If you’re sitting in air-conditioned comfort as you read this, remember that you’re enjoying a pleasure once so rare that heads of state were impressed when it was provided.
All of this comes to mind after reading a splendid article on Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s visit to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1942 to confer with President Franklin D. Roosevelt about war strategy. The article appears in the May/June issue of Humanities, which is published by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In June of that year, Churchill and his aides boarded a Boeing Clipper that took them from Scotland to Washington, where it landed in the Potomac River. After dinner at the British Embassy, Churchill flew to Hyde Park, N.Y., site of Roosevelt’s family residence, where Roosevelt had driven to meet the prime minister in a Ford V-8 convertible that had been modified so that Roosevelt could drive it with his polio-stricken legs. Churchill, would later note some anxiety about FDR’s driving, recalling that “I hoped the mechanical devices and brakes would show no defects.”
Later, Churchill boarded a presidential train that took him to Washington, where he noted his pleasure at the accommodations.
“We were heavily escorted to the White House,” wrote Churchill, “and I was again accorded the very large air conditioned room, in which I dwelt in comfort at about thirty degrees below the temperature of most of the rest of the building.”
Churchill’s excitement at resting in an air-conditioned room is a reminder of how far the world has progressed since 1942.
For so many residents of south Louisiana who have come to rely upon air conditioning to get them through the summers here, Churchill’s note of appreciation for climate control seems very much on point.