It is the 1950’s, my childhood decade where I enjoyed the freedom of play, play, play with my BFFs and we roamed the neighborhood on our bikes exploring the surrounding woods, bayous and adjacent cotton and corn fields. It sounds like I grew up in the country, but not so. Our neighborhood was located on the western edges of the sprawling Houston metropolis. I’m awash with memories of hot sultry summer nights living pre air conditioning. How did we survive? When you don’t know any difference it is easy, something lived day to day and managed for maximum comfort. In those olden days in the South, all houses came equipped with screened windows and attic fans. The premise was easy. Nighttime temperatures dropped into the tolerable zone and our beds were positioned directly in front of the bedroom windows. The window screens protected us from attacks by the relentless onslaught of biting mosquitoes, the scourge of southern living. The attic fan was the key to surviving the scorching heat. Positioned in the hall at the center of our house, it was huge! It labored and hummed throughout the summer sucking outside air through the screened windows and over our bodies . It made a sound night’s sleep possible.
One day, our living room world changed when my parents purchased and installed a window ac unit to cool that one room in our house. That cold air drew us in like a magnet. Our black and white television with three channels was the focal point of that room. The sofa or the floor was where we children gathered to watch our favorite shows and our Daddy had his own special barrel back chair. Also in that room directly opposite the new television was the radio. That communication device provided entertainment to our vivid imaginations for years with programs like Mr. and Mrs. North and the Lone Ranger. When our television arrived, the radio lost much of its appeal but still provided a place where we could play our vinyl records. At bedtime we retired to our bedrooms and started our sleep covered with only a sheet but would awaken in the morning with a blanket as well. That attic fan really worked!
The kitchen adjoined the living room but the living room ac unit could not provide much relief from the heat as my Mother prepared our meals. I feel blessed that my growing up years were filled with fabulous home cooked meals. Looking back I am not sure how my Mother managed to do all she did. She had a full time job yet managed to put a full breakfast on the table each morning as well as pack our school lunches that were much envied by our peers. Breakfast might be eggs, bacon and toast or oatmeal, hot cream of wheat cereal with toast and juice. Packed lunches were usually left over roast beef, PB&J, tuna or ham sandwiches with chips, a piece of fruit and always a sweet something such as a Twinkie, Hostess cupcake or homemade cookies. We were much loved and certainly spoiled. When my Mother arrived home from her 9-5 job, she went immediately to the kitchen to begin cooking supper. Sunday’s meal was usually roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, cooked carrots and a piece of pie or slice of cake for dessert. Monday’s supper was usually a hash made from left over roast. I loved hash night. Tuesday could be one of several choices…stuffed bell peppers (yuck) or meatloaf (yum). Wednesday was spaghetti, Thursday was always fried chicken, Friday was always hamburgers, French fries and pork & beans and Saturday was always pancakes/waffles with bacon and lots of Mrs. Butterworth’s or Log Cabin syrup. We never tired of this rotation and in fact found it comforting and embraced the arrival of our favorite meals knowing Mother would not let us down.
Over time, another window ac was added in one of the bedrooms and by closing off the hall doors it plus the LR unit could adequately give some relief to our Mother and to us as we washed the dishes each summertime night. With the addition of one more window unit we saw the demise of our trusty old attic fan.
It did the job though for many a hot summer day and night. It is a sweet memory of crawling into bed on those hot humid nights, pulling the sheet over my body and relishing the breeze that the fan provided. Followed by me calling out my nightly ritual of “Night Daddy”, him replying with “Sleep tight Punky, See you in the morning” and us both yelling in unison “Buckaroo”.
Sweet innocent memories of a blessed childhood, part of a life well lived. We weren’t rich with money but we had so much more! My unsolicited advice…. cherish those memories and pass them on to your progeny. Make your mark and leave evidence of your existence.