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Staying Cool in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940's
by Jim Harrison

August 2007 saw the thermometer rise above 100 degrees each day for several weeks here in North Alabama. Luckily, for almost all of us now-a-days we have air conditioned homes, automobiles and offices.

For me, hot summer weather always brings to mind the Mississippi Delta. I well remember those hot summer days when I was growing up there in the 1940s. Back then the modern wonder of air conditioning did not exist. The best way to keep cool was to jump in the Moorhead swimming pool, which we did every afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m. In those days our main modern wonder for staying cool was electric fans. They ran constantly in the summer in every room and office.

In our bedroom at night with the windows as wide open as we could get them and the fans running full blast, we still had a hard time going to sleep, thanks to the oppressive heat which had built up all day long. With the windows open, every outside sound could be heard. Especially the cicada bugs (sometimes called the 17 year locusts) which some nights got so loud that they too contributed to our insomnia.

To beat the heat we occasionally took a bath rag, wet it thoroughly with cold water, and applied it to our hot faces while we lay in bed.

I remember asking my grandmother how in the world they managed to get by on hot summer nights without electric fans when she was young. Her answer: We fanned ourselves with old fashioned hand fans (funeral home fans) until we fell asleep.


BIO: James K. Harrison is a retired NASA engineer who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with his school-teacher wife (Nancy) and step-daughter, Heather. He received a B. S. degree in engineering from Mississippi State in 1958 and an M. S. degree in engineering from the University of Alabama in 1964. He is a history buff and a writer of his own unpublished family history. He was born in Greenville, Mississippi, on June 2, 1935. After his father died in 1938 he and his two-year-old brother (Tomberry--short for Thomas Castleberry) went to live with their Castleberry grandparents in Moorhead, Mississippi (where the Southern crosses the Dog). There they lived for the next eight years until 1946 when they rejoined their stepfather, mother, and new stepbrother in Vicksburg, Mississippi. From 1946 to 1953 James and Tomberry (although living in Vicksburg) returned each year to Moorhead to spend the summer with their Castleberry grandparents. Those carefree summer days in the Mississippi Delta were filled with fun and frolic. From them James received many memories that he will forever cherish.

Read more of Jim's memoirs here at USADS!
Little Harlem Club
Moorhead Picture Show
Saturday Night in Moorhead, Mississippi
Red Tops of Vicksburg, Mississippi


Write Jim Harrison at jkharrison2.

Here are more stories about the 50s and 60s! Dont miss these and many more in our Articles List:
The Bomb by Kent Fletcher
Coming of Age With WLAC by Beth Boswell Jacks
The Last Train by Lonnye Sue Pearson
Front porches, dirt roads, and wild dogs by Tom Givens

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