Days Gone By - stories from the past

Top 20 summertime memories in the south – Can you add to the list?

I grew up in Alabama and on hot summer days we had to find ways to entertain ourselves and endure the heat without air-conditioning. These are my top 20 summer-time memories.  How did you stay entertain yourself and stay cool during the hot southern days before air-conditioning?


  1. Spent evenings outdoors catching fireflies (we called them lightening bugs) with my brothers and sisters.lightening bugs in a jar
  2. Loaded up in the family station wagon on a hot summer afternoon to get to“The Spinning Wheel” in Birmingham, Alabama for those big frosty milkshakes served in huge ribbed glasses.
  3. Walked barefoot on freshly mowed grass and enjoy the fresh smells.
  4. Visited my grandparents and relatives who lived down dirt one-lane roads through thick woods and narrow one-lane bridges.wooden bridge
  5. Tied a string to a June bug’s leg and hang on to it while it flew around in circles.
  6. Dressed up in ‘Sunday best’ and shopped in downtown Birmingham, Alabama at Loveman’s or Pizitz and enjoyed air-conditioning in the large department stores.lovemans dept
  7. Had a party at Lowe’s Skating Rink in Birmingham, Alabama.
  8. Left windows open for a cooling breeze and doors unlocked at night while we slept with no worries.

  1. Spent a summer afternoon lying on the grass and made images in my mind from clouds overhead.
  2. Made chain necklaces from daisies to wear and searched for four leaf clovers in the grass.daisy chain
  3. Cooled off by playing with your brothers and sisters in the sprinkler.
  4. Went to Kiddieland at Fair Park in Birmingham and rode all the rides.
  5. Spent a Friday or Saturday night cruisin down third avenue in front of the theaters in Birmingham with all the windows rolled down.
  6. Watched a movie in the cool air-conditioned and beautiful theaters.alabama theater
  7. Enjoyed the beautiful music from the massive organ at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, Alabama.
  8. Chased after the ice cream truck with my dime or quarter to get a frosty treat.
  9. Waded in a spring cooled creek.
  10. Watched a movie at an outdoor movie theaters.
  11. Went to mall to enjoy the air-conditioning.
  12. Skated down the street with my old time skates that attached to my shoes and I tightened with a key.

 

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By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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54 comments

  1. Martha Caldwell Wallace

    I did all of these things.

  2. Katherine Jarrell Barnett

    All of that and eating watermelon that my grandpa grew under the same tree year after year.

  3. Joe Newman

    I remember all this . I am older than I thought.

  4. Alvin G Rothe Jr

    21. Playing/watching a Little League or Pony League game at the park

  5. Wading in Wood’s Creek; catching ‘craw dads’, eating persimmons, possum grapes and other wild berries from trees along the creek, drinking cool water from the well and many more…

  6. Tommy May

    Cruising late weekend nights at Eastwood Mall in our Hot Rods

    1. Tommy May

      I bought my first house near there (Northumberland Rd) just so I wouldn’t have to drive to far to cruise and hang out with all the car guys.

  7. Sam Harris

    I grew up on a moderately busy street. We played “snake”. Cut a garden hose into a 3-4 foot section. Wrap in black electrical tape and stick a coat hanger thru it and shape in an “s” shape with a loop at the head. Attached fishing to the loop and when a car came by, we’d pull the “snake” across the street. People would slam on brakes and try to run it over and would actually get out of the car to kill it. We’d pull it all the way into the bushes to use it again. We also played “hubcap”. One would hide in the bushes and roll a coffee can down the hill to a friend who would take the can and run thru the bushes to use it again. People would stop the car and search for the lost hubcap until they realized they had all 4. This was in the 1960s. It’s a different world now and I do NOT recommend these games. Debbie McMurray
    Rod Hines
    Susan N Randy Moore
    Ellen Ford Oakley
    Cindy Burns Rothstein
    Susan N Brownlee
    Randy Harris

    1. Ellen Ford Oakley

      At night, playing “Mother, May I”, “Red Light, Green Light”, and “Hide and Seek”. Always catching lightning bugs in jars that we had punched holes in the lids with a hammer and nail. I remember my granddaddy Ford helping tie a string to June bugs. Cold watermelon on a hot weekend. Cranking homemade ice cream. Piling into the backseat for long Sunday afternoon drives – listening to the adults talk about whose old home place we passed and how they were related to us; stopping to get a bottle of soda. Walking on the railroad with my granddaddy Ford out to White Head’s store and getting a milkshake. I loved when we got White Head’s brunswick stew for Sunday night dinner.

