I don’t know about you, but I’m glad summer is behind us. I found this year’s summer heat and humidity oppressive. It reminded me of South Carolina summers when I was young.
From June well through early September, it was always hot in the Upstate. I mean the kind of South Carolina heat and humidity that would grind away at you and caused tempers to flare. Too hot to mow the grass–too hot to wash the car. Of course, there were those who had no choice. No work? No pay–some things never change.
One of the old men who helped out at Dad’s furniture store used to say, “hound dogs don’t come out from under the porch on a day like this. “
Very few homes had air conditioning, and ours was not one of them. There was a window fan in my parents’ room, down the hall. By closing the back part of the house off, opening a window in my room and setting the fan to blow out, some slightly cooler night air was brought through my room and on through theirs. It helped some at night, but not at all during the heat of the day.
I was always trying to come up with something better. I found an old fan at the furniture store. It had come out of an oil heater and looked like two hair dryers stuck together. It was quiet and powerful. There was a window at the foot of my bed, so by reversing how the bed was made up, my head would be next to the window. The next thing to do was put the fan where it would bring in more night air. It helped a bit, but only got me thinking of what else I could try.
How about filling a wooden box with some ice? My fan could blow across the ice and then onto my face. You have probably already seen my problem—the ice. Our small freezer compartment held only two ice trays. Even if I could save ice all day, I had no place to keep it. I finally gave up and just counted on the window fan.
The one real drawback to the window fan, was when the surrounding cotton fields were sprayed for boll weevil. The spray, a fine dust, was used on calm nights so it lingered in the air. It smelled terrible. Lord only knows what we were really breathing.
During the heat of the day there were few ways to cool off. At home, when my brother and I could not talk our mother into taking us to a swimming pool, we would resort to squirting the hose on each other. The most fun was when our dad would bring home large cardboard boxes from his store. We would use them to build forts. When my fort was finished, I would get inside, and my brother would try to drive me out with the hose. Then it would be my turn. Our home was on a well, so we could not play this too long.
There were three public pools in the area. Only one was a real concrete pool with clear filtered water. It was owned by a Mr. Suddles whose main business was well drilling. His pool was called “Suddles Puddle.” It was a nice large pool with a deep end for diving. The water was very clear, so we could dive for coins or have competitions to see who could find other treasures.
There were no inflatable swans or dolphins. We had black inner tubes, generally with three or four patches, bought from a tire store for a buck or two. You could just float around on them, but it would not be long before a friend dove under and flipped you over–starting a splashing war.
If you were really clever, you learned to let just enough air out of your tube so you could fold it in half. The folded tube was not easy to mount, but when you did, it was like riding a horse. We, of course, had fun trying to throw each other off in our pitched water battles.
The other two pools were really just sand bottom ponds with bulkheads. Never clear, but cool. These two had shade trees for the mothers to sit under while they watched their children and gossiped. There was not a bit of shade at “Suddles Puddle”, not sure how the mothers stood it, but that is what mothers did to protect their children at play.
There was one summer or maybe two when all pools were closed because of Polio. No one really knew how or where it was contracted, but pools were suspect.
Another way to cool off was to go to a movie. There may have been more air-conditioned businesses, but the only one I remember was the town’s only movie theater–The Grand. An afternoon movie cost 11 cents.
It was also possible to cool off by going to church. The largest church in town was the First Baptist. Even at an early age I found their sign out front amusing. It read:
Pastor – James B. Picket
Sunday School – 9:00am
Sundays Service – 11:00am. & 6:00pm
Wednesday – 6:00pm
John 3-16. “For God so loved the world, ………..”
I wonder which was the bigger draw, the message, or the cool air?
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