Fresno can be very hot in the summer, and very cold in the winter. We are a place of extremes. Like our economy. There are very wealthy people living in the valley, but we are one of the poorest spots in the nation, too. If you you drive from one side of town to the other, you will see the homeless, the downtrodden, the small, unkempt homes and you will see estates, expensive stores, designer clothes, manicured parks.
When I give tours at Kearney Mansion, I always point out the way the house was designed in 1903 to combat the valley’s heat. The walls are two feet thick adobe brick. The windows are double paned glass. The wrap-around porch has a 10 foot overhang. Even then, M. Theo Kearney refused to stay in Fresno during the summer, instead traveling to Europe to see friends and purchase artwork for the castle he planned to some day build on the lines of Hearst Castle. Mr. Hearst built his; Mr. Kearney died before his could be built.
When I took over the yearbook class, I was able to retrieve from the vault yearbooks going back 100 years, to the turn of the century. We laughed as we read the vacation plans of teachers and students which were printed in those early books. No one stayed in town. Instead they too, like Mr. Kearney, traveled to Europe or the coast or up to the mountains. You must realize that in 1890 only the wealthy of the city attended high school and most of the teachers were hired from Berkeley and Stanford. They had the means with which to escape the brutal heat.
Even now, the very wealthy leave Fresno for cooler places. Many have homes in mountain resorts or in Hawaii. When I served on the calendar committee for the school district, I had to battle these wealthy parents who did not want to start school until after Labor Day. They used the excuse that the air was bad for the poor children who had asthma, not considering that the schools are air conditioned and would provide better air for the students than their own homes might. These wealthy parents did not want to return from Huntington Lake, Lake Tahoe, Hawaii, or even Paris (I had one student whose parents had a home there), while it was still hot in Fresno. Their arguments sounded so legitimate, and it was only when I brought up their summer homes did I see nods and looks of recognition from the other committee members.
I am thankful for air conditioning both at home and in my cars. We wouldn’t think of buying a car here without air conditioning. Stores and shopping centers are all air conditioned as are the schools and any public institution. Should the air conditioning go out for some reason, many places will close during the summer knowing that there won’t be any business for them. I am also grateful for the large trees we have in our yard that help keep the house cool. Our patio, which has a southwest exposure, has a 20 foot cover so as to keep the sun away from our large sliding glass door. When we recently reroofed the house we replaced the wood shakes with a ‘cool’ roof in a very light color.
Even with all of these efforts, the house can still be warm on those 100+ degree days when the overnight temperatures only drop to 70 degrees. Especially if I use the oven and/or cook on the stovetop. We have tried to eat cool meals this week as well as going out to eat a couple of times. Although restaurants keep their thermostats turned low on these hot days, just getting from the car to the building can be searing. On the hottest day this week–110 degrees–I met my retired friends for lunch. You can see from this photo we took upon arrival that we were melting:
Such shiny faces!