I doubt that many of us remember how it was during the days before air conditioning when heat waves would come rolling through the countryside, but I can just imagine what the public warnings could have sounded like. Since there was no such thing as radio or TV in the 1800's, and the newspapers of the day were reporting the weather not predicting it, many folks simply relied on common sense and practical measures
For instance, residential housing was built in such a way as to take advantage of the natural breezes and air currents with strategic placement of windows and doors. It even extended so far as to include landscaping and trees. It was the city densities and commercial buildings which began to plague the occupants during the hot spells and made city life nearly unbearable.
Today, the public announcements call for those with ailments and allergies to stay inside and for others to keep a check on the elderly or disabled. Places which were recommended for relief (Woodland Park or country outings) are now to be avoided since they are equated more with physical activity than with passive recreation. Those who wished to find a swimming hole could locate a shaded body of water, whereas now there are just expanses of sun-baked concrete and rules.
Lexington, like most urban areas, is not the small, ecologically designed community that it once was. We, and they, have sprawled out and built fanciful imitations of homes which remind us of what was, but cannot function without mechanical, environmental aids This we call progress.
While ruminating on these processes of the past, I am also brought to consider the upcoming 4th of July activities and the events surrounding a fireworks display. The events of these days seem so different from those of my youth. Time may have moved much slower back them but, then again, it may be a matter of perspective.
I have read where this year's celebration will be capped off by a 17 minute aerial display (providing the fireworks are allowed at all due to weather) and it hardly seems worth it. I can remember when the 4th just seemed to never get here. Also, there was not a downtown based, community event.
Lexington's involvement was limited to the individual parks preparing decorated floats (flatbed trailers generally provided by a local transfer company) for a parade through downtown to the football stadium at UK. Most floats were designed and decorated by the older park regulars and directed by a team of parks staffers. The inter-park competition caused some floats to become quite elaborate. Probably the best part was the total lack of overtly political interjection.
Drivers would haul their park's float to Woodland Park and line up on Kentucky Ave. Then, at around 7 or 7:30, the parade would begin. From the park to Main St. and right down through the middle of town. A turn on Broadway and up the hill to Maxwell and back to Rose St. Out Rose to the Avenue of Champions and ending between McLean Stadium and Memorial Coliseum.
Many of the participating parks had had their cook-outs and neighborhood celebrations or parades earlier in the day, but the kids still had their sparklers and flags for the evening. There was enough light left in the evening to get to the seating and maybe get a drink. Climbing to the top of the stadium and looking over onto the street below was a thrill to many a kid as was watching the sun dip below the treetops in anticipation of the “real” show. (Sunset would have come about 9 p.m. since this was before the Uniform Time Act of 1966 and there was no Daylight Savings Time.)
The fireworks were set off from the field where the marching band now conducts practice and the western end zone seats held the constructs of the so called “ground displays”. At dark the stadium lights would go out and a “test” shot would go up, I believe, to determine the wind conditions. Then the show would start.
There was an intermission during which music was played and the parade float winners were announced. More drinks and hot dogs and then back to the seats for some more show. An interspersing of aerial and animated ground displays later and the grand finale of bombardments over, it was time to go home. The parks staff rounded up their charges, got back on the floats and went to their respective neighborhoods. Even though I lived close to the stadium, I got home around 11 p.m. and sent to bed, one tired puppy.
Daylight Savings Time, a much larger parks network and insurance/litigation issues have surely put an end to such happenings but simple memories of simpler times make it rough to not long for those days again. I am sure that many of you have your own memories and will be making more this coming week, so I hope that the weather is kind to you and that we all play it safe this year.