Shivering from coast to coast, the Arctic deep freezer door seems to have swung open wide and sure doesn’t seem to be closing anytime soon.
Lately it seems as if the world is one mass of howling icy cold with subzero temperatures and round after round of snow. Braving blizzards in your car, winter weather does its best to stop you.
The mercury may be plunging outside but sealed in the climate controlled comfort of your car -as toasty as your own living room – keeps old man winter at bay.
We take a heated car for granted, rarely giving any thought to the blowing hot air at all… except of course when it’s on the fritz.
But a heated car wasn’t always a given.
Once upon a time bundling up children in bulky snowsuits was done not only for playing in the snow, but to take a leisurely ride in the family car
Before the 1950’s staying warm in an automobile entailed multiple layers of clothing, bundling up in blankets or a lap-robe. If you were lucky enough to have a car heater, you’d have to wait 15 or more minutes for the car to warm up. And chances were it was woefully inefficient.
That is unless you installed a supplemental car heater.
The Big Chill
In the bone chilling winter of 1947 one frost-bitten family had finally had enough of cold weather driving.
The year began with the lowest temperature ever recorded in North America and the mercury would only continue to drop. 1947 would turn out to be a very chilly year, to start the cold war.
By February poor Willy Lawson’s home life was becoming as chilly as the frosty relationship between Stalin and Truman.
The cold war had already been raging for years in the Lawson household…the “cold car wars” that is, the annual grumblings that erupted when winters icy grip struck.
1940’s cars tended to be uncomfortably drafty and cold. Most had poor interior heating systems. Heaters had been around since GM introduced them in 1930, but not only did they take over 20 minutes to warm up the passenger compartment they were quite ineffective.
Driving in cold cars was the perfect incubator for catching cold.
For Willy’s wife Sylvia slugging through a snow storm with frost-bitten fingers was no fun. Caring for a brood of kids with colds, even less so.
Motoring entailed bundling up the 5 Lawson kids not only in snowsuits but an assortment of mittens, hats, scarves and galoshes. A road trip filled with endless whining often ended in sniffles, coughs with one of the children coming down with a cold. Sylvia knew from years of experience it was all too easy for a cold once it starts to spread from one member of the family to the next…with troublesome results.
In freezing weather, cold cars caused hot arguments.
A gasoline car heater could provide supplemental heat …but cost more money.
Not only was Willy budget conscience he was plain stubborn.Heavy lap-robes and woolen blankets had always worked just fine, he argued. Sniffles and colds were just part of winter. Besides which like many folks he didn’t trust gas heaters in cars, convinced they’d blow up.
The thing of it was when it came time to winterizing his car Willy spared no expense. Vigilantly he made sure to put in plenty of antifreeze, changed his oil, attached snow chains and used only uses Texaco Sky Chief gasoline for quick winter starting.
On cold mornings his split second startings in his pre-war Chevy were the envy of the neighborhood. Even in the iciest weather, he’d boast to Sylvia that his stone cold engine would respond immediately…”the Sky Chief gasoline warmed the engine up so rapidly…makes it forget to stutter and buck!”
His engine would be warm and tasty…. his shivering passengers, not so much.
It was while Willy was home sick with the sniffles, that Sylvia had an eye-opening ride in her neighbor Tom’s car.
To her astonishment, though Toms automobile was thoroughly chilled when she got into it, within seconds plenty of heat was pouring in! Their heater worked like a dream. The secret was a South Wind gas heater!
“It’s fast…its efficient… it’s the finest!” boasted Tom.
The South Wind heater worked on a new scientifically proved gasoline burning principle, the manufacturer claimed “that made it possible for you to get hot heat in just 90 seconds flat! “No other kind of car heater can give you hot heat so speedily! South Wind creates it’s own heat…there’s no wait for the engine. Always ready for use.”
Sylvia didn’t need persuading. One ride in the toasty warm car a week later was all it took to convince chilly Willy too.
“The South Wind heater cost a little more to buy and operate but even on the chilliest mornings you could warm up in 90 seconds,” Tom explained to Willy. “No wait for engine warm up. Burns fuel from the carburetor in a patented sealed metal chamber. Fumes go right out the exhaust.”
“Before I’m out of the driveway on my way to work, my southwind is pouring hot heat into my car! In fact if you didn’t turn down the flame you’d roast.”
The South Wind heater was the brainchild of a Canadian born, Chicago resident named Harry McCollum who was fed up with being cold during his commute to work.
In 1930 unhappy with the inefficient GM car heater, the cold Chicagoan came up with a solution – a supplemental form of heat for cars that burned gasoline.The South Wind heater was the first gasoline car heater designed for car and truck interiors. Amazingly this new heater could warm the interior of his old car in a jiff!
The heaters first appeared in 1935 but were recalled and improved versions appeared in 1936. According to the company over 3 million had been built and sold by 1948.
No More Chilly Willy
Willy was finally ready to throw winter right out of his car with a purchase f the South Wind heater ! Easy to install, the heater fit beneath the dashboard where he could kick the on an off with his feet.”
The chilly relations between the Lawson’s finally thawed. It was if they gained 3 months of extra driving fun. Even with the big blizzard in December that knocked the east coast for a loop they were toasty warm in their car. Old man winter wouldn’t stop them now!
Now the Lawson could leave their overcoat at home- their gloves, hats, even their lap-robe. They wouldn’t need them. When you step into a South Wind heated car you step into complete living room comfort.
Copyright (©) 2015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved