Yes, it is hot! That’s the way things are in summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It was much worse when there was no air conditioning, refrigeration, or places to go swimming, but not nearly as much fun.
Let’s examine what summer was like west of Fort Worth and Wichita Falls in the 1950s. Believe it or not, that were so many things to do no one whined about not having television or the hot weather. Out in that part of Texas there is much less humidity, so fans did the trick. And everyone knew all sorts of tricks to ignore the heat.
First, if you lived in town your mother probably sent you to bible school. Sometimes you went to more than one. You might one week go to the Methodist church and to the Baptist church the next week. And if your grandparents lived nearby but, in another town, you might go spend the week with them to go to another bible school. Bible school was held in the mornings so kids could go outside to play games before snacks and juice. One of the favorite games was Red Rover; that is until someone decided it was too dangerous for kids. Swinging Statues was also popular.
Girls Scouts had a weeklong camp when no bible schools were scheduled. Growing up in Jacksboro, we had the state park around Fort Richardson to have a good time in. There were trails to follow, almost dry creeks to cross, camp fires to build and finally by third grade, each girl could camp out overnight. Of course, there was always a girl afraid of snakes and spiders and who knows what else. We tried not to give her too much grief.
We borrowed the concept of a “siesta” from our Hispanic neighbors. After lunch, women and children rested. If you were old enough to read, you could do that instead of sleeping. Because I had no sibling near my age, I played with paper dolls or jacks a lot. I loved paper dolls. I found a set the other day when cleaning out a filing cabinet. While paper dolls came with clothes to cut out and dress them, it was even more fun to create new clothes with paper, crayons, and scissors. And the adventures the paper dolls had were dependent on the imagination of the little girl. It was a great way to develop a magnificent imagination.
As we got older, around Junior High or High School, we went to at least one performance at a local rodeo. And almost every town had a rodeo and rodeo dance. Of course, it didn’t rate up there with the Stock Show Rodeo in Fort Worth, but it was fun.
Since it is almost always dry out there, and droughts routinely stayed for several years, the Fourth of July was not celebrated with fireworks. Lots of cold watermelons and homemade peach ice cream, but anything with the word “fire” was forbidden. My grandmother had a big wrap-around porch with concrete floors. Before and after watermelons we could “help” wash off the porch.
Did we go swimming? I can only remember one swimming pool in town. It belonged to a doctor who occasionally had a party for specific guests. Sometimes I was invited, but since I never learned how to swim, that wasn’t my thing. Every Saturday the local movie had a matinee, usually westerns, throughout the year. But again, that wasn’t my thing.
The big event every summer for me was a trip to Fort Worth to buy new clothes and shoes. Mother was a great seamstress, but there were still items to buy including fabric for at least six or eight dresses. That is one summer tradition I still cling to; and not only in late August. That was and still is my thing!
So, while you are reading this, my husband and I will be in the Colorado mountains enjoying their cool late August. I’ll think about you.
Taylor is chairman of the Hunt County Historical Commission. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.