A continuing tale of life in the boonies


Record heat in Rochester

No. 278

It sure was hot – but that hot?

ROCHESTER – Last Wednesday was an absolute scorcher of a day, and folks driving down Union Street would glance at Charlie Hervey’s digital thermometer for confirmation of what they already knew – that eggs could be fried on the sidewalk.

Then they would do a double take – and if they weren’t on a cell phone, rub their eyes with a free hand! The temperature on the ever-reliable Hervey’s Tire thermometer displayed an incredible 139 degrees Fahrenheit!

Well, before too many people get to writing in their diaries and telling their grandchildren to remember this day, and calling up the Guinness Book of World Records, read on – for what follows is a sort of apology.

Last Wednesday was definitely a hot ‘un, and getting hotter, when I called up Charlie from The Rochester Times office and asked him to alert us if the thermometer got over the 100 degree mark, so that we could snap a photograph.

I also inquired if it was possible to spray some shaving cream around Gus the Bulldog’s jaws, to add a little atmosphere and tension to the picture, but Charlie wasn’t so keen on that.

Anyway, about 2:25 p.m., Charlie called to say the thermometer was reading 107 degrees! After wrapping up a story, I walked up to Hervey’s Tire, only to find that, in the intervening 15 minutes, the temperature had peaked, and had now fallen back to a measly 105 degrees.

"We have to record that 107 for posterity, Charlie. How about if you gave the measurement gizmo on the back of the thermometer a little touch with your blowtorch?" I asked.

"Sure," Charlie readily agreed, perhaps trying to compensate for nixing the pseudo-rabid Gus shot.

He strode over to a garage bay and returned with a gas torch, which he lit and applied to the metal sensor behind the digital display.

"How’s that?" he asked.

"Still at 105."

Charlie re-applied the heat.

"Still 105," I shouted.

He gave the sensor a third blast, and the digital display roared into life.

I tried to shoot a picture at 107 degrees, but due to a time delay in the camera, the temperature display had reached 109 degrees when the shutter clicked.

Then the thermometer took on a life of its own, racing through the hundred and teens and into the hundred and twenties.

At 135 degrees Fahrenheit, Rochester broke the United States all-time high temperature of 134 degrees set on July 10, 1913, in Death Valley, Calif.

And by the time it crested at an incredible 139 degrees, Hervey’s Tire thermometer had captured the world record from Al Aziziyah, in Libya, which had claimed 136 degrees back on Sept. 13, 1922.

Almost every motorist cruising down Union Street checks out Charlie Hervey’s thermometer. And those who did so last Wednesday afternoon obviously thought they had lived through an important historical event.

To these folks, I tender my apologies, but, hey, 107 degrees is nothing to be sniffed at, even if there isn’t a picture to prove it.

July 11, 2002


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