Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Sure, it's hot, but are you mowing in boxers?Imagine living through 14 days of 90-degree temperatures with five days at 100 degrees or higher. There was no air conditioning anywhere, except for a few movie theaters.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Imagine living through 14 days of 90-degree temperatures with five days at 100 degrees or higher. There was no air conditioning anywhere, except for a few movie theaters.
It was the summer of 1936 and resulted in the 20th century’s worst disaster, second only to the Galveston Hurricane, when 5,000 people died from the Midwest to the East Coast. Nearly 180 people died of heat exhaustion in the Twin Cities. On July 6 of that year, it was 114 degrees in Moorhead.
When there is an unusually cold winter, people say that means there will be a hot summer. Weather statistics don’t bear that out, except for 1936, which was one of the coldest winters on record.
On July 13, my father, George Fletcher Booth, 20, escorted my mother, Marjorie May Havier, who had just celebrated her 16th birthday, to have dinner at his home and meet his parents for the first time.
My parents were raised in south Minneapolis. In recalling that summer, Dad said people slept on their lawns or walked to the many lakes in the city to sleep on the shores.
Still in the heart of the Great Depression, there were drought conditions all through the heart of the country. There were long stretches of hot weather throughout August until the ridge of high pressure moved off in September.
It was so hot, that in addition to Dust Bowl conditions, natural bacteria that helped fertilize crops died in the soil. Farming practices at the time added to the devastating effects of heat and drought. Crops weren’t rotated and when land was exhausted, before commercial fertilizers, farmers abandoned barren land and moved on.
People living in the 1930s observed society’s rules, however. There were no flip-flop sandals, halter tops or shorts worn in public except at the beach or summer cabins.
Women wore dresses and men, who weren’t farmers or construction workers, wore dark suits and hats. I have family pictures of picnics where my uncles had taken off suit jackets and rolled up the sleeves on their white shirts and my aunts were wearing dresses.
There were only small neighborhood grocery stores and not everyone owned a car. In the heat, people walked to and from local stores.
I can’t imagine what it was like on the fifth floor of a hospital or in a downtown office building.
Because my mother’s family followed the rules of society of the time, my mother put on her best dress and hat to meet what would become her future in-laws.
My grandfather, George Arthur Booth, was a practical man. He once trimmed a neighbor’s hedge just because it needed it.
On that July day when my father escorted the love of his life to his house, my grandfather decided that it was too hot to follow society’s rules.
He stripped to his boxer shorts, put on a butcher’s apron, and was mowing the lawn as the couple strolled up the walk.
“What did you think about that?” I asked my mother as she told the story.
“I tried not to notice,” she said. “It was way too hot to do anything else.”