Summers with no AC were not that long ago

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2020

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Summertime has arrived in eastern North Carolina, and with it comes the heat and humidity that accompanies it.

We all complain when it is too cold and complain even more when it is hot and humid, but that is what summertime weather is all about. It warms up the water so that we can enjoy the Pamlico and even heats up the old garden hose so we had to run it for a while before drinking from it. There was always the old standby water jug in the icebox with good cold water when we needed a swig. Ours was a used orange juice bottle and I can remember it well. We just put it up to our mouth and drank from it. Now we have plastic water bottles that can be thrown away.

Some of us remember the days when we had no air conditioning for these hot and humid days. I certainly do, and I never thought I would be drinking water from a plastic bottle. There was no air conditioning in the schools, cars or even office buildings like there is today. The only place I can remember is the Turnage Theatre having AC.

Schools today have AC and even gyms have it for those playing basketball inside. Buses have it, and there was a time we just opened the windows as we rode to and from school for any activity. I still remember going to school and getting a seat next to the windows, and I would always help my teachers when they wanted the windows pushed up. Those who sat on that row were the lucky ones, because they got the cool breeze in the spring and heat in the winter. Those old silver radiators that lined the wall under the windows were where we got heat.

At home, Dad installed an attic fan that was located in the center of our house, and when the summer arrived, Rose Ann and I would open our windows in our bedroom. The exhaust fan always pulled the cool air into rooms and throughout the house. There was no air conditioning, but we loved the attic fan and the coolness it provided. We may have had to pull the covers up, it got so cool at night. The attic fan was covered in the winter so no one would notice it, but in the summer, it sure helped us sleep, and the breeze it brought in was relaxing. Mom could never run it during the day because it might bring moisture into the house or when it rained and everything would get wet.

Even at football practice, Coach Wagner never gave us water, only salt tablets after practice but some would slip over to the water fountain by first base to get a drink before Coach would catch them. We always looked forward to the cold shower after practice and then headed to Mrs. Carver’s drive-in to get a large Coca-Cola and all the chili dogs we could afford. They were only 10 cents, so most of us got at least five and sat under the trees on the picnic tables to catch a cool breeze as we ate our chili dogs. That seemed to cool us down from a hard morning practice and no water. We never sat in our cars, because the trees provided shade and a cool breeze that we longed for. All of us followed the tradition that other players before us had done, and we wanted to be just like them! Anyone who said they did not is telling you a story.

Without air conditioning and with drinking water from a garden hose or water jug, we all survived, and now we can look back and wonder how. Those who played football can really appreciate a good drink of water now, and the old attic fan provided many of us a good night’s sleep. We got up the next day and started all over again without air conditioning. Boy, would I love to have a Mrs. Carver’s chili dog and sit outside under the trees like in the old days — they were not that long ago. The years were longer than I want to believe!

Thank you all for the very nice comments you have about these columns. I can promise you they are as fun for me to write as I hope they are for you to read. It is my hope that they will in some way bring back many memories that make you smile a little in these turbulent times. For me, they were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.