the well pumped nice cool well water. And once in a while, we’d go in there and just cool off in the stock tank and just drink cups of cool well water. It was very nice to drink,” Wangler said.

Air conditioning not only made life in the summer more bearable in North Dakota, but it also impacted population trends in other states that are historically even hotter.

“If you look at the history of Phoenix, Arizona, and the population of what it was, and then when air conditioning came in, how it grew. Because you know, just thinking about living down there without air conditioning, it’d be worse than what we’re going through right now,” said Brad Mann, sales manager for H.A. Thompson and Sons in Bismarck.

In the 1950s, during the advent of air conditioning, one million AC units were sold in America. Today, more than two-thirds of American homes have AC.

Copyright 2021 KFYR. All rights reserved.