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Ways to stay cool: Advice from the archives

Kate Midena, Friday February 1, 2019 - 08:55 EDT
ABC licensed image
Kids seeking relief from the heat at Cottesloe beach on February 10 1933. - ABC licensed

If you're finding the latest heatwave difficult, spare a thought for people from decades past, when the best advice they were given to beat the heat included putting your fingers in grapefruit and taking a water ballet class.

As the nation swelters through a week that has seen , cold brew coffee, Netflix and air conditioning have provided much-needed refuge.

But what about those who lived before luxuries like these? The National Library of Australia's archives have helped shed some light.

Mothers in Bourke in 1950 were wrapping their babies in wet clothes and in Brewarrina their beer, "almost boiling when delivered, was still too hot to drink after a day in the refrigerator," according to Melbourne's The Argus.

But in Perth, as far back as 1929, there was no need "to attempt to cook in a sweltering kitchen until the heatwave has well lifted" thanks to Carter's Hot Weather Foods. Baked beans, tomato soup, Weeties and pressed beef were just some of the things you could have had delivered to your door, complete with "no waiting in the heat, either, for Carter's quick service is a by-word".

If popping out for some groceries was unavoidable, the Australian Women's Weekly had this advice for housewives in their January 10, 1968 edition:

"As the sun is generally at its hottest between 11 and 2 each day, housewives should do their shopping in the early part of the morning and, when possible, take a nap in the afternoon.

"Postpone any tasks, such as ironing, polishing, or washing, until the comfortable cool of the morning or evening."

If you happened to be looking for things to do while you waited for "the cool of the evening", The Weekly came to your rescue again in February 1978 with the article, "40 cool ways to beat the heat".

Helpful suggestions included carrying "pocket-size cleansing pads when you go outdoors", taking up water ballet, popping your fingers in a grapefruit to give them a quick freshen up, bathing your feet in milk-soaked cucumbers to "stimulate" and "soothe" and, if you didn't have time for a shower, splashing on some chilled cologne.

Driving long distances in a hot car is one of the worst things about 40-degree days. A reader featured in the February 1969 Australian Women's Weekly edition suggests you "take an ice-cream container partly filled with iced water, ice cubes, and face-washers. Wring out the washers and apply to face and neck when needed."

But perhaps the smartest piece of advice comes from The Daily News in Perth in February 1933.

One of their photographers snapped a pictured of a dog sitting on a hat at North Cottesloe beach, who had "been trained to mind his mistresses [sic] belongings. Sitting in the hat not only makes it safe from removal but ensures that technically he is not 'on the beach.'" Well played.

It is always a possibility, of course, that no matter the decade people may just need to toughen up and embrace the heat.

After a three-week-long heatwave across New South Wales in 1929, a weatherman by the name of Mr Mares wrote to the Glen Innes Examiner defending the heat as "nature's remedy".

Reporters were quick to brand him a "meteorological Pollyanna", but editorialised his claims like this:

The benefits which accrue to the individual, as a result of a few weeks of gruelling in the heat, may not be so obvious, but they undoubtedly exist.

It is a recognised physiological fact that a good sweat is the natural way of sluicing the impurities out of the system.

The sweaters of the world are the thinkers and the doers; the non-sweaters are heavy, slow-moving in mind and body, and sluggish in general.

It is, therefore, to be expected that when normal conditions again return, the populace at large will be the better for the clearing-out it has had per medium of its body-pores during the heat visitation.

Here's hoping we'll all be feeling "clearer" and "better" after this past week's "good sweat".


© ABC 2019

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