Summer’s Coming

If y’all know anything about the South, you have to know that the incredible mixture of heat and humidity during the summer can incapacitate folks with weak constitutions. People die from the heat index here. I was 11 when we got our first air-conditioner. Before then, we had windows. And fans. Lots of fans. Lots of fans moving hot, wet air through the house. Almost no one in my neighborhood had air-conditioning. I used to think that my cousin Johnny, who lived down the street, was so lucky that his dad, my Uncle JP, was a service technician for the only appliance store in town. Johnny had air-conditioning. We just had fans. Lots of fans.

I could walk down the street at 5 in the afternoon and tell you what almost everyone in the neighborhood was having for supper. To this day, the wonderful aroma of fried potatoes & onions still makes me salivate like Pavlov’s dogs… Most “exhaust” fans were located in the kitchen, where the house was hottest. The “intake” fan would typically be located in the room where the family would congregate the most. For most folks, that was the living room because “mill houses” didn’t have dens. It was also typical for the intake fan to blow towards the normal sitting location of the man of the house… “Dad’s place.” For Gawd’s sake, everyone’s dad had to be kept as cool as possible. I learned early-on that getting on my dad’s bad side during the summer required long pants – a thick switch will do more than make welts on bare legs. It will “cut the blood out of you,” as we used to say in the country. Most people these days call it child abuse. In 1960, it was just a negative consequence in a working-class, behavior modification program. Painful, but highly effective.

It’s a fact that heat contributes to violent behavior. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the history of riots. For example, the temperature of LA during the Watts Riot of 1965 was in the 90’s. The riot lasted six days, killed 34 people and injured hundreds, and destroyed hundreds of buildings. Compare that to the Great Inuit Riot in Anchorage in 1964. Oh wait, that was an earthquake in Anchorage in 1964, not a riot. You’ll never hear of an “Eskimo” riot… ever. You’ll also not find many Inuits living below latitude 40, which is roughly the Mason-Dixon Line.

It’s just too hot to hunt walrus in the South…

Buford in 1959

Buford in 1959


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  • Susan Byrd

    You have a way with words, my friend!!

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