A Shade Tree, A Creek, & A Book

Raise your hand if you were raised in the south with no air conditioning. Haha. I’m sure I’m not the only one. We didn’t have air conditioning at home–or at school–or in the car. I think about that at least once a day, since Texas is currently melting under 100+ temperatures.

We survived though. Somehow. And mom wouldn’t let us hang around inside. She made us “go outside and don’t come back before lunch.” Oh my! Can you imagine telling a child that now? Definitely those were different times.

So what did we do? We found someplace shady, for sure. We rode our bikes or played with the kids next door. My girlfriend and I would sneak inside, fill the sink with water, and take turns dunking our heads in it. Good times!

And of course, I’d take a book, find a spot where I’d at least get a breeze, and get lost in a story. The front porch swing was one of my favorite places. And those times I had a chance to go to the creek or the lake with grandpa, I’d take whatever book I was reading right along with me.

I was a big reader from a young age. We had a 2 room library (seriously). There was the children’s room and the adult room. I can still remember my mom walking me inside and signing the form that said I could check out adult books. Yes, I’d read nearly all of the children’s books. She said she trusted me to choose wisely!

I guess those were hard times–no air conditioning, just a box fan in the window. Television had 3 channels, and I never remember it being on during the day. No internet! But they were also sweet, and I don’t think that’s simply nostalgia talking. When I look back on my childhood, I’m glad I was raised in a small Texas town, with no air conditioning, and a mom that made me go outside. Kinda makes me want to go and sit on the front swing right now.

What about you? What did you do in the summertime when you were young?

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49 Comments

  1. Patricia Tucker on August 4, 2023 at 6:05 am

    I agree…a shade tree, a creek and a book. A lot of time was spent at the creek. Summers were definitely for being outdoors.

    I recently told my children I could go back to living the way I did growing up, except I would need A/C!

  2. Carla Toppass on August 4, 2023 at 6:38 am

    We did have air conditioning in our home when growing up. I don’t remember if the car had air conditioning or not. Our school definitely did not. We played outside as kids. Since we lived in a small rural town, all the kids in the neighborhood would play outside. We rode our bicycles around, played baseball and kickball, hide and seek. Whatever our minds could come up with to do that was fun – we did it. I don’t remember every complaining of it being hot. I grew up in the Midwest. Summers were hot. They still are. As I write, it is already 76 degrees out with a feel like temperature of much higher. It will get close to 100 with a feel like temperature between 105-110 degrees. It is hot, humid and steamy here. When our girls were little, they played outside during the summer also. I wish this generation of children knew how to go out and use their imaginations to go wherever they could imagine going. The digital age, while somewhat useful, has definitely changed how our children play. I still love sitting outside on the deck, enjoying nature, warming up from the cold air-conditioned house, opening a good book and seeing where my imagination takes me. Have a great day!

  3. kim hansen on August 4, 2023 at 7:04 am

    We had tree’s around our house but I spent most of my summers in maine which was a cabin no air didn’t need it back then. Nights were cool there. My patneral grandparents did have A/C in there big house in new jersey I think they were the first few who had central air but my grandmother wasn’t there in the summer. My grandfather was as his business was attached to the house.

  4. Suzanne Sellner on August 4, 2023 at 7:08 am

    I grew up in Virginia, and we did not have air conditioning in the house or car or at school. Fans were big. Some afternoons on the weekend, my entire family would lie down on a comforter on the living room floor with the basement door open and the hall fan upstairs pulling cool air from the basement over us as we napped. At church we had hand-held card stock fans to wave across our faces. Finding shady places outside was key for playing outside during the day. Popsicles and ice cream cones as well as iced drinks helped to cool us off. Running through the sprinkler helped cool us off as well. Perspiration soaked clothes were a regular state of affairs. I’m so grateful for air conditioning now.

  5. Marilyn on August 4, 2023 at 7:25 am

    I too grew up without air conditioning in the home or school (don’t think the car either, since the windows were down a lot). We had a box fan in the windows. When I was around 12 my family went ‘big time’ and graduated to a swamp cooler! We’d take turns calling dibs on ‘the spot’ next to it to watch one of our three channels as well. Hot times in Oklahoma for sure. There was a lot of hand cranked ice cream, popsicles, and the neighborhood kids softball games when it cooled down in the vacant lot. Good times.

