Way Back Playback: How We Stayed Cool in the Olden Days

What time machine picked me up and plunked me down in the middle of Aruba?! Get set for a long haul, kids, because this heat is going nowhere fast:

Heat Wave Here to Stay (K-W Record)

This weather trend got me thinking about how we stayed cool, as children, before air-conditioning was a given and before people paid attention to proper hydration. As a child of the 70s, that era probably seems light-years ago to some of you readers! So, let’s take a step back in time…

Here are five (I do like lists of five items!) ways that we beat the heat, back when I was little…

1. Wading pools and sprinklers: In the afternoons, when it was super-hot, Mom would pull out my little yellow splash pool and set it up on our back patio. She’d take the garden hose and fill the pool with water. My little pool was about the size of a bucket that you’d use to wash your car – as in I had enough room to turn around, or sit down and kick my feet, and that was about it. Sometimes, we’d bring a small step stool poolside, and jump into the six inches of water. [Remember this was the 1970’s and safety practices were more…lax, in those days – although my Mom was always on supervision duty any time water was involved].


Alternately, Mom would set up the lawn sprinkler for us. This was the type that waved back and forth. We’d have much fun inventing games of hopping over the sprinkler, avoiding the splatter-drops, sitting ON the sprinkler to see if the garden hose would blow up, etc. Every once in a while, Mom would move the sprinkler to a new location on the lawn so that we wouldn’t run a bare dirt landing strip into the grass. Still, by the end of July, much to Dad’s chagrin, there’d often be brown/squashed patches in the grass!


2. Frozen juice-sicles: Once again Mom and Mrs M (VFBF Joanne‘s Mom) were ahead of their time. We didn’t grow up with daily ice cream, popsicle or Mr Freezie treats – these were kept more for occasional surprises. Instead – and I have very clear memories of Mrs M doing this – our Moms would freeze orange juice in Tupperware-brand popsicle-makers.


Healthy, appropriately child-sized servings, these cooling juicy pops were just the revitalizing snack we needed on a hot day – then it was back out to the sprinkler! [Moms out there (or anyone who feels like making a refreshing, frozen treat): Angela featured an updated homemade popsicle recipe idea on her blog the other day – they look delicious!].

3. Trips to Goderich: Now, this of course, was not something we could just do on the spur of the moment, but we did spend quite a bit of time in Goderich, as children. My grandparents’ cottage was outside of town, but they did have a small beach area in their neighbourhood of cottage homes. It wasn’t really a swimming/play-in-the-sand type spot, but we could splash about and throw rocks – into the water, not at each other, haha! – for a short cool-down break. We’d head to the beach proper in Goderich for excursions of several hours.

me (L) and mom (R) at the goderich lighthouse park, summer 1976

4. Playtime in the basement: Our house was a bungalow, and we had a “rec room,” as we called it in our basement. On scorching hot days, the downstairs was noticeably cooler than our main level. So The Brother and I would spend a lot of time during the hottest part of the day playing very happily with Barbies, paper dolls, arts ‘n’ crafts projects (me) and Lego, Sonos and Star Wars figures (him). Oh! And a favourite 10:30 a.m. cooldown event was to watch Mr Dressup on TV!


5. Picnic lunches in the park: To break up the monotony of lunchtime, Mom would organize lunches out for us – but not at a fastfood joint! Our version of lunch out was to all hop on our bikes and head to a local park. We’d find a shady area, and eat a simple but yummy lunch of sandwiches, cookies and fruit. Then, The Brother and I would play on the playground equipment before we’d head home. I remember that one week, we went to a different park every day from Monday to Friday! Our house was in the Stanley Park area of Kitchener, and some of our favourite spots included Tecumseh Park, the grounds of Canadian Martyrs school, and the park area on Manchester Road. These lunches out were much more fun – and healthier for out bodies and the family budget!  – than trips to McDo would have been!


So, yes, nowadays, it is much easier to flip a switch and get instant cooling with our air-conditioners. But, we managed way back when, and had a lot of fun!

What do you remember about how you stayed cool, as a child? Even as a child, I loved the summer and hot temps! Some things never change!

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  • Zo  On July 23, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I do remember running through sprinklers….making up games involving running through sprinklers…and kiddie pools. I suspect I ate ice cream no matter what though!

  • Dorry  On July 23, 2011 at 8:13 am

    We would totally “play in the hose” – hahaha. That was our favorite thing to do in the backyard. Occasionally, we’d get to have the slip-n-slide, but I think it made my dad cringe because it ruined his beautiful lawn. haha. We’d also go over to my grandmother’s house because she had a swimming pool. So many fun memories flooding back to me now. Thank you! 🙂

  • Anonymous  On July 23, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I remember! I remember ALL these things! The pool, the sprinkler, the popsicles, Mr. Dressup! I’m so glad that your memory is as sharp as it is for the details – any blog post of mine would’ve been very, um, vague. Happy, but vague. 🙂 Jacob and I have taken to the homemade popsicles made from juice, lately – I think I’ll have to check out the popsicle recipe link!

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