“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
When I first saw one of these it was over forty years ago and although I was only, maybe ten years old, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was in the parking lot of the McDonald’s at Fourth and Walnut in Hutchinson, Kansas. There is still one there, but it looks completely different of course. In 1967, the place still was more of a shack with those giant yellow arches. I think its “sold” sign was still in the millions. Once, I saw a guy actually fetching a bag of real potatoes from an outbuilding to cut into fries.
That was a long time ago.
At any rate, there was a car in the parking lot with this galvanized steel contraption attached to its window. I looked at it closely, with the kind of curiosity only a nerdy ten-year-old boy has. It was a big metal tube, closed off at the back, with a coarse screen on the front, and a vent that went through the partially opened window into the interior of the car. I was able to guess its purpose, though it seemed pretty odd.
My father confirmed that it was a crude air-conditioner. You dumped a five pound bag of ice into the tube and when you drove, the air was forced over the ice and into the car. Ordinary air-conditioning was still rare in automobiles, but I have no idea how common this sort of contraption was.
So now I see another one, sort of, at a car show. This one is not as crude as the one in my memory (I’m pretty sure that one was home-made) and, instead of ice, it’s an evaporative cooler – better known in these parts as a swamp cooler. It’s known as a Car Cooler or a Thermador.
Maybe that’s how the one in my memory worked… but I seem to remember a place for ice. No matter, neither one would really work very well. I think I’ll stick with Freon.