Roll out ‘Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer’
Summer is finally here. Put the shovels, boots and snowblowers in storage and pull out the beach umbrellas, BBQ grills and coolers. Time to roll out “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.” And what fond memories that iconic Nat King Cole tune rekindles every time it plays. As a kid, I remember the summers in downtown Nashua being quite hot. Probably no hotter than today, they just seemed hotter, even in those pre-global warming days. Possibly because we never had air conditioning in our small tree street apartment (yup, we could fry that proverbial egg on the floor). Or maybe summers in the city are just naturally hotter due to congestion and the radiation of heat from the hot top. Our main respites back then were Greeley Park, with its endless shaded grounds, Hampton Beach, where pretty much everyone else in New Hampshire retreated, and Hollis’ Silver Lake. Fields Grove, a small Nashua swimming hole, was another spot where many locals found relief back in the day, along with several municipal pools.
There seemed to be more carnivals back then, many in school yards or church parking lots, with rides so rickety you would never consider approaching them today. There was typically a big carnival each year at Simoneau Plaza. Rides like The Whip, Round-up, Tilt-a-Whirl and Scrambler, lovingly referred to as “spin-and-barf” rides, were quite popular with the teens, as were the old standards the Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round with adults and younger kids. I remember the constant aroma of fried food floating in the air as we walked the midway, bouncing from one attraction to the next. The barkers and hucksters still abounded, prompting us to try our luck or skill at a game we knew we could never win. And for many of us city dwellers, the highlight of pretty much every summer was the July 4th fireworks display at Holman Stadium.
One of the quickest ways to cool down was to fork over the admission price to watch the latest movie in “air conditioned” comfort. Remember when the State and Daniel Webster theatres would hang long blue cloth banners from the marquee, with ice-capped mountains touting how much cooler it was inside than out? Those banners proudly screamed, “Air Conditioned.” Other spots with cooler temperatures? Bowling allies! Nashua Ten Pin on DW Highway and Leda Lanes on Amherst Street were for us akin to warehouse refrigeration units during those blistering summers. But we paid for it when we walked out into the sweltering heat after bowling a few strings. Talk about walking into a blast furnace. Yikes!
Haywards and Butch’s (now Big 1) were the go-to ice cream spots, while A&W, Ho-Jo’s, Al’s Pizza and Santoro’s were some of the places we’d all stop in for a quick bite. I can still taste that A&W root beer drawn right from the tap, so thick and creamy, almost not a thirst quencher on a hot summer day, but delicious nonetheless. Some of those eateries had air conditioning, some did not. Seeing a lonely 20-inch box fan just moving hot air around at the entrance typically spelled trouble.
Every so often, a hint of fresh mowed lawn would rise from a neighbor’s tiny patch of grass, or even a subtle breeze of lilac could be had from a random bush. Conversely, in my neighborhood, we also could get the pungent aroma of emissions from a nearby plastics plant or its surrounding factories. And we’d always sympathize with our outlying neighbors who lived near the old tannery. The extreme heat made those unpleasant odors even more unbearable.
It was indeed a hot town, “Summer in the City.” But that’s a tune for another day. For now, let’s just imagine Mr. Cole’s silky voice crooning that classic tune during a heat wave, while we bask in our memories of “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” when air conditioning meant opening a window, or being lucky enough to own a convertible (or knowing someone who did). A time when some of us might once again be hankering for those shovels, boots and snowblowers we seemingly just placed in storage.
Don Canney is a longtime Nashua resident and occasional columnist for The Telegraph.