Summer: Once Upon A Time

Growing up in the 1930s in the country with hardly any of the modern conveniences taken for granted today, I do not particularly remember being a victim of the hot summers.  For one thing, we did not have the constant reminder of just how uncomfortable and even dangerous we were supposed to be because of the hot weather. Too, there were no on-demand 24/7 weather reports available.  We knew that when June came it was naturally going to be hot, but we and no one else had ever heard of a heat index , sun block, dew point or having the media to remind us of the dangers of overexposure to the blistering hot sun.  Common sense prevailed.
But we did have ways to adjust to the soaring temperatures, and we did have a little-used thermometer on the back porch, one with an advertisement stenciled on the support case.
The principal methods of dealing with the blazing sun were to remain in the shade whenever possible and if that were not possible, then the shirts came off and also the shoes if indeed anyone wore them in the summertime. .  No one knew much about sun blocks, sunscreen factors and most people were acutely unaware of the potential skin damage to sun overexposure.  Most thought a tan was highly desirable kind of like those today when cherish the results of the time spent in a tanning bed
Going to the river was the ultimate in escaping the stifling heat.  But there was a price to pay for sneaking-away boys like me.  The river (Little Pee Dee) was several miles away, we had no transportation, and so the only way to reach the Promised Land was to walk despite the fact that all the roads leading there were unpaved and in places were very sandy meaning walking on them barefooted bordered on being painful.  Then there were the sand spurs.
I remember that on summer Sunday afternoons, my father would load up the car and we would ride around the community usually checking out the crops, the cotton, corn and tobacco fields mostly.  The only air conditioning was to lower all the windows to feel the hot breezes passing through.  I recall on some of the early car models, there was a small adjustable front side window whose angle could be changed to allow the wind to be directed to the front seat passengers.  After the tour of the community, we would usually come home and my Father would prepare a cooling drink.  We had an ice box that almost always had ice in it on the weekends.  He would take the ice pick  and chip away pieces of ice and place them in a large half gallon jar then add some home produced milk, a little sugar and some vanilla then a minute or so of shaking the contents would produce, of course, a milk shake.  It was refreshing mostly because it was cold; it was hastily consumed by thirsty boys whose taste buds worked perfectly in any kind of weather.
At church you raised the windows, but you were still at the mercy of the heat plus the heat generated by the bodies of the members of the congregation.
There was one remedy: hand fans were usually available courtesy of the local funeral home.
The rural church I once attended had no hand pump to supply water so if you got thirsty while worshiping, good luck until you made it back home.  There were rare cooler moments during the summer at this Baptist institution because generally that was the time for the baptisms of the new members carried out at the nearby river.
Finally, summer was a time for sitting on the front  porch with the family, watching the few cars pass by, seeing the fireflies put on a show and watching  the sun go down before calling it a day, finally giving in to peaceful slumber.
“When Time. Who steals our years away
Shall steal our pleasure too,
The mem’ry of the past will stay,
And half our joys renew.”  Thomas Moore
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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