For those of us suffering in the snow belt with temps capable of freezing snot, I have decided to combat my annual bout of cabin fever with a blog about hot summer nights.
I didn’t get my driver’s license till 1970 so I was pretty much confined to my immediate neighborhood all through the 60’s. I wouldn’t change a thing about that time in my life. Summer vacation in the suburbs was too much fun. We spent the days at the municipal pool and every night was a street party. It was so hot and humid that it didn’t really matter if we were inside or out. My family only had one window A/C unit and it didn’t really work that well so we just got used to sweating.
We lived on a dead-end street until some marketing person renamed it a Cul-de-sac. (Frankly, dead-end makes more sense but who am I to argue with the geniuses who write ad copy. I’m still amazed they got people to ignite weeds and stick them in their mouths.) But hey, our street was anything but dead. With 15-20 kids of all ages, we never lacked for fun things to do in spite of the heat.
My personal, favorite sport was dodgeball. I know, I know most people have horrible memories of dodgeball in grade school. It was humiliating and degrading and no fun for most people but for skinny, wiry guys like me it was the best. I could turn sideways, inhale and virtually disappear and if that wasn’t enough, I could react faster than most people could throw so I always got out-of-the-way in time. God must be evening the score with me now because in my current physique I would be a sitting duck. A good-sized oak tree wouldn’t save me these days.
Since most of the kids hated dodgeball, we mostly played kick the can which is kind of an offshoot of hide and seek. Back in those days, nobody had a fenced back yard so we had the whole street to hide on which made the odds much better, although pitch black backyards were a bit of a safety hazard. Between picnic tables, clothes lines and gardens it was more than a little dangerous to run through there at full speed. I was lucky to have exceptional night vision and a very hard head but I took my share of hits.
For some reason, I don’t remember being that miserable in 90 degree heat. We ran through sprinklers whenever it got too bad but mostly we were just having too much fun . It’s funny though, I think I started to like girls because they never smelled as bad as the guys. And with their short shorts, dark tans and summer blonde hair they were all pretty irresistable by the time I was 14 or 15. Do they still make White Shoulders perfume? Maybe that’s why they didn’t stink like me. They were probably overdoing it just to defend themselves from the day old sweat drenched T-shirt I always wore.
I was one of the last kids to be called in for the night by my Mom. After I showered and went to bed, I would stay up even later listening to my radio. I had a really nice radio with AM/FM and shortwave. On a good night I could get stations as far away as Chicago and shortwave from anywhere. I listened to baseball games from little towns and big cities and my imagination ran wild with the announcer’s play by play narration. On the shortwave band I heard mostly Morse code and foreign languages but it still fascinated me. Morse code made me think of top secret messages going back and forth from Cuba to the Kremlin and I was the only one listening. I couldn’t understand it but it was spy stuff so it was way cool. By the late 60’s FM stations finally arrived with their all-night album rock and the DJ’s all sounded like they were stoned. I had to use my earplug for those stations so my Dad wouldn’t catch me. I lost a lot of sleep in those days but hell, it was worth it.
All of this makes me wonder what the kids of today will remember about their summers. Even my own kids didn’t really enjoy playing outside in the heat when it was so much nicer inside. Now that every house has several TV’s, 200 channels, high speed internet and XBox games most kids aren’t even seen in the summer. More’s the pity. There’s something undeniably fundamental about sweat, chigger bites, bruises, tanlines, skimpy clothes and White Shoulders. Just laying in the grass looking up at the stars or chasing fireflies never gets old. Water balloon fights and lemonade are the best defense against the heat ever invented, not A/C. Kids, take it from an old guy, you’re only going to have a few summers in your youth so get out of the house and slurp all the popsicles you can find.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.