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Strange but true: People actually weathered valley heat without AC
shade trees
Taking advantage of the natural cooling of shade trees.

It’s safe to say “Some Like it Hot” fans aren’t talking about the San Joaquin Valley.

The 1959 romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon is considered to be among the greatest movies of all time.

Rest assured it wasn’t based in Bakersfield.

To appreciate Bakersfield in the summer think of Manteca without the Delta breeze and 5 to 7 degrees hotter.

Bakersfield has Manteca beaten hands down when it comes to heat.

The record high ever measured in Bakersfield was 118 degrees. Compare that to 112 degrees for Manteca.

Before you complain too much, during July and August in Furnace Creek in the heart of Death Valley overnight lows of 100 degrees aren’t all that rare.

There is something dreadfully sounding about 100 degrees.

If you hear the forecast calling for 100 degrees the next day on a day when the temperature peaks at 99 degrees, a lot of us act as if it is a 10-degree difference.

We all have cows when the forecast calls for a 105-degree day in a string of otherwise low 100 degree days.

The heat is real but the degree it goes up when it goes up a degree or two is more of a mind game.

It’s not the temperature that people burst into flames spontaneously.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful.

And to be honest some of my worst hydration issues have come when I’m bundled up hiking in 30-degree or lower temperatures.

There are those that believe I love the heat.

That isn’t true. My ideas of “perfect” temperatures are a high of 77 degrees and a low of 60 degrees.

I do, however, embrace the heat.

I can say the same thing about the constant 40-degree refrigerator weather we get when the valley’s unique tule fog takes over 24/7 for days on end in the dead of winter.

Even with high PG&E rates, my summer bills rarely make it much past $90.

The reason is simple. I’ve learned to live with the heat and not fight it.

It is how valley residents thrived before the advent of air conditioning.

The key is acclamation and air movement.

This sounds nuts, but I chose a flat top house with a slight roof pitch on purpose.

It has no attic with insulation.

Nor do the walls have insulation.

There is a swamp cooler on the roof I haven’t turned on since I bought the house in 2008.

There is also a wall-mounted AC unit that is only turned on for the benefit of house guests.

The last time it was turned on was in April of 2021.

Yet I’m not living in a sauna.

The reason is fairly simple.

First of all, I made sure trees on the east and east side of my house were the types that would grow big if you invested the time watering them in the years after they are first planted.

Virtually every window in my house is open when I’m home.

Yes, I hear the trains that pass by just over a block away as well as the traffic on the 120 Bypass. But it is all a soothing background noise after a while.

It helps that I have six ceiling fans in a 980-square-foot house that I made as open as possible by removing all interior doors except for a fluted glass door on the bathroom.

The fans are also maximum size for the rooms, a point that Manteca Lighting staff will tell you can’t be emphasized enough. You need to be able to move air to cool effectively.

There is a drawback — dust.

What comes from the front yard is minimal even though the grass was history 12 years ago.

There are trees, shrubs, lots of ferns and almost an inch of decaying leaves and such in many places.

The dust control in the backyard is not as good.

It wasn’t too bad without the grass thanks to 11 trees and large oleanders. But then I decided I had to have two good-sized, happy go lucky and energetic rescue dogs.

Between them they tip the scales at 150 pounds. They have pulverized the sandy loam in my backyard to the consistency of blow sand.

Thanks to the shade canopy of the yard, it’s not the high winds or the Delta breezes that kick up the dust. It’s Whitney and Rascal the queens who claim the entire backyard as their kingdom.

It’s safe to say race horses kick up less dust on a dry dirt track than the two of them do zipping around the backyard.

I didn’t just happen on this approach to living with the summer heat.

It’s what my grandmother did and her parents and grandparents before her that operated ranches on the fringe of the Central Valley.

They had summer porches for sleeping that were downright heavenly.

It’s hard to replicate the natural chill you get before the dawn of a summer day bundled against the cool night air.

I used to sleep on the balcony of my second floor apartment when I lived at Laurel Glenn on Button Avenue. I slept outside where I live now in the backyard but that was before I decided I had to have dogs.

It kind of lost its charm when a Dalmatian can’t resist the opportunity to try and snuggle up with you on a chase lounge in the middle of the night.

There are still times even on a 100-degree day I can get a decadent chill that beats anything an AC has to offer.

Nothing tops returning from an early afternoon jog and drip drying in the open shade in the almost non-stop breezes we have.

There’s only one thing that can top the chilly feel of sweat cooling you off aided by a natural breeze.

And that’s stepping out of a shower where the room temperature is 80 degrees as natural wind through the bathroom window teams up with a ceiling fan outside the door.

It’s not just a blissful feeling but it cools you down to your core and helps you stay there for a fairly long time.

 It sounds nuts.

And by today’s standards it is.

But for me it beats an air tight house where artificial means cool the temperatures instead of your body adapting to the card nature will always deal for months on end.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at