What happened to National Relaxation Week?

  • LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library
  • In a different time and place, all Americans received a week to relax. Preferably in a movie theater.

One of the glass museum cases in the LaBudde Special Collections room in the Miller Nichols Library on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus features a “subway car”-style poster clearly intended for display outside a 1940s movie theater. It advertises a holiday that one rarely hears about anymore: National Relaxation Week.

In the hectic and hot days of summer in postwar Kansas City, one of the few places to relax in the icy coolness of air conditioning was a movie theater, particularly one of the elaborate movie palaces downtown — the Empire, the Midland, the Tower, the Paramount — which had all installed expensive air-cooling systems to lure patrons out of their sweltering homes and into paid balcony seats. (Air-cooled movie theaters date back to 1911 when New York’s Folies Bergere theater advertised its “air-conditioned” auditorium; in those early days, the process often involved industrial-sized fans blowing over blocks of ice). Kansas City’s Betz Air Conditioning Corp. was responsible for installing an air-cooling system using refrigerated water in many Midwestern theaters, including the Massac Theater in Metropolis, Illinois.

There’s still a National Relaxation Day — August 15 — but whatever happened to National Relaxation Week?

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