Chilling on These Summer “Dog Days”
By Jeff Salter
How do I feel about the heat of summer? Am I able to stay reasonably cool? How?
Before I say anything else, let me clarify that I’d rather be too warm than too cold — except when I’m sleeping (I find it difficult to sleep when it’s hot). Let me add that about a day before I composed this blog, I saw a weather map showing vast areas of the U.S. in triple digit temperatures… some of them also in drought conditions. So I’m writing from a vantage point of feeling very blessed, weather-wise.
That said, let me approach these issues of this HOT topic from four different angles:
As a Kid
Born in MS, I had also lived in IL and GA before moving to southeast Louisiana for first grade. The summers in Covington were quite hot and humid and we didn’t have air-conditioning until, I believe, my junior year of high school. Summers were hot, sticky, and rife with skeeters and chiggers. Our large kitchen had a huge exhaust fan which helped cool that space, but the bedrooms were stifling and I always found it difficult to sleep, despite both screened windows being wide open.
To cool off, we went to Red Bluff, a portion of the Bogue Falaya River way out of town, or to the city park (a different stretch of the Bogue Falaya). Plus, we could frolic – though it’s a stretch to say “swim” (since the water was so shallow) – at Mandeville’s south shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Not far from that site was Fountainbleu State Park, which also had a designated swimming area. At some point the city opened a municipal pool and we’d bike there with friends or siblings.
But our all-time favorite swimming – which was perhaps two or maybe three times per season – was going with our dad to visit one of his friends who had a private pool. Our hostess was always gracious and wonderfully hospitable.
In the late 1950s, we’d never even heard of a “water park” and if I’d ever had the good fortune to visit one, I’m sure I would’ve thought I’d died and entered heaven.
In the Arctic
As a U.S. Air Force enlisted man at the tender age of not-yet-22, I left my wife and young son in LA and went to Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland for a year of “remote” duty. Situated some 700 miles above the Arctic Circle and about 930 miles from the North Pole, Thule was not a place you worried about “cooling off” even in the summers.
Thule summers had their own challenge, namely some 10-12 weeks of “midnight sun” where the sun never went below the horizon. [In mid-winter the opposite occurred — some 10-12 weeks with no sunshine at all! ] But even in the dead of summer, the temperature was never uncomfortable. Only on the hottest days do I recall not wearing a jacket of some sort.
Grown, in Louisiana
Even after my separation from the military and return to LA, I still did not have air-conditioning in my dwelling until shortly before we moved to Baton Rouge for grad school. And none of our vehicles had A/C until a second hand sedan we got from Denise’s folks in the early 1980s — so summer travel was always awful.
As a kid, I had not appreciated the extent to which LA humidity – often near 100% – can combine with searing heat to make you miserable beyond description. I remember many summer days when just walking from the parking lot to my office (in Shreveport) caused my clothing to be soaked with sweat.
During one of those miserable hot and humid summers, while we had company staying over, our A/C compressor “froze up” and we were without A/C for a couple of days. It was during one of those heat waves when nearly everybody had HVAC units dying on them; we were fortunate to have a maintenance contract so the technician made our service call several days before he could get around to other frantic callers.
Retired, in Kentucky
Not having spent much time in KY prior to my relocation here in August of 2006 (after early retirement from my library job in Shreveport), I really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find the summers – even though they can be rather “heat-ful” never felt as awful as even the coolest summers in LA. That’s chiefly because of significantly lower humidity.
When we built our house here, I made sure we got adequate tonnage in our heat pumps to handle both the summer heat and the winter cold. And, for the most part, those units have been able to keep us comfortable.
I don’t do much swimming or water-related stuff these days. In fact, I don’t spend much time outdoors at all, so my chief coping mechanism for keeping cool is to stay indoors! One odd thing about the summer weather here — the public buildings are often so chilly during summer that I have to carry a jacket with me for when I’m inside.
What about you? Do you enjoy summer weather? Any particular activity which helps keep you cool?
[ JLS # 240 ]