I’ve slept with the windows open the last two nights in our upstairs bedroom that is patterned off an old fashioned sleeping porch, with six windows facing in three directions. Being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the night and the stirring of a gentle breeze carries me back to my childhood, in the days before most homes had acquired the cooling luxury of central air conditioning.
There were other ways to escape the confining heat of a hot house in those days. One of our favorites was to load up our Chevy and drive over the Dairy Queen in Seminole to indulge in a Hot Fudge Sundae. The one in Shawnee was closer, but Daddy always found the local franchise chintzy with their chocolate fudge, so we would drive twenty miles out of our way to ensure we received our fair share of chocolate. I guess the extra sauce and Dad’s personal satisfaction were worth more than the cost of gasoline—which at that time was only 18 cents a gallon—and the drive over to Seminole with all the windows down was part of the entire cooling down experience.
We often took in an afternoon matinee at one of Shawnee’s two movie theatres. A sure sign of the times, the marquee carried the words “Air Condition Comfort” right beside the title of whatever movie was being featured. I went more with Dad than Mom, who probably just appreciated being left in a quiet home without children underfoot. I remember seeing Cleopatra with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and a personal favorite to this day, a film called Marnie, an Alfred Hitchcock film starring Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren. I recall many Walt Disney movies, especially those starring Hayley Mills, like Moon Spinners, Pollyanna and Summer Magic, which left me with an affected British accent that quickly evaporated in the Oklahoma heat.
Then there was always water – sometimes we kids would be go swimming at one of the local municipal pools, but much more often within a small aired up plastic pool in our own back yard. Sometimes we just ran through an oscillating water sprinkler, or dived belly first on a Slip ‘N Slide or tried to get that water blasting Water Wiggle to work like the one that performed so well on television commercials. Summer afternoon picnics often took place at a water park, like Roman Nose or Tuner Falls.
The ways of escaping heat require less imagination and initiative these days. When we lived in Texas, my husband and I had this gorgeous outdoor pool that was rarely used. The kids mostly stayed inside, watching a movie or playing a Nintendo game. I can’t say that I blame them, as where we lived on the Gulf Coast, it was common to observe steam rising from the ground.
But it’s nice to know that the magic offered by a warm evening waits just beyond our doorstep. It’s as easy as taking time to sit in a lawn chair to wait for the lightening bugs to come out. And to drink in the sounds and smells of an Oklahoma spring day, knowing that summer is just around the corner – as is our central air conditioner, for those days and nights that stifle all desire for fond reminiscing.