In the old days when it was hot outside, we headed to a lake, lay down under a tree or took a ride in the car with the windows open.

There was no such thing as air conditioning in my realm of experience.

As spring wore on into summer and classrooms got increasingly hot, we just suffered.

If we were lucky and had an empathetic teacher, we might get to have class in the shade of a tree, but for the most part, we sweltered, squirmed around in our straight-backed chairs and watched the clock.

Having attended my 45th high school class reunion recently, I’m having flashbacks of being in school.

I asked my husband if he remembered sitting in those hard chairs attached to desks, waiting for what seemed an eternity for a boring class to end, particularly as summer approached.

“I don’t remember much of anything about school,” he responded.

He speaks from experience.

As a kindergartner, he was taught to socialize and engage with other kids in conversation.

An only child, he reveled in this.

When he got to first grade, he continued socializing, enjoying every minute, until one day his teacher, on a particularly steamy hot day, ordered him to stand in the corner because he talked too much.

He was mortified, horrified, and stood in that corner not daring to breathe.

He rarely spoke in class after that throughout his school years.

When he was a junior in high school, an inquisitive teacher said to him: “Philip, you are amazingly silent.”

Which goes to show, in my opinion, the long-term effect a teacher can have on a kid’s psyche.

But back to hot classrooms.

In the eighth grade, it was so unbearably sultry one day my friend Fiona and I sat in the back of the classroom just dying. She wanted to open all the windows behind us but didn’t dare ask the teacher, so I did.

“Mr. Glenn,” I said, “can I open the windows? Fiona’s sweating!”

My query drew roars of laughter from our classmates, much to my chagrin. In my vocabulary, sweating meant extremely hot, and I hadn’t meant to offend my best friend by inadvertently insinuating she smelled.

When I was a college student in Connecticut in the early 1970s, I got to come home summers and worked at Lakewood Theatre in Madison which was on the shore of Lake Wesserunsett. It got terribly hot in the theater, but we always knew that during afternoon break, or after the show ended in the evening, we could run home to our cottage, change into swim suits and dive into the lake.

I felt sorry for my college pal, Isabell, who lived in the city and would write me letters over the summer, saying she and her sister rented a motel room for the weekend just to get out of the heat. Many motels were air-conditioned in those days, and while they had to pay a pretty price for some respite, it was well worth it.

Eventually more cars were manufactured with air-conditioning and people who drove around in the summer heat with their windows closed up tight drew the envy of anyone who drove an old wreck. As I tool around in my cool car today, I feel awfully sorry for people driving vehicles with no AC.

It may sound odd, but while I love having air conditioning in the car and office, I don’t like it at home and would rather put a fan in the window than sleep in a closed up, cold, air-conditioned room.

If we leave the windows open at night and close them in the morning, the house maintains its coolness most of the day.

As hot as it was years ago when air conditioning was an anomaly, it was nothing compared to the heat of today, thanks to our neglect of the planet and resulting climate change.

And as sorry as I am about current conditions, I feel worse for young people who will have to deal with even hotter temperatures in the future. No lake, stream or shade tree will cure that ill.

But, hey, they’ll have AC, right?

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

 

 

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