In the Heat of the Night…..

Yes, I know this is the name of a pretty wonderful movie released way back in 1967. (Geez, has it been that long?) However, this entry has nothing to do with that movie nor the subsequent TV series released in 1988.

This entry DOES have everything to do with the heat associated with hot summer days and nights. What brings this odd topic to mind, you may ask? Well, it’s the beginning of June and here, where I live, in Southeast Texas the inferno is already working overtime. Temperatures have already hit triple digits with the wonderful promise of more to come. Humidity levels are regularly in the 80 and 90 range.

Yea, Southeast Texas is not my favorite spot in the world during the long, hot summer. I can’t even count the number of times I have said to myself or to someone else; “Thank God for air-conditioning! I have no idea how I would survive without it!”

……….. And then my mind carried me back to our childhood in New York. The hot steamy, humid streets of the city, and surviving without air-conditioning. Granted, New York City is not Southeast Texas, but if you have ever been there on a hot humid day, with the heat radiating off the blacktop and the steam from the exhaust of cars and busses permeating the air around you, you know it can be a blast furnace.

The housing project that we called home did not have air-conditioning. Some families chose to install their own window units to at least keep one or two rooms cool, but that was an expense Dad had to view as a luxury and not a necessity. So, basically, we sweltered. For the most part, there simply was no relief. The small apartment itself was steamy and suffocating and deciding to go outside to “cool-off” offered little solace. From time to time Mom would walk us to the park, where we would rarely do anything except sit under one of the very precious trees to see if we could “catch a breeze”. I vaguely remember there being some kind of a neighborhood pool on Leroy Street, but Mom and Dad would rather expose us to the bubonic plague than turn us loose in the mass of humanity that went to that pool.

Evenings were especially tough for a few reasons. Obviously, it did not get dark until almost nine o’clock, so there was little relief from the sun “going down”. (We lived on the 23rd damned floor so were a lot closer to the sun! )The heat from the day built up tremendously in the apartment and the fact that “heat rises” was not a pleasant fact of science for us. You will also recall from previous entries that our mom was very protective of us, perhaps overly so. This limited our options in the evening. Going outside was taboo; the streets were just too dangerous. This limited us to staying in the apartment and doing one of three things; 1. Watching Television 2. Playing games 3. Listening to music. We did a fair share of all three. Thankfully, in these early years, my brother and I were our own best companions and were also pretty imaginative, so coming up with games and ways to amuse ourselves was not difficult. I would say the vast majority of our time in the evenings was spent watching television. This was true of Mom and Dad as well. For the most part, the four of us would sit in the small living room enjoying our favorite shows on hot summer evenings. On many evenings Dad would make homemade lemonade and he was a master at it. To this day, I have not tasted lemonade as wonderful as Dad’s.

This brings me to the “Fan facing the wrong way” story.  When it became almost unbearable in the apartment, Dad decided to purchase a box floor fan. Clearly nothing fancy, just a square fan that sat on the floor. It had three speeds low, medium and high. We were pretty excited about having some means of at least having some moving air in the apartment. Something to dry the ever-present perspiration and create a treasured “breeze”. There was a slight issue with our expectation. I’m not sure how it came to be, but somehow Mom and Dad were absolutely certain that the best way to realize the full benefits of our brand new box floor fan was to face it away from where we were sitting. Wait, what? Yep, face the fan away from us rather than have the fan facing us…. You know blowing air ON us. Nope, not in our household. In order to achieve maximum effect, the fan had to be facing away from us. So, let me paint the picture. Rob and I are sitting on the floor in the living room watching TV. Mom and Dad are on the sofa behind us watching as well. The fan is in a very small area leading from the living room to our bedroom and Mom and Dad’s bedroom. If it had been angled just right all of us would feel some of the breeze created and would experience even the slightest relief. However, because of this “theory” held by our parents that fan was faced AWAY from living room and aimed at the two for mentioned bedrooms. I so remember Rob and I looking at each other wondering if we were the crazy ones. On one occasion I believe Rob was the one who summoned the courage to question this interesting theory of “keeping cool”. With that “well, I guess I have to explain everything look”  that I described in the Frondo Frone entry, Mom proceeded to tell us that with the fan facing away from us, we were blowing all the warm air out of the room, leaving it more pleasant than if it were blowing hot air on us. With confusion on our young faces, we looked to Dad and he, nodding all the time said; “right on Babe… that’s it.. that’s the way we do it in this household.” Rob and I exchanged another look, wiped the sweat off our brow and went back to watching Gil Favor “Head ‘em up, and Head em’ out” on Rawhide. I can’t tell you the number of times Rob and I would get up under the pretense of having to go to the bathroom to sneak over to the right side… (Or wrong side…., I’m so confused), of the fan to take the full impact of the fan blowing in our face.

A priceless memory now; not so priceless at the time! Oh, and one more thing. When it was time for all of us to turn in for the evening, that fan, which WAS facing the bedrooms, would be strategically turned around…face the living room.

So after taking a shower as cold as we could possibly stand, Rob and I crawled into our beds in the small room we shared, hoping that sleep would come before we started sweating again. The sounds of the city on a hot summer night coupled with Rob’s ever-present transistor radio playing ‘the hits” on WMCA or WABC served as a kind of soothing melody for us. We would chat about the events of the day or about how the Mets lost again or how cool Rowdy Yates was (look that one up), and slowly and mercifully, we would doze off to the distinct hum of the wrong way facing fan.



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