Bob Mitchell: Keeping cool before air conditioning

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Three days from now, I will turn 88.

My mother — I’m sure for a number of reasons — always remembered July 15, 1929 (the day I was born) as the hottest of the summer. Long before air conditioning was upon us, she also remembered the kindness of Ben Irwin, who owned the Ben Irwin Hotel with his wife, Lillie.

The Irwin Hotel was famous in that time for being a stopover place for traveling salesmen — who were plentiful in those days — and also for being a great place for Sunday dinner. You were either among the early arrivals for dinner (noontime in those days), or you would have a long wait to be seated in the dining room.

The hotel was located with Railway Ice Co., a residence at where Arvest Bank now operates. The hotel gave way originally to First National Bank, relocated from the public square by the late Arthur Smith, who passed away before his new facility was completed. The Irwins were the grandparents of Nancy Joslin England of Cassville.

Back to July 15

Eighty-eight years ago, the temperature was hot, hot, hot, and my mom’s bedroom was on the south side of the residence, feeling the full heat of the sun that day. To make an improvement in the comfort of the time and process of my arrival into this world, Ben Irwin spent most of the day between the house and the hotel with a garden hose, spraying water on the roof and the side of the house in an effort to lower the temperature even so slightly.

Needless to say, my mom was forever grateful for Ben Irwin’s actions. Their lobby was the location in those days for gathering for any news listening — especially election returns. On occasion, mom would relate this story during conversations of the evening, at which time Irwin’s blushed face would show his appreciation for the recognition.

Ice cards became item

To pinpoint this location, which later was the home of the Herschel Horine family, he ran Railways Ice Co. nearly from its existence to its demise.

The arrival of electricity in the late 1940s eliminated the residential need for ice, leaving restaurants and cold storage for everything from crawdads to apples, etc., remaining for Railways.

Today’s reminder

There is a reminder of this process in today’s warm weather conditions if you choose to go for a meal at Dock-n-Eat at the Big M Marina on Table Rock Lake.

The owners use a similar approach to cooling their place of business by pumping water out of the lake and letting it drip onto the metal roof. This combined with overhead fans makes temperatures comfortable for an enjoyable outing.

In case you haven’t tried this establishment, there is no fee for entering the Army Corps of Engineers’ facility like there is for camping, launching a boat or picnicking. Simply tell the gatekeepers you are going to the restaurant.

The atmosphere for dining is quite different from most eating establishments with this method of temperature control.

Mid-July bragging

Reaching the mid-point of the seventh month means we are well past Independence Day, a date for tomato growers — at least a majority of them — to start bragging about the production of their plants. Numbers being made available and for some, the size they are picking, is the basis of some conversations these days.

I am not one of those, since my crop was a virtual failure. All that remains for me is to sit and listen, then go to the grocery store and purchase a veggie or two when a meal calls for it.

The reason for my failure, according to some veterans of the process, has been credited with excess moisture, especially during the early growth period.

Good news for fishing

With more compatible water levels in Table Rock Lake, there are some ideal fishing times predicted in the Almanac for those wanting to practice their favorite outing. Best days ahead include Thursday, and then a short string of days, July 21-22 and 29-31.

There are always nighttime outings when temperatures are cooler and fish are known to be feeding in the cooler part of the day. For at least part of this period, after the 8th, there will be a full moon — once for me an ideal time to be out on the water, tossing a lure to the bank or out over some submerged cedars.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.