Fire Hydrants Unplugged: How We Took Refuge from Heat Waves When I was a Kid

It is a 100 degrees today in sunny California, and this is as close as I can get to an open fire hydrant these days, a squirting fountain in the downtown square of Los Gatos.
When I was a kid growing up in Hoboken, NJ, my young friends and I loved when the daring rowdy street teens opened up the fire hydrants during the sweltering heat and transformed our neighborhood into a water park. There was a limited time to enjoy this relief from the heat as the police department or local fire department of our mile square city was called and they shut it off. 
The very first “flip lid” fire hydrant was popped up across the Hudson in NYC in 1808. But, the lack of dramatic street spray was hardly worth the effort.
But the debut of the “fat” high-pressure hydrants I remember from my youth (or Ute) as Joe Pesci says in, "My Cousin Vinny, "Turned our neighborhood into a bursting large scale fountain of joy. Most of these nostalgic ‘fat’ hydrants that could be found in NYC were shut down by the 1980s.
It was the opening of the Croton Aqueduct system in 1842 that brought cool water down from the Catskill Mountains for kids to bask in when the heat was intolerable.
One person who helped bring attention and relief to the effort to escape this unbearable heat was newspaper man and popular songwriter George Pope Morris who begged the city to open the long awaited aqueduct. Here are the poetic lyrics he employed:
"Unseal the city fountains,
And let the waters flow
In coolness from the mountains
Unto the plains below.
I’m weeping like the willow
That droops in leaf and bough—
Let Croton’s sparkling billow
Flow through the city now."
Thee Images of the kids basking "in the flow" if you will, were taken in the summer of 1953 by Peter Stackpole for Life Magazine.
Stay Cool Folks! 🙂

Thermometer Image via Shutterstock
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