  6. Audrey Stewart on August 4, 2023 at 7:30 am

    We got our first window a/c when I was in the 8th grade. There was 3 bedrooms, 4 kids, and my parents. Us kids would sleep in the living room on the floor. I was born and raised in Charleston, SC so it was hot.

  7. Lori Smanski on August 4, 2023 at 7:37 am

    yup those were the days. didnt live in the south. born in Pasadena, CA than moved to a farm in the Mojave desert in CA both places we didnt have air conditioning. our car did not have air conditioning. we learned how to stay cool. I also would read a book everywhere. the car was great. I would sit by the window with the window rolled down part way and read. so wonderful.

  8. Nancy Costello on August 4, 2023 at 8:08 am

    We used fans during my childhood. The worst part was us kids bedrooms were upstairs (heat rises) and so we had window fans. I don’t remember when we moved into a house that had an air conditioner in the front room window. Like you, I loved reading from a young age and spent many days and nights reading on the porch swing. It was never too hot to read.

  9. Karen Sheeley on August 4, 2023 at 8:12 am

    Yes, I also grew up with no AC. We played out doors under big shade trees. I also did lots of reading. Loved visiting the bookmobile that would come to our little town every two weeks. Such good memories.

  10. PAT S on August 4, 2023 at 8:46 am

    I live in NY state but in the country and have never had AC.

  11. Sunnie on August 4, 2023 at 8:56 am

    Your youth sounds like mine! We came to America from Germany and ended in Minnesota. Heat and high humidity. AC? What was that? We played outside all day and into the evening. We rode our bikes everywhere and had a “Barbie Fan Club”. Then from winter cold to the California desert and the first home had a water cooler that never worked! We moved to another home with AC. It was great. But because of the high temps, the AC quit working often. There was no AC in the car, though. Coachella was HOT and somehow we survived! Now I live in a high desert and it can get mighty hot. AC wasn’t available the first years we were here, so fans in every room. Nights were rough but later we got AC and it has made life very comfortable.

  12. Vickie J. on August 4, 2023 at 9:11 am

    Most of my growing up years were spent in the state of NJ. We only had 1 window unit in the living room and it only got turned on when we couldn’t have the windows open and the fans on. I’d lay under my bed some nights because it was cooler and I could feel the rotating fan blow on me. I’m the oldest of 5 kids. We spent lots of time outside playing with our friends, riding bikes and just having fun. There were times when my mom told me I needed to go outside because “you can’t stay inside with your nose stuck in a book all day” so I took my book outside and continued reading.

    • Diana on August 7, 2023 at 5:58 pm

      We did not have air conditioning. However we lived in the country in a brick house surrounded by trees ( in Central Indiana). That helped,but 2nd floor was hot. 90s are common in Indiana but not 100. Humidity can be horrible. We also had 2 room library.

  13. Carolyn+Smith on August 4, 2023 at 10:01 am

    Yes, I grew up in NC without air conditioning in the house, car, school and church. We had a floor fan that circled around in our living room. When mother was cooking on the wood stove in the kitchen, we moved the fan to the doorway. At church we had fans from a local funeral home with their advertisement on them. At school we folded lined school paper and made fans to fan ourselves with. Along with neighbors we made a “house” in the woods between our houses and played house since it was cooler in the woods. While a new highway was being built close to our house, we would play inside the piping under the new road. It was big enough that we could stand up and walk through the water that flowed inside. And when my father finally purchased a car, we kept the windows rolled down to attempt to keep us cool when riding. (While practicing a speech for Toastmasters some years ago with my son and using my childhood memories for my speech, my son told me “Mom, it sounds like you grew up with the Pilgrims!”)