    2. Ellen Ford Oakley

      Now I’m remembering Grandmama Ford driving me to swimming lessons at the city pool and then taking us back later to spend the afternoons at the pool. Terrified of the high diving board but still jumping. I also remember the times I spent at the city library with Miss Annie, checking out books that I took home to read when I climbed to favorite spots in pecan and plum trees.

    3. Love the story!!

  8. Jeremiah Woolsey

    I was across the street from there just a month ago. A nice area, newly renovated; but both theaters are still there loooking good.

  9. Donna Goolsby

    Making homemade ice cream!

  10. Edward Johnson

    Spraying each other with the garden hose or as we use to call it “The hose pipe” and then eat watermelon while we dry.

  11. JoAnna Harvey Sasnett

    Playing outside after dark until your mom turns the porch light on and off and knowing it was time to go in.

  12. JoAnna Harvey Sasnett

    The sound of the attic fan at night.

  13. Janice Whitley Drinkard

    I remember all 20 of these plus catching crawdads in the big ditch by my house in Ensley.

  14. Sherri Hughes Griswold

    Lived across the street from the post office. It had air conditioning! I got to k ow the post master very well, and used to just hang out when I was about 10yo. Also, we had a basement with a concrete floor. It was always much cooler than the house, so we’d sleep on pallets on the cold concrete floor. Remember pallets? Just piles of homemade quilts.

  15. Lucy Jackson

    Going to East Lake swimming pool. Admission was 10 cents. Cascade was a quarter. Walking to the Library in East Lake .Going to Grants Mills and swinging off the rope into the swimming hole.Playing past dark with all the neighood kids past dark. Making up our own games, we stayed out all day and half the night.The 50’s and early 60’s were fun times.

  16. Brenda Franks

    Yes I remember having to stay cool by an air conditioner I did all these things.

  17. We had a cable tied to the bottom the Southern Rail Road trestle where we could swing out and drop into Yellow Leaf Creek near Wilsonville in Shelby County. Boy Scout camp-outs were always plenty of fun.

  18. Spending times at “Holiday Beach ” with cousins

  19. Faye Rich

    Going to Kiddie Land Park to ride the Ferris wheel. Going to drive in movies to see Roy Rogers. Wading around in Turkey Creek.

  20. Faye Rich

    Oh and playing kick the can!!

  21. Ann Martin Williams

    Floating on the Cahaba River in a truck tire inner tube.

  22. Dean Atkinson

    Going to Turkey Creek for picnic, swimming and a swing from a tree into the water with my uncle and his friends!

  23. Blake Davis

    We had no air conditioning, and I have no memory of it being particularly hot other than sometimes stepping barefoot into melted asphalt on some summer days. That got me moving even quicker. Windows were open, there used to be nice breezes. On the other hand, there was no stinking papermills upwind requiring the windows to be shut and the now requisite air conditioning being required. I was as skinny as a whippet back then. Lose that body fat, wear a hat, and you’ll be amazed the difference.

  24. Nancy Owen Runyan

    We would sit on the front porch ,my Dad put a huge fan on our enclosed back porch that vented out back.I could stand in the hall and it felt like I could be sucked away.It cooled us down especially at night.

  25. Kenneth H. Haughton

    Ignored the heat around Selma. We were/are “sawmill people.” Many of my companions shared a saying: “The hotter it gets the better I feel.” Never once fainted from the heat, however I did drink 6 (six) Pepsi Colas, one behind the other and threw up 7 (seven). No haven’t had one since nor needed any.

  26. Anne Cathey Smith

    I remember being invited to ” cruise” when I was in high school. My first question was “does your car have A/C?”

  27. William Nabors

    Going to the Cascade pool where it was feed by springs of very cold water but as a kid it was so refreshing, my Aunt and Uncles would take us. Grants Mill was free and to me more fun, play on swing and playing minnow and trout. Reminded of where I grew up in Fayette, Al. Me were out of the house by seven thirty and with a fully belly and most of us didn’t get home until after dark, sometime you missed lunch and dinner both of you were not there when they were served but we didn’t care.

  28. Going to Cascade Plunge with cousins and the first jump into the icy water. Going to visit my great Aunt who lived on Five Mile Creek and playing in the creek.

