A Snapshot of Summer in Emmett’s Day

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In celebration of the solstice, I thought it would be interesting to look at summer in Emmett’s time.

The high was 80 almost 100 years ago; today is about 88 with 61 percent humidity. Not bad.

The high was 80 almost 100 years ago; today is about 88 with 61 percent humidity. Not bad.

First, a look at a typical weather report for Pensacola.

The weather report (right) for June 22, 1909, shows an average-looking weather report. Nothing is dramatically different than what one would see in Pensacola today; not that I expected it, though.

(Emmett would also be spending time in D.C. if Congress were in session, so to compare, today’s temperature in DC is 79, with fairly low to moderate humidity, which is about right.)

It seems to us modern folk, spoiled by the ease of central air conditioning, that the heat was a lot harder to take in the early 1900s; but then, like the residents of Heaven and Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, our predecessors wouldn’t know what they would be missing.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I visited Emmett’s boyhood home in Chipley. The residents did not have the air conditioning on, and it was a hot day. However, the house had at least 10-foot ceilings and a good cross-ventilation, so it wasn’t uncomfortable. I believe one can do quite well without central air — mid-August is hell without the a/c, but you can survive without it, as Emmett and his peers did.

If you were lucky in Emmett’s day, and you could afford one, an oscillating fan was the ticket. fans

I imagine that Emmett and his law partner, Walter Kehoe, did have at least one in their law office.

Emmett and Kehoe worked up on the 7th floor of the American National Bank Building — which was not air conditioned, and the ceilings were not quite as high as you’d find in private residences. It could get stifling in there, especially in August.

I can see how they would have the windows open and the fans going — and protocol would have the gentlemen lawyers properly dressed in their three-pieces suits even in the height of the summer weather.

Of course, they probably doffed their jackets and rolled up the long sleeved shirts (no short sleeved shirts as we know them) in their private offices, but once in the courtroom, they had to don their suit jackets and dress appropriately out of respect for justice — even in the sweltering heat.

That's a lot of buttoned-up layers to wear, even in cold weather, if you think about it.

That’s a lot of buttoned-up layers to wear, even in cold weather, if you think about it.

This was a time where men and women wore a lot more fabric on average than we do today — including underwear!

For example, men’s wore union suits (think long onesie for adults), or two-piece underwear like the style in the picture, right. Check out all those buttons, and the knee hose (which would be secured by knee garters!). Be still my heart! The image on the right is one example of summer underwear; the fabric was lightweight, often a kind-of cotton mesh.

I saw an authentic set of men’s summer underwear, circa 1910, about a month ago, and the fabric reminded me of a sturdier version of gauze-type fabric.

As I examined it, I thought that the underwear would be comfortable to wear, but I couldn’t get past the fact there were a lot of other layers of fabric men would have to wear on top of it!

Men’s summer suit fabrics were often worsteds, tweeds (!), flannels or even wools. Then, the well-dressed man would add a long-sleeved shirt and waistcoat, and finally, the suit jacket on top. That’s a lot of layers to wear in an unairconditioned office, in Florida summer heat, even if some of the fabrics did seem lightweight.

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I just don't think Emmett would have 'rented' a bathing suit, though.

I just don’t think the fastidious Emmett Wilson would have ‘rented’ a bathing suit, do you?

Of course, Emmett and his friends didn’t spend all of their days in the courtroom — Emmett spent time with his friends and family at the beach, and on fishing expeditions, too.

One such place Emmett visited was Santa Rosa Island — he went there with his friends and family members several different times, where there was great fishing, swimming, and even dancing.

He probably also enjoyed the ‘moving pictures’ at one or more of the local theaters. One such business advertised that people could take refuge by taking in a movie on hot days, because the theater was 20 degrees cooler than outside!

I am curious as to what kind of film he might have seen. I think he would have probably viewed “Movietone News” kinds of films, where he’d get a look at the news events from around the world, especially as World War I was heating up in Europe.

Tillie's Punctured Romance, was shown at either the Bonita or the Isis Theatre in Pensacola in 1914.

Tillie’s Punctured Romance, 1914.

I also think he would have looked to the movies as a kind of escape from the stressors he was encountering all the time — both professionally and personally.

I imagine he’d view the Chaplin movies (which were enormously popular), such as “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” (which was shown in Pensacola at either the Bonita or the Isis); perhaps also “The Birth of a Nation” (which came out in 1915).

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A lot of what I know about Emmett is that he worked very hard during the year, and when he took a much-needed and well deserved vacation, he would disconnect from Pensacola and his responsibilities as best he could.

I still have much information yet to investigate in my research into his life. I’d love to know more about his down time, as it would tell me a lot about his personal life, which is still quite a mystery.

As always, more later.

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