Thursday was a scorching hot, humid day. The grandkids cooled off in a small inflatable pool. I sat nearby, watching and wondering how they could keep running around in the heat. As I pondered the question, I remembered a summer nearly a half century ago.
It was after 9:00 PM but the heat of the day lingered. On the cherry end table, a small fan droned, clicking as it oscillated side to side. Becalmed in a July heat wave, a useless breeze ruffled the window curtains. Outside the faint sounds of friends playing kickball, gave way to moms calling them in. Although it was time for bed the sky was still light – sunset came late in our time zone. We left the little fan and climbed the stairs to our rooms, where we had no fans. As we settled into bed, the soft breeze provided little relief. Cocooned in our sweat-damp bed sheets, and serenaded by the incessant drumming of cicadas, sleep was slow to come. It was a typical summer evening.
In the 60’s, few folks had air-conditioned homes. Some lucky families had a window unit, which partially cooled a room or two. The heat was just something with which we learned to deal. Kids played outside, not because our parents wanted us to exercise, rather we went outside to avoid the heat and out of boredom.
We had three TV Channels- 6, 8 and 13. If the weather was right, we could bring in Channel 4. Outside of Lunchtime Theater, and Saturday morning cartoons, there was little children’s programming. The Soaps ruled daytime television. That left us with two options: mom’s soaps, or outside. Of course, we typically picked going outside, besides if we stayed in, mom would find us a chore.
Nearing Labor Day, back-to-school shopping commenced. We purchased supplies for the new year: paper, three-ring binders, pencil box, pencils, and erasers. Perhaps we would get some colored pencils or some pens. Inevitably, the trip ended with the dreaded clothes shopping.
“Try on these cute pants?” Mom would ask. “Come out; let me see how they fit. Oh, here, look at this beautiful shirt,” she would add, holding out a hideous green shirt. We would sulk into the fitting room clutching pants and shirt that no average kid would wear.
“Mom, can’t I just get some jeans and a couple of t-shirts?”
“What and look like you come from the wrong side of the tracks?” Mom would declare, opening the fitting room door on the half-dressed child.
“Mom! Close the door.”
I always wanted to ask which was the wrong side of the tracks; we had lived north of the tracks in second grade and then in third grade we lived south of them. Luckily, Dad had taught me to keep my mouth shut in such sensitive situations. The adult male has a nearly universal loathing of shopping, the cause of which, I’m sure, we can trace to these childhood traumas.
Shopping completed, we celebrated Labor Day as our last day of freedom; school started immediately after that. Summer was over, yet the heat lingered into late September. So there we sat, thirty kids locked in a small room. A room with two small windows and perhaps a large box fan in the corner. By midday, our room was an oven; as we worked, our papers stuck to our sweat covered arms.
We all wanted to be somewhere else, perhaps an inflatable pool.
David L Dahl.
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