Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fall Has Changed

Fall to me used to be synonymous with the start of school. School always started the day after Labor Day. As an elementary student and beyond, I tolerated January 1 as New Year’s Day, but the day after Labor Day was my real New Year, a fresh new start in my job—school.  

Labor Day, however, no longer marks the final day of summertime freedom and a new school year here. Start dates for school have been pushed back the past two decades, and the first day of school for kids here this year was August 4. A hot September I could still equate with fall, although there are not the colorful leaves and crisp temperatures that were evident in our readers. But dusty, hot, humid August? Even the early mornings are more likely than not to feel like a hot, wet blanket.

I remember my morning walks to school in September heat as bearable at the start. The mornings became cooler as the month progressed.  I wouldn’t even call the classrooms in those pre-air conditioning days bearable. Teachers brought in fans to bring relief but even so we were a sticky, uncomfortable lot, usually until October.

Surviving the classroom temperatures seemed questionable even in summer short-sleeved or sleeveless apparel. Eventually the September mornings would grow uncomfortably cool for me, while the after-lunch hours continued to broil all of us innocent scholars.

The cool mornings would tempt me to wear my new long-sleeved school clothes, but I remember by afternoon, even a moderate amount of additional fabric was agony. Light sweaters or jackets over my dresses or blouses offered comfort in the early morning walk to school.

But having them draped over the back of my desk in the classroom or, heaven forbid, wadded up and stuffed into the book space under the seat of my desk, seemed to make me hotter. If they were anywhere in my vicinity, I felt like they were collecting and radiating additional heat in the already hot classroom. Dressing for school in September became a balancing act that I never totally mastered.

Classrooms are now air conditioned. They have to be in our coastal Mississippi climate with August temperatures in the mid to high 90s, and high humidity pushing the heat index to 105 degrees and higher. Air-conditioned classrooms, however, come with their own challenges. I have encountered some students and teachers who bundle up to cope with the cool indoor temperatures.

Five of our six grandchildren have started their school year, four in elementary school and two in pre-school. From parental reports they seem to be happy and enthusiastic. I am glad that they apparently haven’t inherited their Nana’s childhood angst over such minor things as September temperatures.


  1. Yes, no air conditioning back when I went to school, either! But strangely enough, I remember nothing about the temps!!! I remember the long walk there and back home, the playground, the smell crayons, erasers, and glue. I remember always wearing new high quality underwear, but ugly hand-me-down dresses. I'm glad all the grandkids are doing well in school now!! We worried about ours first year in kindergarten last month.

  2. your whole story could be my life, identical. now they don't have to worry since schools are climate controlled. i don't think they even hae the smell of crayons, erasers and glue like Ginny mentioned. the smells are gone and bring on computers and ballpoint pens. i was also like Ginny with hand me down and home made dresses.

  3. In Virginia, the start of school is pushed back to after Labor Day accommodate the tourist industry. The decision reflecting this is called the "King's Dominion law" after a big theme park here in VA.

    The liberal Washington Post was complaining about that law this morning. Sometimes, you just can't win.


  4. I'm with Ginny. I spent a lot of school years in Florida but don't recall being uncomfortable. Think we were more used to the heat then and had no alternative. Today, I would never make it.
    I don't think I will ever forget the smell of school cafeteria. It was unique.

  5. Even though the temperatures in the San Francisco Bay Area during the summer stay usually in the 60's, I remember as a child that as soon as school started in Sept. we got our hot weather. In fact I always seemed to get a new school outfit that was a sweater and skirt. Of course I had to wear it for that first day and I always sweltered. Grand memories.

  6. PS...
    My granddaughter started her senior year of High school on Aug. 10 and the other granddaughter started 6th grade Aug. 17. Still much too early, me thinks.