  14. Alicia Haney on August 4, 2023 at 10:58 am

    I was born in Texas and raised in New Mexico, we did have a swamp cooler and us 6 kids took turns putting water in it, I still remember the fresh smell of the cooler pads. I know in the summer time my sisters and I would play with our paper dolls, I also have 3 older brothers and I always love playing with their cars or their cowboys and Indians under one of our trees. Our parents used to subscribe us for Weekly Readers and I always looked forward to getting them in the summer.

  15. Linda Palmer on August 4, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    I grew up without AC, but in Idaho it would get cool at night and the house wouldn’t get very hot. But it was hot in my sunroom bedroom. So I used a box fan to keep cool. We played outside in the summer and enjoyed the carefree days. I remember picnics in the shade of our yard. And outdoor picnics at the relatives houses.
    As a young wife I remember canning vegetables in such a very hot kitchen! We later got a swamp cooler, which helped a lot. My kids never experienced central air till they were in grade school.

  16. Joyce Vough on August 4, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    I grew up in Pennsylvania, but summers were still hot for us, in the 80-100 degree range. We always went camping in the family tent for the first week of July. A creek was closeby, and we swam in it.

    When home, I sunbathed on a blanket in the grass, swam in the creek, laid under bushes in the shade, and climbed trees! I was outside all day, and at supper time, we had our box fan blowing air through the house from our open cellar door.

    I loved riding in the back of the pickup truck with my brothers. The wind felt great in our faces. We stood looking over the cab.

    At night, I somtimes hooked my bedsheet over my screened window, with the upper window holding it like a tent. The cooling breeze felt great to sleep by.

  17. Merry on August 4, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Hi there

    Northern Alberta but it can get hot here too! But air conditioning is not essential because of the short months, although still warm we can suffer through it.

  18. Faith Creech on August 4, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    I grew up in Philadelphia where the summers were hot and muggy and no air conditioning. My bedroom was upstairs and I always had the windows open wide but I don’t think there was even a breeze! We did have huge trees in our back yard which was nice and I would go there and read.

  19. Jan on August 4, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    I grew up in PA also with no air conditioning and a bedroom on the second floor. The old stone farmhouse wasn’t too bad but I was younger than!! Guaranteed that the 2 weeks of band camp would be the hottest and most humid time of the Summer. My bestie and neighbor’s family got an inground pool. I was allowed to visit a few times a week.

  20. ReneeJ on August 4, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    We had a window unit, but it very rarely was turned on. So, we would open the windows and use our attic fan. We had no ac in the car or at school either. During the summer we would go horseback riding early in the morning, come home and pack a picnic lunch (if you can call it that), and then go to the big pool. Later in the evening after dinner and chores we would play board games on someone’s porch until it got dark! The “we” were the neighborhood kids! Wow, those were the days!

  21. SARAH TAYLOR on August 4, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    I agree with you Vanetta we did not have a A/C and we always went outside I played with the neighbor kids and we would hike in the woods and find us a sturdy grapevine to play on or in the creek Oh my those were the days Have a Blessed weekend!

  22. Stephanie on August 4, 2023 at 2:09 pm

    I grew up with no A/C in the home or in the cars my parents owned. My parents would put the box fans in the windows (the old cranked out casement kind) during the long summer heat nights. There were 6 of us in a 1.5 story home and sometimes my grandmother would spend the night too. Luckily we lived next to a park (with a kiddie pool-1 to 2ft deep) so that on those warm sunny days we were allowed to go there to cool off. Thinking back to those times now, it must have looked pretty funny for most of the neighborhood kids who were much older and/or taller to be seen at the park pool just to cool off a bit in those days. My parents always made us kids get out of the house anytime it wasn’t storming, so the neighborhood kids got to know each other pretty well. We would play nighttime flashlight tag, hide and seek, crafts and free lunches at the park, make mud pies, play on swings & slide, kick ball, baseball, and bicycle around. One of my favorite things to do was read and use my imagination. Another was going outside & laying down in the grass staring at the clouds to see if they looked like animals and such. I sometimes miss those days and nights too!

