Growing up in Childs outside of Elkton, Rosie Bott's family didn't have air conditioning.
"It wasn't as hot back then. We had a duck pond below us and we'd cool off in there. You couldn't put your feet down in the duck pond. There wasn't air conditioning. We kept the windows down and the shades pulled. And we still did chores," said Bott. That's what Bott, 77, said last week as she and the other members of the Young at Heart senior citizens group gathered at St. John's United Methodist Church, Charlestown, for their weekly get together. The seniors talked about the unbearable heat lately and how they survived summer before air conditioned homes and offices were the norm.
Peggy Lewis, 81, has lived in the North East/Charlestown area for 70 years. "It was hot. But you dealt with it. You went outside and sat under a tree. If you were in school, the teachers would take us outside. If you had a porch, you slept on the porch," said Lewis.
Ruby Gordon, 75, said she spent her summers in water. "We played in the creek and the woods. The creek wasn't really deep enough. But we had picnics. We had one fan in our whole house, and it was not in my room," she said. Now that she's an adult, Gordon has a strategy for dealing with the weather. "The minute I turn off the heat, I turn on the air conditioner. I'm never going to be cold and I'm never going to be hot again. When I was 13, I picked beans for two cents a pound. It was hot, but we didn't know the difference," Gordon said.
Judy Nataloni, 79, lives in Perryville. But she grew up in West Philadelphia. "I think we had a fan. We never had air conditioning. Now, I have everything. I live on the water and it's air conditioned. I have someone who cuts my lawn. I worked 40 years to get it," said Nataloni. She also said that growing up, her grandmother fanned her with a fan she got free from a funeral home.
Kathy Chamberlain, 66, said she makes do with a single a/c unit. "We have ceiling fans. We keep the house dark and we have trees," she said. "Growing up, we had no a/c and no fans. We had a community pool and you had to pay 10 cents to go. We collected bottles and returned them for two cents each. And we didn't go until everybody had a dime."