My companion in a shared taxicab one recent torrid day was a woman of mature years who said she grew up in Washington. She recalled that, in the days before household air conditioning, her family would sometimes camp out overnight in a park to catch an occasional stirring of the air.
As a young member of a California congressman's staff, I lived in 1950 in an unair-conditioned third-story walk-up apartment near Dupont Circle. To say that summer weather was miserable (especially for one acclimated to the Pacific fog) is an understatement. I learned the joys of a tall Tom Collins--a refreshment rarely heard about nowadays--and on Sundays would take the trolley to Capitol Hill and read the papers in the cool of the office.
Never, I swore then, could even a team of horses drag me back to this yukky clime. I later worked in Louisville, where summer humidity is far worse than in Washington, and was willing to return here only because domestic air conditioning had become generally available and affordable.
Even today, according to one crude estimate, perhaps a third or slightly more of Washington's housing units, mainly in the inner city, lack such cooling comfort. For their occupants, "a long hot summer" remains an uncomfortable reality.
It's my guess that air conditioning played a bigger role than many realize in Washington's postwar growth--and in the willingness of Congress to meet throughout the year, without a long summer recess.