Random Thoughts

What to do in a heat wave

... notes from my grandfather's diary the summer of 1910

by Eleanor Jenkins

I wonder….would we survive?

My grandfather was an iceman who went to the river ice houses every day to pick up enough ice to deliver to homes in the area. He had a horse and wagon, but he never said where he stabled his horse.

Every night he would make entries into a diary with little stories about the family members living at home and sometimes news items. I can visualize him sitting down at the dining room table by the kerosene lantern and dipping his pen into an inkwell to script in his daily remarks.

For example On July 4th 1910, he wrote that Jack Johnson, the first Black boxer to become Heavyweight Champion was knocked out by Jim Jeffries who had retired five years earlier, only to return to beat Johnson in 15 rounds and regain his title. (I had difficulty reading his handwriting). Then he added that his two sons Isaac, my father, and William went to a Willow Grove Park to hear the concert. I remember my father talking about hearing John Philip Sousa there --  I wonder if this was the time?

As I sit here, in an air conditioned room, very comfortable, the weather outside is recorded as being 95 degrees. The TV news continues to warn people to stay out of the heat, stay in air conditioning or at least have a fan running with an open window near by. The news this morning talked about another death from the heat because he didn’t have air conditioning. Locally people have been flocking to neighborhood distribution centers to collect a free electric fan.

I wonder how my grandparents survived back then. He doesn’t seem to really complain about the heat the way we hear the media today. On July 9th, 1910, he wrote that “he got his ice all day at Hanover St. He collected $9.20 for ice deliveries... It was a warm summer day, 95 degrees. Another day, he talked about getting his ice off a boat “all day”.

The following day, was Sunday and he and his wife, my grandmother, went to the amusement park in Philadelphia, called Woodside Park on the open trolley. Another warm day, 93 degrees. The first Monday in September was the 4th that year. "I got my ice at Hanover Street all day. It was a nice day the temperature was 90. No one was working but William and I. I got $2.00" (money collected for ice deliveries).  

September 5, 2008

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