Chuck Brooks: Memories, like the heat, rise
Well, we survived the first hottest stretch of the season in many a year. Two weeks ago was incredible. When did we last have four days of 90 degrees and one reaching 100?
There's a line from a Neil Simon play where the main character describes the heat as "...hot, Africa hot." I've used that line, and last week was deserving of it (even though I've never been to Africa).
I said to someone recently how grateful I was to the person/people who created the technology marvel we know as central air. If you're old enough, do you remember how it was back in the 1960s before central air were two words we used together? I do.
However, I don't remember much about the heat when I was in our first of two homes. I was there until I was 10 years old. I refer to that house as the Maple Street house. Then we moved down one block and the next house was the Haskell Street house. I remember summers there all too vividly.
That house had a front porch, and on that front porch there was a porch swing. Who doesn't remember the front porch swing from their childhood if you lived in the '60s? We used it many times.
I remember in the heat of summer when our mother was carrying the last of the line, our two brothers, she'd go out there to get some relief from a house that was baking from the inside. I can also recall her sitting outside on the upstairs porch we had as she couldn't sleep due to the heat. She'd literally plop herself down on the tin floor. Carrying the twins was hard on her.
How would we get cool in the early '60s? The same way most people still do. Water.
We'd run through the sprinkler system. We'd go to the city beach. We'd swim in the lake behind our home. We'd take out our boat and let the air on the lake cool us off, even though our motor was low horsepower.
What we couldn't do was cool off by central air. By the late '60s, only new homes came with central air. However, window units were now becoming more affordable. I'm thinking the Brookses finally got their first window unit in the late '60s or early '70s. My grandmother actually bought it for us. And it was a lifesaver. or at least one part of the house.
The window unit was in a room just off our living room and directly outside our parents'
bedroom. I can remember standing in front of it on the hottest of days, just to cool off for a bit. Everybody did that actually.
The family room in the back of the house still had to use floor model fans for relief, and they weren't even close to achieving what the air conditioner could.
How many of you put those floor model fans in windows to draw the hot air out of the house? We did. Our upstairs was an oven. And that's where all the kids' bedrooms were as well as our grandmother's.
And, of course, there couldn't be a fan in every window. It would go in the hallway where there was a window. I didn't think it ever really did much good, and we'd all be in bed with only a sheet on us, if that. Hot was hot and often there was simply no escaping it.
I can also remember at family functions, the ladies were famous for turning anything they could find into a fan, and they'd sit in their lawn chairs, furiously waving the device in front of their faces. They'd pull away the collar of their dresses and continue to create a breeze where none existed.
My mother was not a great drinker, but on hot and humid days, she always would say a beer would hit the spot. I never quite reached that level of insight. Gimme a good ol' cold, icy glass of water. That did the trick for me.
Hot summer nights came with a soundtrack in our town. Mostly I remember being able to hear our raceway park on certain nights, the sounds of the cars going round and round the track, heat after heat. The park was several miles out of town, but that didn't keep the sounds at bay. This went on all night sometimes.
It was just another sound of summer when the heat seemed to be at its most intense. We'd hear the races until they ended because no one could sleep because due to the excessive heat!
The other sound I remember was that of the people across the lake from us. It was a street of bars and people would be outside, of course, opting for a crowded tavern. It always seemed the sound carried across the water better on hotter evenings.
I used to swear I could whisper something from our pier, and someone across the lake would hear me.
It's summer and thank God for central air! And if our recent hot spell was any indication, we're gonna be real glad this summer we have it. If not, run through a sprinkler. Or have a beer.