I was thirty-five years old before I lived in a house that had central air conditioning. Yes, we’d lived in some fairly nice homes but central ac was just not very common.
We knew how to cope with the heat, though. We opened windows; closed blinds when the sun beamed through; wore cotton clothes; and cooked early in the day. If at all possible, you did not want to use the oven, thus heat up the kitchen. This resulted in our eating dinner fairly late during summer months. We did have an old ac unit in the window of our master bedroom. Our kids most often slept in our room on very hot nights.
My dad had a white, linen suit which he wore during hot weather. It had two pairs of pants and he would change into the second, pressed pair when the first looked rumpled. He was a big man and preferred tailor-made suits because clothes off the rack rarely fit him properly. So his suits most often did have two pairs of pants. He never wore short sleeve dress shirts nor did my husband. Of course, both wore sportshirts. Lots of southern men had white suits for summer and some wore seersucker suits – just not my men. They most often wore white shoes with the suits.
Do you own an ice pick? If you are under about 40 yrs old, do you even know what one is? I needed to punch a hole in something, recently, but one was not to be found in this house. We used to buy big chunks of ice, at the ice house, place it in a tin tub to chop up for the hand turned ice cream freezer. Nowadays, we still buy ice for parties etc but it is already chopped and clean. I wonder how many of those tin - aluminum- ice trays with the wiggly metal inserts, that made cubes, I have empted and refilled?! Woe be unto the fellow who used the ice without refilling the tray.
Years ago, before Bruce was born, we were invited out to play bridge with friends, on an extremely hot Saturday night…. Again, no air conditioning, of course. For an early, quick, dinner, I made huge vegetable salads for Tony and me. The salads had a little spring lettuce, chopped carrots, tomatoes, scallions, cukes, peppers, cheese cubes, and Vienna sausages [which we liked]. I served them with homemade thousand island dressing. I also made grilled cheese sandwiches. Tony enjoyed his and polished it off. Later as soon as we arrived at our hosts’ home, Tony went around eating all the peanuts and little candies. He explained that he had not had dinner and was hungry. I could have snatched him bald headed and stomped him! All the women agreed with me – but the men understood! Years later, I finally got him housebroken but it sho took some doing!
During extremely hot weather, we like main course salads but I learned to make them with something fairly substantial. One of our favorites was shrimp salad, sometimes served over a vine ripened, quartered tomato. I make chicken salad the easy way, just using poached chicken breasts, cubed, finely chopped celery, and mayo thinned with a little fresh lime juice. Of course you can add a few toasted, chopped pecans, green grapes etc. Recently, Dee made divine Curried Chicken Salad for our silver tea, at church. I believe she used Ina Garten’s recipe.
Dee has been making tuna salad for our family since she was so small, she had to stand in a chair to reach the counter. My friend Anna swears Dee was making it when she was a year old! Dee just makes a well seasoned deviled egg salad, then dumps a can of tuna into it. I think she adds a little onion and garlic powders, and fresh lime juice.
Mother did not serve salads as a main dish, in the evening, but she often served them for luncheons. Her rule was that one hot item should also be served. Quite often, it would be her fabulous, tiny, hot biscuits, or rolls. Fresh asparagus spears, tiny green peas, sliced tomatoes, sliced pineapple with a ball of cream cheese and chopped pecans etc., or a pear half with grated cheddar might also be on the plate.
When we lived in our big, old, white framed house, on 9th street, my dad would place a large box fan in the center hall, upstairs. The four bedrooms surrounded the hall with a large bath off to the side. My parents thought a person should not sleep with a fan blowing directly on them. The large, screened windows would be open to catch any breezes but it was still hot. Sometimes, Dad would grab a bottle of rubbing alcohol and go to each room and give us a back rub with alcohol. Then, he’d fan us with an old timey, cardboard fan and the next thing I’d know, it was morning.
Those fans were often given away by funeral homes in the area. They were less than a foot wide; kind of seashell shaped; with a pretty picture on the front and advertising on the back. They had a flat, wooden handle that looked like a tongue depressor. There were always several around the house. Guess we went to lots of funerals in warm weather --- you know, early March through the end of October. Those fans were often placed in the racks at the back of the church pews along with the hymnals.
Speaking of funeral homes, there is one in Marietta, Ga. whose owner was a man Dad had grown up with. People said the guy was “bad to drink.” I mean, he ran a funeral home, who could blame him? Anyway, he bought a dog and named him Dammit. It was said that the fellow would be walking around Marietta, late at night, yelling, “Come here, Dammit!”
Another Marietta story, Mother told me, was that the police chief (this was the 1920’s) came home unexpectedly (obviously) for lunch one day. He caught his wife and the mayor, naked. He marched them, naked, all the way across the middle of town, in front of his shotgun. I asked Mother why they were naked and she’d just laugh and say, must have been hot that day! [She was probably telling the story to another lady and I was listening.]
Being near a body of water was always soothing to Tony and me, during summer, especially. When we first moved to Tennessee, about 1970, we bought a dilapidated old cottage, on beautiful Douglas Lake. It actually had 3 tiny bedrooms, 2 baths, and a kitchen-great room, plus a screened in front porch. I believe the entire cottage would fit into our family room, here. We spent every week-end there from Memorial Day through Labor Day. At first, we had no TV, no radio, no phone, just our little family. We carried the dogs and cat in the car and used the boat as a trailer, every Friday afternoon and back to Knoxville every Sunday evening, about an hour’s drive. Tony and the kids spent part of the time at the lake nailing the boards back on the cottage, repairing the roof, etc. Tony always said those were the happiest days of his life. After 8 years, we sold the cottage and built a home on Melton Hill Lake. Our kids were teenagers and Bruce was gone to college, and it was not as much fun.
Yes, this is definitely a hot hot summer but most southern summers are hot. I feel sorry for some friends up north and in the midwest because they are feeling the heat too. They are not accustomed to this much heat, plus many lack air conditioning in their homes.
Below, Dee and Bruce on the dock of the Douglas Lake cottage, probably about 1973