  23. Debbie Earls on August 4, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    We grew up without air conditioning at home or in school I don’t remember if our car had it or not. I loved going to the Bookmobile that came to our neighborhood in the summer. I also enjoyed riding my horse and participating in 4-H. I also was a majorette and in marching band. Practice before school started and going to band camp was brutal in the heat. I had a great childhood!

  24. Joan c on August 4, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    I grew up without air conditioning. Most nights were spent at the movies or on the front stoop, In the apartment I would lay on the floor and fall asleep. New York summers were hot and humid but we always looked forward to a cold wave coming down from Canada but it doesn’t happen in the summer anymore. I detest the heat. Inherited from my grandmother. I remember visiting her . She would have her feet in cold water,an icepack on her head, a fan in her hand with an ice cream soda in front of her and saying Oh My gosh ! It’s Hot!
    Joan

  25. Marion on August 4, 2023 at 4:44 pm

    Growing up my twin sister Marilyn .I and our best friends were two sisters that lived on our block. We would play Ginny dolls,school and perform shows. Our family didn’t receive air condition until I was about 11 years old. It was needed for me since I have Asthma. The heat is a dislike of mine. I can always get comfortable no matter how cold.
    Marion

  26. Marilyn on August 4, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    We received air-conditioning when I was 11 years old. My father was tired of us complaining about the heat. I do not like the hot weather and love the air-conditioning. I would rathe rstay in side with the air-conditioning instead of being outdoors.
    Marilyn

  27. CELIA on August 4, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    I grew up in N. Florida with no A/C at home or in school. We wore sleeveless shift dresses to school and shorts at home. I don’t remember it being hot but I do remember turning on the hose and hosing off under the cool water. We played down by the creek and in the woods, rode our bikes and played hopscotch, and softball. The only time I remember it being hot was when I spent a summer with my cousin in Alabama. It was so hot at night I could not sleep and they had this huge attic fan and a big window fan in my cousin’s bedroom. We would wake up about 3am freezing and rustle around for the covers.
    I remember all the vegetables we picked in the garden and how picking Okra caused a rash on my arms. My favorite was fried okra and crowder peas with fresh tomatoes. My uncle loved corn and my aunt would serve the dinner and then my uncle would eat a mixing bowl of corn for desert!

  28. Susan Fletcher on August 4, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    In North Carolina, growing up in 60’s and 70’s, we have AC, but neither of my grandparents did . We only had 2 TV channels. I don’t remember when we had color TV. Times sure have changed!

  29. Wanda Jones on August 4, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    I grew up in Louisiana with no AC. I started teaching in 1969 in schools with no AC. After my first year teaching I transferred to teach in a high school with no AC. There was still no AC in 1977 when I resigned to get married and move to Texas. I remember that temperatures below 70 were considered cold and sweater weather.

  30. Susan Heim on August 4, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    I grew up in Michigan where nothing was air-conditioned then. None of the houses or cars we owned had air conditioning. When I moved to Florida and brought down my little Chevy Chevette with no air conditioning, I soon traded it in for a car with A/C!

  31. Dawn Crawford on August 4, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    I was one who grew up without air conditioning. If you wanted to stay cool you took a lawn chair or blanket outside and prayed for a breeze. As for cars the AC was 4 windows down going 55 mph.
    From a young age I always had a book in my hand or with me to read.

  32. Lelia “Lucy” Reynolds on August 4, 2023 at 8:28 pm

    No AC at all growing up, no fans either. We played in the river, rode bikes for a breeze, and played under the trees and read books in the swing.

  33. Lori Wilen on August 5, 2023 at 11:16 am

    I grew up in England and we had no air conditioning in our homes and even some of the major stores didn’t have air conditioning. As a child I never seemed to notice because I was outside playing so much and when I was inside I found a corner that was always comfortable to sit and read. I was an avid reader. The library wasn’t air conditioned but it was one of my favorite places to go. It always seemed comfortable there. As I got older and worked for large companies I realized that there was such a thing as air conditioning. When I moved to the USA and all the homes I lived in were air conditioned, I would find it difficult in England or other countries where air conditioning isn’t standard. It made me aware of how lucky we really and how much has been done to try to keep us all as comfortable as possible at all times.

