Hot Jobs Contrast With Cooler Summer In Louisville

As I sweated through this summer, the newsroom decided I should I set out to document how people in high-temperature jobs get through a sweltering Louisville summer.

What about the folks who pave roads? Or spend days on a hot roof, or sweat it out next to a huge oven? Perhaps they had some tips or tricks to get through the summer.

But as the summer went on, I began to suspect that 2014′s might not have been the best for this investigation.

The National Weather Service confirmed my suspicions. John Denman, a meteorologist of 14 years at the NWS, told me July was relatively cool, with the average monthly temperature about 3.5 degrees below normal. (Here’s more from the weather service from a national perspective.)

Still, that doesn’t mean workers in high-temp jobs didn’t get through the summer without much sweat.

Roofers schooled me on the importance of taking breaks from the sun. 

“On days when it’s about … 95 degrees … we’ll have them stop at about 2 when it starts to get really hot, and if it cools down during the nighttime we’ll have them finish as much as they can before dark,” said Jeff Kennedy, general manager of HKC Roofing and Construction.

On those days, employees can be seen taking frequent and lengthy breaks, wearing two layers of covering clothing, and carrying two gallons of water with them at all times.

Next, I stopped by Flame Run Glass Studio—where it can reach 100 to 110 degrees inside, said Brook White, founder of the studio.

“Whatever the temperature is outside, we’re 10 to 15  degrees hotter inside,” Said White. “We keep a furnace with molten glass at 2,000 degrees, 24 hours a day, that’s what our working material is.”

Flame Run will either stop production as soon as the day heats up or switch over to less complex pieces.

Alex Rickel, an artist at Flame Run, said his favorite way to beat the heat was to freeze Gatorade bottles in the morning and drink from them as the ice melts. They go through a few of those every day.

Just like Flame Run, Stoneworks, a pottery production studio, ends its production in the early afternoon.

Stoneworks production area is not air-conditioned. They rely on small personal fans at the work stations of the employees. Like every other place I visited, Stoneworks’ employees emphasized the importance of hydration.

Employee Amy McDaniel swears by draping wet towels over her neck. Lyndsay Biggs insisted that rolling up her sleeves is what keeps her cool during the summer.

Although I anticipated the huge kilns to provide a great deal of heat, Stoneworks’ kilns are heavily insulated. During my time there, the only way I could tell that one of them was running was by looking through a small opening at the flames.

 My last stop on my tour of hot jobs was Kizito Cookies on Bardstown Road.

Elizabeth Kizito is often seen carrying around a basket of cookies at Louisville Bats home games, which explains why she was not at the shop at 4 a.m. like her son, Yesero and husband, Todd Bartlett.

Todd and Yesero, get up every morning to begin baking at 4 a.m. When I joined them at 4:30 a.m., they had already completed most of the muffins that would be delivered later that same morning.

Unlike the other places I visited, Todd and Yesero do not begin baking that early in order to beat the heat, but rather to meet that day’s orders that go out for delivery no later than 7:30 a.m. Although the bakery gets mighty toasty, they recently had air-conditioning installed. That helps a lot, Todd said.

“Whenever we need a break for the oven we stand in downstream of the draft,” said Todd.

Around 7:30 a.m. the kitchen temperature begins to climb. By 8 a.m., Elizabeth Kizito arrives to start working on the cookies that will be baked the next day.

She also has one of the harder jobs in the store—she never misses a Bats home game. No matter the temperature outside, no matter the weather, she’s there.

The only break from the heat she gets at the game is if she decides to take a moment to sit down. Otherwise, she will be walking around the stands selling cookies from a basket no her head, moving her feet up and down the aisles.

For the most part, exploring all these hot jobs led me to believe the old adage was true: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Eleanor Hasken was a visiting fellow for Louisville Public Media this summer.

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