I can remember the long, hot days growing up in St. Tammany. The portable classroom at my elementary school was the favorite place for horseflies to congregate. The windows would be open mid-day to let some air in — then the buzzing would begin as they slowly began to circle over our heads.
The most fun was in the summer, when we’d pile into my grandmother’s car - windows rolled down - to ride up to an abandoned gravel pit for a swim. Then we’d pile back in, sand and sweat sticking to the vinyl seats. We’d hope for another treat, and wait for the sound of the tires crunching over the oyster shells spread in front of the local snowball stand.
There was no reason to stay inside as a kid. It was hot and stuffy and the sound of electric fans filled the air. It was better to run outside and find friends to play with.
We didn’t need a cell phone to tell us when to get home. The rule was “before dark,” which usually meant slipping in the screened door before the last ray of light set in the evening sky.
There are so many memories of life before air conditioning. And if you have memories of your own, there is a unique opportunity to relive them thanks to a Rebirth Grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. LEH has awarded St. Tammany Parish Library a grant to present “Suddenly Less Summer: The Effects of Air Conditioning on Louisiana.” There will be lectures, readings, a film viewing and literature discussions.
The Covington Heritage Foundation will host the first lecture by scholar Ray Arsenault titled “The End of the Long Hot Summer: The Air Conditioner and Southern Culture” from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Center of Performing Arts, 201 N. Columbia St., Covington.
The Madisonville Library will host a series of four programs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays at library located at 1123 Main St. Arsenault will present his lecture on March 5; scholar Susan Blalock will introduce the film “A Streetcar Named Desire,” on March 12; Blalock will lead a literature discussion March 19 of “Chita,” a book excerpt by Louisiana author Lafcadio Hearn; “The Sound of Planes,” a short story from “Swamp Songs” by Louisiana author Sheryl St. Germain; Arsenault’s writing; and “Everyday Use,” a short story from “In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women” by Alice Walker.
Finally on March 26, participants can tell their own stories about life without air conditioning. Some discussion segments will be recorded, with participant’s permission, for use in a “Louisiana Cultural Vistas” article authored by Blalock.
All events are free. Reservations for the four-week series can be made at (985) 893-6280 ext. 120.
Sharon Edwards is community news editor of The New Orleans Advocate.