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In the Good Old Days Antiques Corner This Week in History
In the Good Old Days

Trivia Question

On Aug. 28, 1963, one of the most well-known speeches in history was given. Where did it take place and by whom was it given?

Dog Days of Summer

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It's hot today. The weatherman tells me we have entered the "dog days of summer" -- when the sultry days build upon each other with little or no rainfall to relieve the heat. In ancient Rome, the dog days ran from approximately July 24 through Aug. 24. In many European cultures this period is still considered the dog days. Where I live, the dog days seem to go on forever.

When I was young, this time frame was marked with all kinds of ways we tried to beat the heat and humidity: a sprinkler attached to a garden hose in the backyard, a constant supply of popsicles in the freezer, and water-balloon fights with the neighbor kids. We had no local swimming pool and no air conditioning in our home (except for the small window unit my parents got in their bedroom in the late 1960s -- my dad swapped a push lawn mower for it). The temperature in our upstairs bedrooms was nearly unbearable, so Mom would let us bring a pillow and blanket downstairs to sleep on the floor in the living room, close to my parents' room. And if it got really hot during the day, we would find an excuse to "accidently" fall into the river behind our house to cool off. I don't recall ever complaining about the oppressive heat back then; it was just a fact of life and part of our summer experience.

We all have a man named Willis Carrier to thank for our modern-day comfort. According to "A History of Air Conditioning" on, Carrier invented the first modern air-conditioning system back in 1902 as a 25-year-old engineer from New York. It was designed to control humidity in the printing plant where he worked. Then in 1922, he followed up with the invention of the centrifugal chiller, which added a central compressor to reduce the unit's size. This new configuration was introduced to the public on Memorial Day weekend in 1925, when it debuted at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square in New York City. For years afterward, people piled into air-conditioned movie theaters on hot summer days, giving rise to the "summer blockbuster" phenomenon.

In the 1930s, air conditioning spread to department stores, rail cars and offices, sending workers' summer productivity soaring. Residential air conditioning was slower to take hold. According to some sources, only 10 percent of U.S. households had any type of air conditioning back in 1965. By 2007, however, the number was 86 percent.

I am happy to report that I am a contributor to that 86 percent. I have gotten soft: I need air conditioning from April through September. I say it's because of my allergies, but truth be told, I simply like the comfort of the modern, whole-house air conditioning. I gladly pay for it, especially during the dog days of summer.

Besides, at my age, I'm sure I would look a little funny running through a sprinkler in my backyard.

'Til next time,

Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old Days® magazine

PS. How did you creatively beat the heat in your younger years? Send a brief response to me at, and it could appear in a future newsletter or in Good Old Days magazine! Here are several email responses from the July 16, 2014, newsletter question: What was your favorite summertime game? Keep your replies coming!

Bev H. told us: "There were six siblings in our family, and we were poor. We had to use our imaginations to come up with our entertainment. Kick the Can was certainly one favorite game in the 1940s. Another favorite game was Tag. We would double up our fists and say 'One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four; five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more ...' The last one holding a clenched fist was 'it' while the rest of us hid. Who else remembers that? We also made our own 'guns' and slingshots out of clothespins and old tire tubes. I have many stories to tell of those days."
Wendie emailed: "My mother used to tell us to go outside and get some fresh air, out in the complex of Air Force on-base housing in New Jersey. We had a basic playground, but no other real play space, so we often used chalk to draw a grid for four-square. We played using a basketball. It wasn't as bouncy as a rubber ball, but it got the job done!"
Marilyn W. shared this: "It was a long time ago (I'm 83), but I can still picture my friends and me playing games in our yard during the summer. In the small town in northwestern Pennsylvania where I grew up, there wasn't much else to do. We didn't have TV, a movie theater, nor even a library. We kids played Hide and Seek; Red Rover; Red Light, Green Light; and Mother, May I. What good times we had!"
Cindy T. reminisced: "We loved to play Kick the Can. We also played No Bears Are Out Tonight and Hide-and-Seek. We had about 12 to 15 kids in the neighborhood to play with, and we played in two yards. It was sooo much fun!"

Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.

Fill out the easy feedback form and let me know your thoughts, questions and ideas.

Trivia Answer

During the March on Washington rally in August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to the assembled masses and gave his famous and inspiring I Have a Dream speech. Given at the height of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, this speech became a defining moment in our history. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be enacted less than a year later.

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