Back in Time: People head for cooler places on scorching June day

The good old summertime was in full swing for Schenectady residents on Sunday, June 30, 1918.

The good old summertime was in full swing for Schenectady residents on Sunday, June 30, 1918.

By midafternoon, 86 degrees’ worth of heat had convinced hundreds to seek relief around the city.

“Jingo, but the water was great today, buddy,” a small boy said to a friend met on Broadway. “It was as warm as the kind we have in the tub in the winter.”

The kid’s pal was dressed in his Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, and swimming was not an option. The Mohawk River and Ballston Lake were filled with men and boys who splashed up and cooled down. In some sections of the Mohawk, boats passed smiling swimmers.

People were happy for the sun. Just a week before, on June 23, the high temperature had been only 53 degrees — warm enough for spring and autumn, but not early summer.

Ice cream and ice dealers, who had worried an extended cool snap would slow business, were now confident their cold stock would sell.

Headed for the hills

“Garage proprietors were kept busy pumping gasoline into tanks on automobiles,” the Schenectady Gazette reported. “Thousands of gallons were sold in Schenectady. Many motorists passed through the city to northern summering places while scores traveled east and west. Practically every Schenectadian who owned an automobile that could be operated put it in use.”

Pedestrians stayed away from the city’s downtown streets. Stores were closed anyway, but a Gazette reporter noticed phonograph records in store windows had warped in the warmth.

Lemonade was a popular diversion for the front porch. But because American soldiers were still fighting World War I, some food supplies — such as sugar — were in short supply.

The government food administration had requested civilians use only three tablespoons of sugar a day.

One woman entertained a small party with a pitcher full of lemons, water, ice and a secret ingredient.

“I didn’t use a grain of sugar,” she said, adding that melted honey supplied all the sweetness needed.

Categories: Life and Arts

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