About 6:30 in the morning, the TV and radio news outlets announce the pollen count for the day. It is measured by the number of grains of pollen contained in a cubic foot of air.
One day, it was about 4,000. Last week, it dropped to around 500.
I was in high school before I knew anyone with allergies.
Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are people who have serious allergies, but it seems we now have an epidemic of allergic people.
There was one kid in third grade who told us he was allergic to milk. Somehow, he was able to bring a Coca-Cola to school for lunch. Quite frankly, I was thinking about developing a milk allergy of my own. He also told us his dad was the real pilot of the Jupiter II, the flying saucer on “Lost in Space.”
I grew up in houses that did not have any kind of air conditioning, except for the kind provided by a fan placed near open windows.
We also didn’t have a car with air conditioning until I was about 10. Even then, my daddy liked to drive with the air conditioner on and the driver’s window down.
We had a yard filled with pecan, dogwood and oak trees. I guess the fan sucked in the pollen and it didn’t seem to bother me. We would have a layer of yellow powder on the porch and on the car, but we just dealt with it.
At this time of year, my daddy would sit out on the porch and listen to the Braves on the radio. He would wipe off the porch swing and would sit there for an hour or two.
Our house had a furnace, but we couldn’t afford to run it. Or so it seemed. We turned it on in the morning just long enough to take a bath.
We were warm in the summer and cold in the winter, but we seemed to be fairly healthy.
Then I moved away from home and discovered air conditioning. It was nice and I haven’t been away from it since. I have found being comfortable in the hot and cold seasons a very nice thing.
But sometimes, I wonder if living in a cocoon with recirculated air might be part of our problem.
Dr. Leila Denmark was a pediatrician who practiced in Forsyth County until she was 103 years old. She wrote in books about the need for healthy food and breathing clean air. She turned down a piece of birthday cake on her 103rd birthday and told the server she had not had anything with sugar in it, other than natural sugar, in 70 years.
Incidentally, she was the first physician at Henrietta Egleston Hospital, now Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She is also credited as a co-developer of the vaccine that cured whooping cough. She lived to be 114.
My daddy, who made sure he always had a clean handkerchief each morning, never took anything for allergies. I never took anything for seasonal sneezing until I started living full time in air conditioning.
On Easter Sunday, we had a house full of company and we opened the windows and enjoyed the fresh air. The fresh breeze through the house was just wonderful.
I think the old comic strip character Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy and it is us.”
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.