Boomers’ Cars Breezed Along … Without Air Conditioning

As we approach another summer season, Mister Boomer was reminded by a recent conversation about how he and the neighborhood teens would describe the air conditioning in their cars. Some semblance of naming the vehicle make and model followed by “460” was cleverly voiced to describe the model number of the cooling unit (i.e., Ford Fairlane 460). What they were actually saying was, “four windows down at 60 miles per hour.” Of course, that meant turning the hand-cranks to open each of the windows before getting underway. It would be decades before power windows became standard equipment. In other words, when it came to air conditioning in cars, Mister B’s boomer-hood didn’t have it.

Car air conditioning was first seen in a 1939 Packard, but it really began in earnest when the Packard Motor Company offered factory-equipped air conditioning in some of their 1940 models. It consisted of a compressor stored in the trunk that circulated cooled air through tubes inside the car.

Though the timing would make car air conditioning a pre-boomer invention, lower-priced cars aimed at growing families didn’t feature air conditioning as a selling point until the prime boomer years of the 1950s. By 1953, Chrysler presented its Airtemp air conditioning system. It took Ford until 1956 before air conditioning was an option on most models. When the mid-50s rolled around, every auto manufacturer was offering air conditioning as an option on some, if not all, of its models.


Looking to increase their market share alongside Ford, Chrysler and GM, the American Motors Rambler was often associated with the most inexpensive cars available. Unfortunately, it was also considered among the ugliest. By 1958, the top-of-the-line Rambler Ambassador gave air conditioning as a standard feature to help differentiate it from its higher-priced competitors.


DeSoto was introduced by Chrysler in 1929, and sales continued until the disruption of auto manufacturing during World War II. After the war, Chrysler picked up where they left off, and several DeSoto models continued to sell until the recession of 1958. After a precipitous drop in sales that year, the brand never recovered and was dissolved by Chrysler less than two months after they introduced the 1961 models. DeSoto was yet another car model that disappeared in early boomer years, though many recall riding in them with parents or grandparents.

For Mister Boomer, air conditioning wasn’t present in any of his family’s cars until the 1970s. In fact, none of the neighborhood kids had air conditioning in their family cars either, except one. A family living near the Boomer household had a penchant for buying used Cadillacs. Mister Boomer had the occasional ride in their cars, marveling at the power windows and air conditioning while at the same time preferring the windows open since the father of the boomer neighbor liked to smoke cigars in his Cadillac. Car air conditioning in the 1960s may have cooled the air, but it wasn’t a good filter for cigar or cigarette smoke.

In Midwest car culture, most teens had their own vehicles between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. The very nature of buying inexpensive wheels meant teen boomers went for the most style available for the money instead of luxuries such as air conditioning. For Mister B, air conditioning controls never graced the all-metal dashboards of his early-years cars. Even when he was able to purchase his first new car years after college in the late 1970s, he did not equip it with air conditioning. The 460 model had been good enough for him for decades.

What car air conditioning memories come to mind for you, boomers? When was the first time you rode in an air conditioned car?

Spring Cleaning for Boomer Youth

The annual ritual known as spring cleaning seems to wane in popularity with each passing year. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that time is so much more structured in the average family than it was in the 1950s and 60s. Another big consideration is that when we boomers were growing up, the vast majority of our mothers stayed at home. Yet even though they stayed at home, they were modern women who were most definitely interested in any technology or product that would lessen the drudgery of house work. They were not about to do things the way their mothers had to.

For the Mister Boomer house, spring cleaning fell into three main categories: personal space, seasonal replacements and seldom-performed household tasks. Mister B’s mom, the acting general in the spring cleaning attack, would request each child to “clean” their own closet. This amounted to, for the most part, removing the piles of toys in the bottom of the closet, cleaning the dust bunnies that had taken up residence, and carefully selecting toys that had been outgrown and relegating them to the storage areas of the basement. Rearranging the toys to place back completed the bottom half of the closet cleaning. Of course for some, like Mister B’s brother, the piles that went back in looked a lot like the piles that started.

The second part of the annual closet cleaning was connected to seasonal replacements. Each spring, fall and winter clothes in the closets were gathered and moved en masse to a chifforobe in the basement. From the basement storage, spring and summer ensembles, smelling of moth balls, were resurrected and, like spring itself, renewed for another year in the light of the season.

The family hall closet got the same treatment. Each family member removed and stored the winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves and replaced them with the lighter-weight outerwear needed for spring weather.

Sometimes, Mister B’s mom would want to kick it up a notch and clean the walls in the bedrooms and living room. The kids hated that job, but, armed with old rags and buckets filled with warm water and sudsy Mr. Clean or Spic ‘N Span, they’d dutifully wipe the walls, climbing on chairs to reach up to the ceiling.

Cleaning the venetian blinds were another spring chore. Having the oldest child assist in removing them from each room, the blinds were set out on the backyard grass. There, Mister B and his brother would train the garden hose on the horizontal slats, power washing the winter’s dust from the white aluminum. Next they’d drape the blinds over the backyard clotheslines to dry in the sun, while Mister B’s mom took a brush and soapy water to any tough remaining spots. When things weren’t coming clean, she’d fill an aluminum tub with soapy water and dunk the blinds, letting each soak a few minutes so the modern cleaning technology could do its work.

With the product reaching the maturity of nearly ten years old, Mr. Clean got a “new formulation” in 1960 that made “him” tougher than ever on dirt.


Marketers, ever tapped into popular culture, never missed a trick to tie their product into popular movie and TV shows of the time. When this commercial was released, the James Bond series had hit the silver screen while The Man from U.N.C.L.E. appeared on TV.

The final spring cleaning ritual was delegated to Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer; it involved the outdoor storm windows. The boys retrieved window screens from the basement and brought them to the backyard, where a quick hose-down removed any remaining dirt from the previous year. Then, Brother Boomer, as the eldest, got on the family’s six-foot ladder outside each window as Mister B took up position on the inside. Sliding each storm window up the aluminum slats until reaching the opening where it could be removed, the boys took down the heavy glass storm windows and replaced them with the summer screens.

Completing the window-to-screen task, a simple twist of threaded screws on the aluminum frame of the front door was all that was needed to removed the door glass, and quick as a wink, it was transformed from storm door to screen door.

What spring cleaning tasks were you required to do as youngsters, boomers?