On this page will appear past examples of my weekly newspaper column,
"At the end of the Line with Ed Kelemen."
Keep coming back, because it will be frequently updated.
Originally Published on July 21, 2006
Under the Title "Staying Cool In The Summer ..."
What actually is the difference between 80, 90 and 100 degrees? There isn't any. It is difference between 12, 30 and 60 years of age that really counts.
I can vaguely remember my grandmother and her friends sitting in the shade of a back porch and trying to decide what they could make for supper that didn't involve stoves or ovens.
Another time, I remember my dad, just to prove a point, actually cooking an egg on the sun-seared hood of his car. I guess it was one of those days when it was too hot to do anything except drink cold beverages and let your fried brain come up with ideas of how to pass the time.
At the same time, I was just about ready to enter adolescence and puberty. I was bulletproof. I had freedom in the form of a 24" J.C.Higgins two-wheeler that I inherited from my cousin. I washed and waxed it every Saturday while my dad did the same to his black 1939 Ford 3-window coupe. I would also oil everything on it that could be oiled and make sure that there was enough air in the tires. If you were, like I, lucky enough to have a bike; it had only one gear and two speeds. The speeds were: slow uphill and fast downhill. Pittsburgh is a hilly place.
During those summers it wasn't unusual for the mercury to climb to 100 in the shadows created by the bilious orangish-yellow-brown smoke that poured from the stacks at J & L Steel. In those days, the smoke wasn't pollution, it was prosperity. As the air got easier to breathe, more neighbors and relatives were out of work.
Sometimes, to ease the temperature, Big Billy McMahon, who had the right-sized wrench and muscles to match, would open a fire hydrant for the kids in the neighborhood. This would last until the police noticed it and called the fire department. Then, a big Hook and Ladder Truck would show up a little later with lights flashing and siren wailing. The firemen would turn off the hydrant and leave until the next time Big Billy turned it on. In my entire childhood, nobody ratted on him. (I think the statute of limitations has run its course by now.)
During the mornings we kids would pedal our bikes up the hill into what woods we had in the area and play around a stream that flowed there. We would catch crayfish and eat the watercress that grew there. At the time I could never figure what was so hoity-toity about watercress sandwiches when we had that stuff growing wild on the hill near the creek. (Pronounced "crick.")
As soon as afternoon rolled around, we all rolled our bathing suits in towels, stuffed them in the space between the frame and the seat, and biked over to the city swimming pool for a couple hours of supervised swimming. At four o'clock we had to leave the pool. That's when kids over 14 years old swam. Six o'clock found us back at the pool for the family swim until eight. Of course we waited a half hour after eating to enter the water- yeah, right!
We always hurried home to beat the illumination of the street lights that marked our evening curfew. Once the sun went down, the family enjoyed the cool front porch as heat lightning provided fireworks until bedtime.
We did it all over again the next day. And childhood obesity wasn't a problem.
That, and Mom’s Iced Tea made us all call out to one an other, “Life Is Good!”