Baltimore Glimpses: cooling it


LET'S HIT the rewind button on our imaginary VCR to find out how Baltimoreans used to keep cool in the good ol' summertime.

Tape 1: It's dusk on a hot summer night in the early 1950s and crowds jam a dairy store, buying ice cream, chocolate milk, milk shakes. It's Emerson's Farms, located at Green Spring Valley and Falls roads.

Baltimoreans would travel to the store, which closed in 1954, on summer nights for some cooler rural air as well as dairy treats.

Tape 2: Not everyone headed to the country to escape the heat; many had no way to get there. What to do if stuck in the city? One option: Municipal Band concerts. Here's one such concert in Druid Hill Park. The crowd is mostly made up of families seated on blankets.

Tape 3: Fast forward to night scenes at the park. Those same families have been joined by dozens more -- only now they're asleep. Armed with blankets and pillows, hundreds used to retire to the park in the summer months -- usually the grassy slopes just north of the reservoir, between the lake and the zoo -- to escape their stifling homes.

Tape 4: Kids inside a truck, eating ice chips?

Before electric refrigeration ice companies delivered blocks of ice for home ice boxes (to keep food) or other uses.

Here, children clamor aboard an ice truck -- while a driver makes a delivery -- to retrieve small ice chunks from the truck floor.

Up until the mid-1950s, it was common to see ice trucks in the city from such companies as American Ice, Hoffberger, Eckels ++ and Arlington.

Fast forward the tape to city scenes of people boarding the No. 26 streetcar downtown, heading Bay Shore Park, at Sparrows Point.

Tape 6: If you guess that this is the now-closed Hippodrome Theater on Eutaw Street during its heyday, you're right. The "air-cooled" theater was popular in the summer because it employed a Rube Goldberg arrangement that had electric fans blow air over huge blocks of ice on the roof. The cooled air was then wafted through vents into the theater.

Let's fast forward to today when heat and humidity are no problem for most -- we have air-conditioning.

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