  34. Carol Edwards on August 5, 2023 at 12:01 pm

    My first car did not have air. It was not fun. The first school I taught at had window units but the ants loved to get in them and eat part of the power supply. No window to open so by the end of the day in Alabama it was not fun. I was so glad when we got our new school with central heat (we had radiators for the heat so no adjusting) and air. I do remember spending my summer getting to play outside, ride my bike anywhere, and eat all the freeze pops I could.

  35. Sherry Brown on August 5, 2023 at 8:03 pm

    We had no air conditioner either at home or at school. I’m a twin and my sister and I was riding bikes and playing in the creek from morning till night. Those were the good old days for sure! Great memories.

  36. Dorothy Porter on August 6, 2023 at 5:10 am

    We had no air conditioner at home but nobody else in the family did either so I didn’t miss it when I was young. I remember the box fans in about every window and screen doors. During the day we went outside after we helped cleaning the house. I can remember laying out in to get a tan, when I got older. When I was kinda younger, my cousin and I would make peanut sandwiches, chips and a plastic cup for water in one of Daddy’s old lunch boxes. But pla time was over when time to help with working in the garden and it took the rest of the summer. It was planting the garden, then as soon as it was ready to pick, it was canning time. It miss them days, you had no time to get in trouble.

  37. Debbi on August 7, 2023 at 5:36 pm

    I grew up in Northern Illinois without air conditioning. We used fans in the windows. Be out playing with neighborhood kids. Reading in the shade.

  38. Sandy Larivee on August 7, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    Yup no air conditioning in the house or car, just a big old box fan. I will say we played outside all the time and didn’t have the heat and humidity In Massachusetts back then like we do now.

    • Beth Scott on August 7, 2023 at 8:28 pm

      I grew up in Southern Michigan, hehe. It was hot and humid there. I remember mom putting a sheet on the floor and laying in front of the fan in her underwear. When I was a teen we had a big fan in a window in the dining room. During the cool night dad would close all the windows except the upstairs bedrooms. The cool air would pull through the house. Closed up in the morning to hold it in as long as possible. We had a covered patio for cooling in the evening.

  39. Connie Ellis on August 7, 2023 at 6:10 pm

    I grew up in Iowa. We spent a lot of time in our basement family room in the summer as it was cooler. We also layer in front of the round fan we had when we could. The house has central air now.

  40. Kay Lewis on August 7, 2023 at 7:28 pm

    I live in the Midwest. I was raised on a small farm and we did not have air conditioning. I remember having a huge box fan in my bedroom window, right beside my bed. I never heard anything once I went to bed – that humming sound put me to sleep right away.
    We had a big garden. Mom worked at the navy depot and dad was out in the fields. Once I got old enough, 12-13, dad picked what was ready from the garden, brought it in and it was my responsibility to get everything cleaned and frozen before mom got home. If it was to be canned, I had it all cleaned and everything ready so mom could get it canned. It was a hot time consuming job. I was not fond of it, but as an adult, I’m glad I learned how. We do a lot of canning and freezing. I remember sitting on the front porch with dad and my little brother, shelling peas if he wasn’t in the fields.
    I remember days of mowing the alfalfa and clover, getting it baled and stored up in the hayloft for the coming winter. It was a hot sticky job. I didn’t help with that, but I was to make sure there was fresh cold water for everyone to drink and wet cold towels for everyone to wipe the sweat away.
    Walking through the orchard with my aunt cured me from ever walking through it again. She stepped on a nest of bumble bees. We all got stung – more than once – even my poor dog. Don’t think I walked through it again. Only thing funny about it was, I do remember seeing my aunt doing a dance and trying to get a bee out of her hair net. She always wore a hair net and there was usually a couple hair pins in it to make sure it stayed in place.
    My aunt’s gone now. I really miss her. She was a fantastic quilter. Even the Amish brought their quilts to her to be hand quilted. She was amazing. I acquired her love of quilting – just not by hand.
    I used to spend a lot of mornings in my aunt’s kitchen while she was baking homemade bread – 12 loaves at a time in her wood burning stove. Never did understand how she regulated the heat. I remember we were both soaking wet after baking bread and cookies on Saturday mornings. No A/C. She used the transoms in the house to help keep it cool, but baking day – it didn’t help. It was just plain hot! We still had to hand pump water into her sink in the kitchen as well. So many wonderful memories – even if it was hot.

