Columbus resident remembers historic 1936 heat wave

COLUMBUS (WCMH)—Eighty years ago this week the average high temperature in Columbus was a scorching 103 degrees during a 7-day stretch of unrelenting heat. By the end of the week, the mercury soared to 106 on July 14, 1936, tying the all-time city record set only two years earlier in another sizzling summer.

Imagine that kind of weather today without modern air-conditioning. Louise Sager, 88, who was born in Gallipolis, and now lives on the West Side of Columbus, remembers the spate of exceptional heat waves in the 1930s that broiled the Midwest and East.

Sager recalled, “Ice was delivered in an icebox. We didn’t have a refrigerator. People canned their fruits and vegetables. Most places had a big tree. You sat under the tree and drank ice tea and lemonade to keep cool.”

The nation was in the midst of the Dust Bowl that parched crops from the Plains to the East.  Once-fertile farm soils turned to particles and blew away in swirling dust storms that reached from Kansas to the Mid-Atlantic.

Sager’s father was a farmer in Gallia County who provided food for state hospitals in the region.  Ohio farmers fared better because the land was not overgrazed, unlike the Great Plains.

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