HEAT WAVE

Note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

In the silence of my office, the fan on my laptop whirred. I was in the throes of a Northern Florida summer. The sound brought memories of the early 1950s before air-conditioning was widely available for home use.

On sultry evenings, Mother shook her head at cooking. “It’ll heat up the kitchen –and the house!”

Instead, Mother, Daddy and I bit into sandwiches, crunched pickles and chewed potato chips. We never have chips in the cupboard. Mother must have brought them on her way home.

I grinned at the food. It’s just like a picnic!

Mother poured a Coca Cola over ice. But, Daddy and I drank milk –as usual. He always grinned about our dinner beverage saying, “It’s good to drink milk, Junior! Builds strong bones!”

After clearing the table, Mother and I followed Daddy out onto the front porch. The over-warm house was empty except for Bootie, our cocker spaniel. In hot weather, she retreated to lie on the bathroom linoleum under the toilet tank. Even there, her pink tongue lolled between pants.

Mother and Daddy sat on our swing, but he also brought out our big black iron oscillating fan. Its cord and an extension snaked across the porch, under the screen door and into the house to reach an electric outlet. Humming, the caged black blades rotated and also turned from side-to-side.

Those humid evenings bonded our neighborhood. Avoiding overheated houses, folks took to their front porches. Some people unfolded lawn chairs or perched on their steps, but many had porch swings like ours. Several neighboring grown-ups took to swinging, enjoying its small breeze.

More distant neighbors who lived on nearby Seventh or Eighth Streets strolled sidewalks. Preferring a walk to porch-sitting, they ambled by.

My parents knew ‘most everyone. Daddy called, “Evening, Henry! Warm enough for you?”

Mother lifted her voice, “Hello Sarah! Good to see you.”

If a couple stopped, Daddy and Mother got off the swing, walked out to the sidewalk and stood near the curb talking to them.

I didn’t know neighbors’ first names, but could repeat many last names. The Caseys lived on the Eighth Street corner of Douglas St. and Snyder’s house was on the Seventh St. corner. In fact, there was a cluster of 3 Snyders: parents and two sons lived next-door to one-another.

The elder Synders’ youngest boys were cousins to and friendly with my next-door playmate, Karen. Sometimes she, her cousin Terry, and I played Monopoly at her house. Too hot to play inside and too many pieces to carry out to the porch!

But one hot spell, I put up a card table and dragged out folding chairs, a Tripoli game’s table cover and a deck of cards. The three of us played the game. I liked the part where card-holders took turns playing the next card in order of hearts, clubs, spades or diamonds. Fun!

Those games were short. Nothing like Monopoly! That board game in Karen’s spare room often went on for a week or more!

Hot evenings, Karen, and I also played 2-handed Flinch as we sat on her front steps. Other nights we ran around the grass catching fireflies to put in a clean mayonnaise jar.

One Sunday, a comic in The Chicago Tribune’s, “Believe It or Not” had a drawing of doctors performing emergency night surgery using the light from jars of fireflies. I never caught that many!

A few hot nights Mother and I talked Daddy into driving us out to the A and W Root Beer stand for a frosty mug of the sweet drink.

1950s A &W Stand in Goshen, Indiana

1950s A &W Stand in Goshen, Indiana

Gripping the icy mug helped me feel cooler, but I could barely drink a “small.” The cold stuff shrinks my stomach!

Street lights glowed by the time the Buick rolled back home. By then, most neighbors had given up strolling and also left their porches.

Inside, Daddy carried the big black fan upstairs. He and Mother opened all the windows.

As I undressed, I heard neighborhood boys playing kick-the-can in the alley next to our house.

I pulled on my pink baby-doll pjs and plopped on my bed –not even using a cover sheet.

Bootsie stayed under the toilet tank all night.

Memories of sultry nights without air-conditioning brought a smile and blessed me.

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

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