How Belk kept shoppers cool before air conditioning

“[In the late 1800s] fan systems — steam-driven, then electric — became the norm for the well-dressed department store. But they offered little in the way of cooling…. Belk Brothers of Charlotte, North Carolina, maintained a barrel filled with ice water at their store’s front entrance; five tin cups were tethered to the barrel for customer convenience.”

— From “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything” by Salvatore Basile (2014)


How has the South changed Cash’s ‘Mind’?

Q. What would [W.J.] Cash find most surprising about today’s South?
A. The first would be the widespread acceptance of interracial marriage, which in 1941 would have been totally taboo to white Southerners — at least in the social sense, though of course in practical terms, interracial relationships have always been a fact of life in the South.
“The other is immigration. For a bunch of reasons, the South never knew any significant immigration until the 1980s, when the Mexican migration began. Cash spent much of his newspaper career working for papers in North Carolina, where today nearly 10 percent of the population is Hispanic, and where you can see flyers advertising Mexican bands stuck in the windows of the local Curves franchise. I think that would astonish him.
“And universal air conditioning!
— From “Everything Familiar Is About to Disappear: Tracy Thompson Talks About the South” by John Williams in the New York Times (April 3)
Thompson’s recent book, “The New Mind of the South,” devotes most of a chapter to Hispanic teenagers in Randolph County.