Published: Jul 28, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 28, 2012 01:27 PM
The ‘dog days’ weren’t all bad
For more than a century, the South was known for its slow pace of life, especially in the summer.In the languid days between July 4 fireworks and the Perseid meteor showers of August – the dog days of Sirius – it was just too dang hot to move.Years ago, downtown Chapel Hill used to have something called Hot Diggity Days, which was a combination of folk festival and back-to-school sale. Merchants would offer some outrageous sale items and free giveaways of some merchandise. Free Coca-Cola and cigarettes were the most popular items.The whole idea was to draw people back downtown during the hot doldrums of midsummer. In those pre-color TV days of angled parking on Franklin Street and 25-cent Saturday matinees at the Varsity Theater, such special days were enough to keep most people amused, if only for a day or two.Nowadays we have air conditioning and Hot Diggity Days are gone.It hardly seems like a fair trade.But air conditioning does create more possibilities for people who want to stay active in the summer. In the days before cool air could be pumped into large gyms, basketball was not considered a viable option.In modern times, basketball courts are crowded year-round.In the 1950s and ’60s of pre-Vietnam Chapel Hill, swimming was by far the favorite outdoor activity of those who had access to a pool. And baseball was the game of choice for young boys.Most of us had never seen a soccer ball. A few of us played tennis, and even fewer golfed. (Albeit that Mike Rubish’s miniature “Putt-Putt” style layout nine-hole, par-3 golf course out on the Chapel Hill-Durham Boulevard was wildly popular on date nights.)Baseball on the other hand was widespread and organized. Even for those who weren’t members of the Little League or Pony League teams, there were plenty of civic rec league teams.And if you didn’t play organized ball, pick-up games, much like those seen in the movie “The Sandlot,” abounded in Chapel Hill.Boys who were lucky enough to live close to campus even were able to sneak in a few games at Emerson Field and later at the newly christened Boshamer Stadium. The University of North Carolina’s head coach, Walter Rabb, the “old-leaguer” as he was called, had only one hard and fast rule: don’t pitch from the mound. And, well, maybe a second rule: leave everything like you found it.In those pre-litigation and insurance waiver days, university personnel were much more accommodating of local children.Now, play is more organized.We all wear helmets when we go cycling and have to be hydrated before we can walk too far.Rules even forbid outdoor activity for our high school athletes when it’s too hot or too humid – or both, as is so often the case in Chapel Hill.These rules all make sense. No one would suggest that we should get rid of them.With safety often comes regulation. It seems freedom is too dangerous to be left in the hands of the young.Limiting where and how much and how long children can play is for their own good.That doesn’t mean we have to like it.