This week’s question: How do you keep cool during the dog days of summer?
When I was a kid, growing up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, we didn’t have air conditioning; no one I knew had central A/C. There were a few window units around and seems that we had one for a short time, but it was useless with the rest of the house hot and all the running-in-and-out that we kids did.
We lived in an apartment in Maryland when I was very young and I remember it being very hot at night. I am sure it was cooler than the day, but in the daylight we were outside with all the kids and on the playground, and not lying on a hot bed. Sometimes we’d go to beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, (where I nearly drowned, but that is another story.)
We moved to the Virginia side of D.C. and it seemed hotter somehow. There, we had a small house and I had wading pools where I would go until my shoulders blistered. When my brother pretended to fall into my pool, (several times) and broke it, I remember putting our garden hose on ‘spray’ and put it in my mother’s umbrella clothesline. I danced under the outside shower!
When cousins would come to visit, we’d sometimes sleep in my brother’s pup tent in the yard, or we’d clean a spot in the storage shed that was attached to the house and sleep there. Of course, “sleep” may be stretching truth of our nocturnal activities. My cousins still talk about the “Orange Freezes” that a local drive-in, (TOPS, which was the precursor to GINO”S , then KFC) served, and my mother sending my more-than-willing teenage sister to pick some up for us on very hot nights. Of course, they came back late, as my sister would not get back quickly, since the drive-in was a local “hang-out”. We didn’t mind, since we had a good excuse for staying up late!
We moved to a big, old house later on which was surrounded by big, old trees and it was not bad there in the summer, but after we left there we found that air conditioning was vital. By then, the heat was unbearable. People complained that we were “spoiled” since no one ever had it before but between the grit in the air from pollution, the lack of shade from so many trees being torn down and the reflection/residual heat from all of the added pavements and buildings rose the misery index much higher than in previous generations.
When I moved out west, the lack of humidity made all but being in the direct sun quite nice. The majority of the time spent there was in a northern Denver suburb where I could see glaciers from my bedroom window year ‘round. We had a flow-through from our bedroom through our sons’ room if we opened the windows and doors. I never used my a/c there. With the average temp drop of at least 40 degrees F every night, I simply avoided the upstairs in the heat of the hottest days and opened the windows at night. On some of the hottest days, we would drive to the mountains where the temperature drops as you climb. We’d start out in our warm-weather clothes, then add a sweater, then a good jacket…and you’d better have on long pants! We always kept jackets in our cars and an extra sweat suit for the kids, even when just staying in town.
I have to say, I miss that evening coolness.
For the last twenty-one years, I have been in Kentucky and the humidity is in full-swing here! With my bothersome health issues, I can’t deal with it without A/C. The car I brought from Denver didn’t have it and I nearly died here driving around in that thing. I simply couldn’t take trips out of town in the heat.
In cooler mornings and evening, we shut the A/C down in the house and open the windows, but I put it right back on as soon as the mercury starts to climb. I have a wall oven that heats the house nicely in cooler weather; I’ll pop in a quick batch of biscuits, cookies or a chicken just to warm the house on a cool Autumn or Spring morning, but once the weather gets hot, the oven is used for storage. I’m not paying to have the A/C and oven battle it out for top spot on my electric bill.
Batches of hot stews and soups which warm the house along with baked goods and roasts are just not made during hot weather. Grilled meats, stir-frys, salads and light vegetable dishes are on the menu. Goodies are store-bought or something I baked in the cooler weather and froze. (We ate Christmas cookies last week!)
When I the weather is cold and I wouldn’t mind warming up with a little extra heat from ironing, it seems that few of my clothes need to be pressed. But when it’s hot, I go for cool cotton blouses which need to be ironed and I swelter. Iron irony.
So , here I am in my thin cotton shirt, sipping iced tea typing away…with the newly fixed A/C blowing nicely, thank you, thank you very much.