Summer keeps on slipping away

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2004

Commentary by Bill Brown

We keep whittling away at summer.

We still think of the summer season as running from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but that’s just a case of thinking not catching up with reality.

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Around the state, kids are already back in school. Our local high school football team had its first game Aug. 26, and some key college games are only a few weeks away.

Here on the lake, Labor Day has traditionally marked the end of summer; it is the time of year when Alabama Power Co. begins lowering the lake to its winter level.

But activity on our part of the lake has diminished markedly since school started. Kids are involved in so many activities that many lake dwelling families’ activities are away from the water. After school starts, it is more difficult for weekenders to come to the lake.

Labor Day weekend probably will see a last fling on the water. It ranks with Memorial Day and July 4 for boating activity. The summer’s last holiday is a good excuse for a party, even if we really kissed summer goodbye weeks ago.

Once it was generally understood that summer was a time when things slowed down. Business dress was a little more relaxed. In small towns, men went home for a long lunch. Many stores closed early on one afternoon a week.

Some families moved to cabins at the lake or the beach, and the fathers who had to remain in town to work came down for the weekends.

Even kids who participated in organized summer activities had some slack time before school began.

The stock market also slowed because so many brokers were taking time off.

Summer was when most television shows seemed to be reruns. There was a definite fall season. Now shows appear, disappear and reappear in a sequence that is decipherable only to the more dedicated viewers.

People still have end-of-summer parties, but the first ones are held in what used to be mid-summer, and some of the advertisements for end-of-summer sales begin appearing before July is old.

We are bombarded with messages that we live in a global economy and there is a 24/7 business world out there. It is more than 24/7, though. It is a 24/7/365 world, and even people who are theoretically on vacation are as close to their offices as their cell phone or e-mail. The compulsion to stay in touch is overwhelming.

In a world economy, we can’t slow down, it seems, not even for summer.

It appears, though, that one state is using economic grounds to take a stand in favor of summer.

The North Carolina Legislature this year passed, and the governor signed, a law directing that no public schools in the state will begin classes before Aug. 25 and that the school year will end by June 10.

One of the major arguments by proponents of the law was that it would help the state’s tourism economy because families would have more time for vacations. I don’t know if it’s true, but it sounds good.

No matter how much we change our working definition of summer, we can’t change nature’s pace. Real summer began June 20, and it will end with the autumnal equinox Sept. 27. Already some trees, such as the sourwoods and dogwoods, are hinting at their fall colors, but they know that there is yet some summer.

Many of us, though, have kissed summer goodbye.

If we keep whittling away at it, perhaps summer will be reduced to a long weekend sometime in July. I’m glad I got to enjoy some of those long, lazy summers.

Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at