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Joan Knows: ‘Dog Days’ of summer are upon us

Growing up in St. Charles in those days long ago, summer seemed to have three phases.

The first phase was just before school let out for summer; then we had the lazy, hazy days of swimming, picnics, air-conditioned movie theaters,  family trips, carnivals and fireworks, and just plain playing together from morning until night, after collecting sufficient lightening bugs or night crawlers.

The middle phase, often called “dog days,” started with the ultra hot  and steamy days of August. The Romans had named a star in the summer sky Sirus the Dog, which was in the constellation Sirus Major.

The dog star was considered to bring evil, such as boiling seas, sour wine, mad dogs and fevers.

Contrary to the common sense of children, the adults, understanding from either superstition or repeated health bulletins and recommendations, deemed that swimming pools, movie theaters and other gathering places that were considered crowded multiplied the exposure. Known cases were quarantined. 

Images that circulated included posters of children in leg braces and the popular president, FDR, taking therapy treatments in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Hometown images included friends and neighbors fatally attacked or a mom frequently examining a child for a fever or stiff neck.

The last phase of summer was after school started again – in schoolrooms with open windows and the hope for a breeze. 

It was tough to stay cool in “school clothes,” which were uniform in the sense that everyone dressed according to an unwritten code of no bare feet, no bare or too casual outfits and – unthinkably – no electronic devices. Hey, we couldn’t even pass a paper note, according to some rule somewhere.

 Out of step, as often was the case, my polio virus struck in the third phase of summer. No big crowd, just the Hahn kids across the street and a couple of neighbor kids jumping into a huge pile of fallen leaves from on top of a rose trellis with a trellis roof suitable for a flying start.

My mother yelled from her sufficiently audible window across the street not to play in the leaves or else I might get sick. 

This warning from the daughter of my grandmother, who always warned/threatened that to sit in or on the snow would surely cause hemorrhoids. This was the same family that declared “stop crying or else your face will freeze.”

This warning was at least documented in a fairy tale book shared with me by my other grandmother.
That night my temperature rose to 105 degrees. Houston, we have a virus. The big one.

Getting back to “dog days:” It is still time to be good guardians of our dogs regardless of our weird weather so far.

Perhaps there is a star in the sky that brings out the idiots who would leave a pet in a hot automobile or chained outdoors without a comfortable spot and fresh water. These are the dogs that bark day and night sending messages we shouldn’t ignore.

It sounds like the Heritage folks had a super turn out and donors and good weather for the pig roast.
I was recently shopping over the phone with the Heritage Center for a going-away-to-Carolina gift for departing friends Sharon an Carl Bergquist. 

Sharon has been a key person in my life from Shelby School to senior year, as a wedding attendant, at the desk when I enter Pineview and, on Wednesday, as we hugged and examined the “St. Charles” coffee cups.

Oh! Watson, the well-nourished cool and much loved Pomeranian goes, too.

Finally, circle your calendar for Saturday, Aug. 9, at Pottawatomie Park. It’s the annual Bob Leonard event sponsored by the River Corridor folks. Contact them at to volunteer, participate and to know more of the plans for – and achievement of – goals to preserve and beautify the river corridor downtown.

The event will feature a 10K, 5K, 5K canine walk/run and kid’s Turtle Hurdle. Hey, all you guys, remember how hot it can be for “dog days” and water-up!

• Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at

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