Just the other day I wrote a scene in my WIP (work in progress). It takes place in the late 50s. It's summertime. It's Florida. It's hot.
My character Veronica--called Ronni--is sitting on a front porch swing with her beau, Billy. She is holding a hand-held funeral home fan, this one with the image of Heinrich Hoffman's famous painting of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And, of course, it got me to thinking about growing up in the South and going to church and all those hand-held fans. They were often called "funeral home" fans because funeral homes advertised on the back of them. I cannot remember anything on the front beyond famous biblical paintings.
But this brought to mind one Sunday when my family and I were invited to go to church with friends. Theirs was a small country church. White brick. Chapel in the front, fellowship hall with Sunday school classrooms jutting out to the left, making the whole thing look like a giant white L. The pews were brick-hard. There was no carpeting on the floor, just linoleum. And, by golly, no air conditioning.
But there were hand-held fans and the stained glass windows did open. Which mean the gnats and mosquitoes had free access to the house of God as well. Parishioners sat and listened to the preacher, all the while fanning their faces and blowing those pesky critters away from their sweat-drenched faces. And no one complained because, hey! Dinner on the grounds was coming just as soon as the service was over.
I say "no one." I was doing my fair share of griping ... inwardly, of course. My mother thought nothing of taking my brother and me out of the church for a little "hands on" discipline when necessary. Not that she would have "spanked" me at that age. I was probably fourteen at the time. But I would have lost privileges, which--if I had to guess--would have been watching television, something I loved to do.
So I endured.
But after an hour of fanning and blowing and listening to the Word of God preached by a down-home pastor, and after fried chicken and potato salad and homemade macaroni and cheese and some pound cake, all served with enough sweet tea to sink a ship...I was bored.
My brother wasn't bored. He'd found some kids to play with. My father and mother were happily chatting with the "brothers and sisters." But I didn't really know anyone there and I was (did I mention?) bored. I asked Daddy for the keys to the car so I could go outside where, yes, it was even hotter than inside because, after all, I could at least listen to the hit tunes offered by WBBQ out of Augusta, GA. God willing.
I rolled down all the windows and turned the key to the left so as to drain the battery but not rev the engine. And certainly not use the air conditioner! But the tunes came in--although reception was sketchy at times--and I was given a moment's reprieve from my adolescent angst.
But not the heat and certainly not the pests. Gnats covered the inside of the windshield. Millions of them. I wondered if we'd ever get them out or if we'd have to make household pets out of them. Then the sweating started in full force. Dripping down my back in large streams. Along my face. My makeup (Cover Girl, no doubt) was obviously ruined.
Determined to stick out my own agony, I went back to the chapel of the church, pulled one of the fans from the pew rack, and returned to the car. I waved like a maniac--Jesus' imagine flying all over the place--while Daddy Dewdrop sang, "Chic-a-boom, chic-a-boom..."
Don't you just love it?
Hey! Do you have any hand-held fan stories to tell? Share them here! Remember any particular painting on the front side, advertisement on the back? I'd love to hear it!