The past few days here in Tennessee have been unusually warm with the high temperatures being in the 90-93 deg range. I noticed the temperature when I was working in my garden. Otherwise, as I move from an air conditioned home to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned office I scarcely know what the outside temperature is.
However, I did start remembering what a typical summer in Heavener when I was a young boy was like. In a word, it was HOT! But I don’t remember the heat bothering us too badly.
Classrooms at the West Side Elementary School were not air conditioned. If we were lucky, the teacher might bring in an oscillating fan that would stir the hot air and dry some of the sweat off our young bodies. Recess was always a time for vigorous play and we would return to the classrooms liberally wet.
Saturday was the day that I was tasked to mow the lawn (we called it a yard)—with a real push mower and a small hand scythe (we called it a sickle) to lop off the crabgrass spikes. I would usually begin before the dew was gone and that made things doubly difficult. The mower would often clog up and the wheels would just skid on the wet grass. I started early so I could be finished in time to go to the movie at the Liberty. Most often there was a double feature with a weekly segment of one of the popular series such as “Rocketman”. It cost a dime to get in, a Coke was a nickel, and a really big Baby Ruth candy bar was a dime. Those three items totally consumed the quarter I had gotten for mowing the lawn. And the theater had REFRIGERATED AIR!! Not just “air conditioned” but REFRIGERATED! On the way from our house on the Independence Road (now Avenue I) I always entered Tate’s store from the back alley and walked through to the front because it was REFRIGERATED too. I think the movies started about 11:30 or 12:00 and lasted till about 3:30 or 4:00. Then it was back into the heat and the mile-long walk back home.
As I went into high school and started playing football I came to highly value the window fan my Dad had installed in our dining room. It was one of the old swamp coolers, and pushed a lot of air out. After I got home from practice I would pull three dining room chairs together, drink a quart of milk, and lie in front of that fan for thirty minutes or so. That really restored a tired body.
Nighttime was an extension of the hot weather. I was lucky. My bedroom was on the corner of our house so I had two windows. I had a small window fan that I put in one window blowing out. With the other window open, the fan pulled a steady stream of hot air over me. By morning, when the temperature might have dropped all the way to 80 degrees, the air was at 100% humidity. But it felt good.
On those rare occasions when we got a decent rain (without an accompanying lightning show) I would play in the ditch in front of our house. The water from the hill west of town rushed down that ditch and made an excellent place to build temporary dams. When there was a lightning storm I liked to sit on our front porch and watch—but Mother usually made me come in.
Now, if the temperature in my house gets up to 78 degrees I feel like I am in a sauna. But, I’ll bet I could get used to hot weather again in a few weeks. On the other hand, I don’t want to have that option exercised.