The following story is one sent to writer Dale Short by Faye Bobo after an article he wrote for The Daily Mountain Eagle about summers in the south. It relates her memories of summers before the modern conveniences were available in Dora. As the temperatures rise in late July, reading her words put a smile on my face and I hope it brings one to your face as well. (Faye Bobo passed away in 2000). Rick
Some of the finer points of my memories don’t serve me too well these days, but your article in the Mountain Eagle of Sunday August 1st evoked a few of those memories way before your time. From my early recollections we always were fortunate to have electric lights and a telephone. Although “appliances” were much later, an oscillating fan was a luxury we added to the “lights” when I was about 6 or 8 years old. The radio, stove, refrigerator, sewing machines and iron and the like came in later.
One of my most vivid memories was when “Ice George” came around 3 times a week to deliver blocks of ice from Mr. Butch Ray’s icehouse.
We had an Ice Box – a wood cabinet with an insulated compartment with a metal lining where the block of ice was kept. A metal shelf above the ice held things like meat, milk etc. The other compartments held things that didn’t require as cold a place but needed to be kept cool. On those awful hot days when the ice was delivered, “Ice George” would let us get a handful of the chips and slivers of ice where he chipped off a 25 pound block or a 50 pound brick from the huge block of ice under the canvas on the back of the wagon, (later he had a truck for delivery) We had a small shaggy white dog named Fido who did not especially care for “Ice George” and would attack at a safe distance behind him with a shrill barking until “Ice George” would come in and deposit the ice and start back to the delivery wagon – at which time the “vicious” attack would begin again and “Ice George” would turn and snap the huge gongs in Fido’s direction, evoking more and louder barking but at an even safer distance away. George would laugh and tell us he’d see us on Tuesday; Thursday; or Saturday his usual delivery days. This was a summer ritual.
After I was grown, my mother had relented enough to get a refrigerator, wringer washer, sewing machine, radio, electric iron but had resisted the evolution of a cook stove, still cooking and canning on a coal stove. This added to the unbearable heat of summer in our big old house.
We had a visit from my uncle, my mother’s baby brother. He had discovered the real evolution of an electric fan in the attic or a window. He ran in, gave my mother a bear hug and announced “Toody” (his name for her in place of Cora): “I brought you something so you won’t die from the heat of this #%$@& coal stove.
He began removing the bathroom sash of the big window on one side of her kitchen. With my Dad’s help they brought in a huge home-made box fan. The box was of heavy 1” x 12” and in one corner a motor big enough to operate a sawmill and a big blade fan in a circular cutout in plywood. Attached to the fan spindle and the motor was a fan belt. My uncle said, “now when I turn this on it will make a noise but you’ll get used to it. It will pull the sheets off your beds.”
He raised and lowered certain windows and warned not to lift the stove eye of the firebox for fear it would pull the hot ashes out.
I was standing by a window when he flipped the switch and it was a transformation. The curtains stood out and the breeze was terrific. The noise level was about that of the huge fans below Maxine Mine that aired the mines in that area. But were we cool! The wonder of electricity and a little ingenuity! The only adverse thing was Mama never wanted to give it up for an air conditioner and never did.
I have other vivid memories of hot summers but they’ll be another story…especially the summer of the polio outbreak.