  41. Linda Baio on August 7, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    Basically the same, no air conditioning in our house, or our car. We played outside most of the day with friends. The highlight of a summer day was the ice cream truck! I would also find a shady spot and enjoy reading a book! Great memories and all without technology!

  42. Colleen Kelley on August 7, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    I grew up in Michigan in the 1950’s-1970’s. Not only did we not have AC at home, I worked in a public library without air-conditioning. At the library we had huge fans that blew warm air around the building. Imagine papers blowing off desks and people raising their voices because they couldn’t hear one another over the constant buzz of the fans and motors! In a library. Add to that the incessant bickering of library staff over the positions of the fans. When the library moved to a new building everyone, staff and patrons alike, welcomed the addition of air-conditioning. 😀 📚👍🏻

  43. Elaine on August 7, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    We didn’t have air conditioning either. Just a big shade tree to stay under if you were hot. My dad even installed heating and cooling systems, but not at our house. But once all the kids were out of the house they got air conditioning. We all survived..

  44. Elsine on August 7, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    No air conditioning at our house. We played outside and knew no better. If you were hot you got a drink, most of the time from the hose. We were supposed to stay outside until lunchtime and usually ate that outside under the big maple tree. We worked in the garden, helped can garden produce or were weeding the garden. We thought we were in heaven when dad got a 6 foot round stock tank we could swim in.

  45. Callise on August 8, 2023 at 9:01 am

    We did not have heating and air conditioning in our house (or car), or even in our schools.
    I swear, I spent my childhood under the shade of our Ligustrum bushes, reading and playing, and drinking from the hose. We did not have any large trees in our yard, but I could walk 2 blocks to the high school grounds and there were huge oak trees there. I would climb way up (out of my little sister’s reach) and read my book. We did not own many books, but the mobile library came to a corner near us (around 10 blocks away) and every Friday my parents took us and allowed us each to check out a stack of 6 books.
    To stay cool, one day, my siblings and I dug a huge hole in the back yard, lined it with trash bags, then filled it with water. Trash bags back then were very thick! We had a great day splashing in our “pool” until my dad came home from work and made us fill it back in. We also had a public swimming pool two blocks away. We spent a lot of time there. They had chairs set up under a cover and you could swim, then go sit under the cover and read your book. It was great.
    When I was a senior in high school we moved to the northside of San Antonio and the high school was air conditioned. Even better, our house had central heat and air. It was such a luxury. Possibly the best year of my life!! No more window fans.

  46. Patti Foster on August 8, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    I grew up in a small town in Ohio. No air conditioner, no ceiling fans.. We slept with all the windows open, and a big exhaust fan on a chair in front of the back door, which helped pull cool night air into the bedroom windows.. That meant just a latched screen door, .but it was a quiet neighborhood and we never had any trouble. We played outside most of the day, riding bikes, playing softball, tag and other games…or ‘Army’. I was lucky to have 3 brothers, and enjoy a tomboy childhood! We built forts in the empty field in the neighborhood, and cooled off in a small hose- filled swimming pool or played in the sprinklerl. Mom keep us supplied with home-made popsicles. Saturday night baths were mandatory, as church was the next day, other days if mom decided we needed them! And oh….what a struggle to get your pants up and down to go to the bathroom!! Ugh!! That’s what I remember most about no air conditioning!! It was a great childhood, and we just lived with the heat and humidity!

  47. Myra M. on September 2, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    No AC growing up. When it was canning time, lots of fans were collected to use in the kitchen. I remember all the dust coming into the house through the open, screened windows because of the traffic going by on the graveled and dusty road. We kids were outside as much as possible and riding bikes in our very rural area; before everyone had a car and forced bicyclists to ride in parks or other areas away from vehicular traffic. Whew; I would hate to go back to those days and do without AC.

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