  29. Charles Dustin Aurand

    I can relate to the common ones, (ice cream trucks, or shops, keeping cool by playing in the Sprinkler, catching lightening bugs and June bugs etc.)

  30. On hot, muggy summer nights in Mobile, I remember going to open air watermelon stands where we would enjoy watermelon sold by the slice. I’m not sure if my memories are correct, but the smell and taste has never been better than of those days when watermelon was picked ripe and brought in daily from Grand Bay.

  31. The smell of the white shoe polish on my little sister’s shoes on Sunday. Swimming in Rock Creek. Watching western movies at the Wylam theater with my dad. The smell of vanilla milkshakes at the soda fountain in the drugstore at the United Security Building in Ensley.

  32. Myra Bailey

    go in the woods and build us a fort

  33. I remember all these things, but things were so simple then! Sometimes I wish for that time again!

  34. Theresa Leipert

    On Friday nights going to BIR and then on Saturday nights going to Sayre Speedway!

  35. Theresa Leipert

    On Friday nights going to BIR and then on Saturday nights going to Sayre Speedway!

  36. Catching minnows for fish bate in the creek behind our house was just great. Just watch out for the snakes. Caught a bunch in my minnow baskets.

  37. Karen Jones

    Going to the creek.

  38. Jaimie Shields Barrows

    Shelli Underwood Crawford Megan Oden Ambrae Kaye Walker Ami Quinn- Rodgers

  39. Jack R. Hamilton

    Yes, all of those great memories. By the time I was 8-10. I was able to stay home with my big brother. Both our parents worked, so we took care of ourselves. I stayed outside until our parents got home, then a quick hug, and back outside until dinner. When we had the money, we would wait for the ice cream guys on bicycles with insulated boxes on the front. The cheapest things that lasted longest were double popsicles, so we usually got those. Stained our lips, but they were great. If we ate lunch, it was a tomato sandwich, or (a treat!) a bologna sandwich with mustard. We would hold them over the flame on the gas stove with a big serving fork. Yum! We skated on those old clamp-ons until, invariably, we wore them out. Then we would take them apart and put half of one on the front of a piece of 2 x 4, and half on the back. Another piece on the front with a little piece on top to make a handlebar of sorts, and we had what we called a scoot-a-mobile.

  40. Janet H. Hinton

    Running through the waterhose held by my mom!

  41. Sleeping on the screened back porch. Sitting in the swing on the front porch with a big glass of ice tea. Putting a big sheet of plastic on the lawn, wetting it down with a hose, then taking a running start to belly flop and slide the length of the plastic. Riding a horse bareback down a dirt road shaded by pines. Visiting Dairy Queen for an orange slush. Playing in a warm rain. Going to the lake to swim. Spending hot summer afternoons reading in the air conditioned library (the only air conditioned building in town). Sitting on the ice cream churn to hold it in place while Daddy turned the handle. Sitting with neighbors in the backyard at night watching for satellites to go over (they were rare back then!). All this took place in Arkansas and south Texas but still the same southern summer experiences!

  42. Walter King

    1) Sitting on the top of the homemade ice cream maker and turning the crank until the ice cream was firm – the finished product was always worth it. 2) Walking behind the Ford 4000 tractor driven by my Daddy as he was plowing – the cool dirt felt so good to a kid who rarely wore shoes in Summer.

  43. Kerry Gossett

    Riding around in the car with the windows down, until the house cooled off enough to go home and go to sleep! Sometimes the “Spinning Wheel” was included in the night time “tour”.

  44. Thomas Bagby

    We went to a movie every weekend to cool off. They had double features then so you could stay several hours.

  45. Susan Wingo Beck

    Picking blackberries!

  46. As a child, taking a nap on the wooden bedroom floor because it was cooler than lying
    on the bed.

  47. Summers for me and my family was………tomato sandwiches, swimming in the creek, playing under the water sprinkler, going on long car rides after church and looking for the perfect picnic spot, an occasional Saturday afternoon movie, picking apples and peaches, churning homemade ice cream, walking to our grandparents home (thru the woods), and best of all…………being out of school!

  48. There was a peddler J.D. Dollar who came to my Grandmother’s house every Friday, we would by giant Lotta Colas and all-day suckers and head for the cool creek and set on rocks in the creek and drink and suck on our all-day suckers.

  49. Swimming in Rock Creek off Birmingport Road. We boys had a long rope tied to a tree limb and would swing out and drop into the creek.

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