Little Cool Places

LITTLE COOL PLACES



In the days before air conditioners were placed in all buildings and every means of conveyance and of course before Dixie was invaded by northerners looking for cheap land, mild winters and people who might actually believe how great things were “up there,” we endured sweltering summer days by finding little cool places. Southern summers have been long and hot since before anyone alive can remember and they will most likely be long and hot after we are all gone. When there is no air conditioning little cool places make scorching summer days bearable.


The way we dealt with chores, food, and heat provided a definite rhythm to our summer lives. Cornbread, fried chicken, turnip greens, squash and all the rest were cooked after breakfast before the sun had done its worst. Supper often consisted of leftovers or a good old tomato sandwich. The hottest time of day, between dinner and supper, was when we really needed those little cool places.


Southerners talk and move at a slower pace for very good reasons. Moving fast in humid summer heat just wears you out and makes you sweat way too much. Our unique slower pace along with little cool places allowed us to survive quite nicely in the days when, at best, air conditioning was only available inside your local movie house.


Those over a certain age have no doubt heard the following sentence more than once, “Let’s find us a cool place to sit.” That didn’t mean going inside to the air conditioner, in fact it most likely meant going outside. Our little cool places could well be a rocking chair on the shady side of the porch or that place between a huge magnolia and two tall pecan trees where any hint of a breeze would find you. Of course a decent house in the South would have porches on at least two sides allowing for a much greater chance of remaining in the shade. All houses in the South had an identified “coolest place” which was well known by each family member.


Kids in the South always had lots of little cool places. We often escaped the sun by moving around a huge Magnolia tree in the front yard. At my grandfather’s house a porch shaped like the letter L complete with hammock provided a respite from afternoon heat. For those of us lucky enough to have a creek close by that could be the best little cool place in Dixie.

JACK KEAN

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