CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The date was the Dog Days of Summer 1955. The place was a grandmother's home a few blocks from the Governor's Mansion in Charleston's East End. The operatives were two young girls not quite teenagers. The mission was to find a way to cool off.
It was one of those hot muggy days when nothing moved. No breeze stirred, the leaves limply hanging from the trees. The air was a heavy musty smell, occasionally relieved by the scent of roses.
It was a time when no one locked their doors. Windows were left wide open in hopes of catching a stray puff of wind. People gathered in their homes trying to find relief with a glass of lemonade. Table fans, 14 inches tall, always black, created small areas of comfort. The four blades encased within the black wire frame stirred the air enough to give just a hint of coolness.
Little old ladies escaped to their bedrooms to relief themselves of tight corsets and stockings.
So, early on that evening, the grandmother had wished the two girls goodnight, and then escaped to the comforts of her bedroom.
The afternoon games of canasta had reduced the girls to boredom. Draped over the couch, they talked about friends, school soon to start. They compared their families' vacations. They laughed at the fun times had at Camp Ann Bailey, a Girl Scout camp.
The talk turned to what others might be doing that evening to keep cool. Maybe friends were swimming at Rock Lake Pool. Or a family outing to Babcock State Park for a dip in the cool waters flowing beside the mill. They talked about going to the Kanawha River to dangle their feet into the waters there.
Eventually, the two went upstairs to collect their towels. Giggling, they silently closed the front door, linked their arms and strolled up the street. A sense of mystery, even danger, lent excitement to their voices. Would they be seen? Would someone stop them? What if they got into trouble with the law?
Soon, they were standing beside the still water. There was no moon shining, which made seeing difficult but helped shield the girls. They kicked off their Keds, slipped out of their shorts and shirts. Then, boldly, they stepped into the cool waters. Relief at last, they sat down among the lily pads. They rolled about, splashing water and then shushing each other when their giggles became too loud.
After enjoying their midnight swim, they climbed out, toweled off and dressed. Then they skipped their way back to grandmother's house. Who knew that coolness could be found as close as the governor's fish pond.
Moir, of St.Albans, may be emailed at marionm...@aol.com.