Heat Waves In New York And Children Cooling Off
As New York City endures a heat wave this week, realize that for the majority of the 20th century there was virtually no air conditioning in most homes. The streets provided the easiest and most accessible way for children to cool off.
In New York, it is only recently that a heat wave has been defined as at least three straight days with temperatures reaching 90 degrees or more. Who decided this I do not know. Every region of the world has their own definition of what comprises a heat wave. Years ago, any sustained combination of high heat and humidity used to qualify as a heat wave.
This undated photograph above from the mid-1940’s shows city children on a Manhattan street playing and wallowing in the water. I like the fact that some of the people are looking directly at the photographer who is perched high above the street capturing the scene.
This photo shows a Harlem street in 1933 with children gathering around a center stand sprinkler connected by a hose to the fire hydrant.
A four day heat wave in New York City that began June 7, ended on June 10, 1933 with a violent thunderstorm which dropped the temperature down to 86. The day before, the thermometer in the city reached the mid 90’s and reportedly hit 120 degrees in Hammonton, NJ, wilting strawberries right on the stem.
As unthinkable as it is now, for decades up until the 1970’s, to cool off many children would swim in the polluted East and Hudson Rivers. With the FDR Drive and the United Nations Secretariat Building in the background Joe Funranolla and Ray Bardini beat the heat by diving into the East River July 22, 1955. The temperature hit 96 that day.
It was the eighth day in July 1955 that the mercury went above 90 degrees. According to the New York Times, the record up to that time for 90 degree days in July was ten, which was accomplished in 1876 and 1952.
This 1937 photograph shows teen boys making daring dives into the East River. The Williamsburg Bridge is in the background. I wonder how long it took to get back up to where they were diving from?
One thing has remained the same over the years: if they can get to one, kids still flock to the city pools. In this 1937 photograph the Astoria Pool entices a huge crowd, while the Hell Gate Bridge looms in the background.
The current heat wave will soon be over and when winter arrives, you can bet your bottom dollar many New Yorker’s will be saying they can’t wait for the warm weather.