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Reminiscing about life before air conditioning
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I grew up in a house without air conditioning. I spent most of the summer days of my childhood outdoors.

Sometimes, I wonder how we did it. Yet, at times I wonder why we changed.

In those days when we were on our own, I would watch a few cartoons on TV in the morning while I ate my breakfast.

Then, it was time for the adventure of the day. It might be riding bikes or going to the local pool for a swim. But we somehow kept ourselves busy for an entire day.

It wasn’t any cooler than it is now. I went back and looked at some weather records and found we had temperatures just as hot as they are now.

We don’t have a screen door at our house, but I can remember the sound of the door that had a spring on it. It would squeak when you opened it with a combination of dry hinges and the stretching spring. It would bounce as it closed in a bam-bam noise.

I can remember the gentle hum of a box fan that cooled our house. I remember the way it made the curtains dance in the breeze it created. I remember going to sleep at night and the movement of the curtains would allow the glimmer of light from outside to dance on the walls.

When we first moved to Social Circle, Cokes at Mr. Jim Paul Shepherd’s Gulf station were still a dime, but you either had to bring a bottle or pay a three-cent deposit. He had one of those machines with a column of assorted drinks and you could choose one based on the bottle cap.

Mr. Shepherd also had an ice cream box in which he carried an assortment of ice cream novelties. You could choose from ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, push-ups or Eskimo pies, which everybody referred to as a hunky.

The hardware store had a machine that only sold little bottles of Coke. You would put in your dime, pull the handle and the bottle would line up with a little door you could open and get your drink.

When we didn’t go to the pool, we would squirt each other with the water hose. It was always a struggle for who would get to hold the nozzle and spray everyone.

Do kids even do that today?

On special days, usually a Saturday, when we would cut a watermelon.

Purchasing a watermelon was a science. Everybody had an opinion as to whether a long or round melon had the best flavor. Men would thump the watermelon to listen to sound it made to determine the best one.

Cutting the watermelon usually involved spreading out a newspaper on the porch. Mama would sometimes make comments about how we were slurping it or getting the juicy mess all over our clothes. It never seemed to stop us.

Older boys would tell us tales about the perils of swallowing the seeds.

It seems like a hundred years ago as I sit here in the air conditioned comfort and reminisce.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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