Mémère’s Swamp Cooler

Our Earth seems hotter these days than it was in my childhood in the ’60s and early ’70s. With a humming attic fan (which scared the hell out of my pre-teen self because it looked like it would be a perfect hiding place for a big “tie-tie,” the Cajun term for monster) and a little blue “swamp cooler,” Mémère’s house was always pretty comfortable, even in the most blistering of Augusts.

Memere’s Swamp Cooler.

While the scary attic fan cut into the ceiling of her kitchen worked by sucking hot air through house’s screened-doors and windows, and pushing it upwards and outwards, through vents in the attic, the swamp cooler cooled a room by chilling water and blowing the cool vapors into the room. There was a place at the top of the swamp cooler to pour tap water to keep the thing working optimally. When I was staying with Mémère in the summertime, keeping an eye on the water level was my favorite assignment.

At nap time, the best place to sleep was on a blanket on the floor in front of the swamp cooler, for the cool air, of course, but also for the hum it emitted. I have never had a better nap.

Here’s an image of the precursor to the modern home air conditioner. Scary, right?

In our house on Mallet Street in Eunice, we didn’t have a swamp cooler. We had these big old grogroin*-looking water-cooler air conditioners that clung to the house looking like tumors. They weighed a ton or so – it would take at least two adults (three would be better) to get the thing properly installed or removed. Nothing like the lightweight little boxes that we know today, which can pretty much be put in place by one person, right out of the box from, well, a big-box store.


*Grogroin is not really a word. There was a popular song called “Tramp” from Otis Redding and Carla Thomas at the time and a lyric was “…and big old brogan shoes…” but we heard it as “grogroin”.

Tramp. What you call me? (tramp!)
No you didn’t! (you don’t wear continental clothes, or Stetson hats)
Well, I tell you one doggone thing
It makes me feel good to know one thing, I know I am a lover
(Matter of opinion) that’s all right, mama was, papa too 
And I’m the only child, lovin’ is all I know to do
(You know what, Otis?) what? (you’re country)
That’s all right (you straight from the Georgia woods) that’s good!
(You know what, you wear overalls)
(And big old brogan shoes)
And you need a haircut, tramp (haircut, woman, you foolin’, ooh, I’m a lover)
Mama was, grandmama, papa too, boogaloo, all that stuff
And I’m the only son-of-a-gun this side of the SunTramp! (yeah, that’s what you are)what?
(That’s right,…

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3 thoughts on “Mémère’s Swamp Cooler

  1. We went to school for 12 years with no AC. Imagine that! Every year we collected money for window fans, and some classrooms has 4 or more in those big windows. My math teacher had a low, monotone-style voice, and I had to struggle to hear her over the hum of the fans.

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