Enjoying Friends, Family, and Dessert on the Porch on Hot Summer Days

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

A hundred years ago the summer heat could be oppressive. For example, on July 3, 1911 my grandmother wrote in her diary:

Almost roasted today. Went to Sunday school this afternoon. We had company this evening.

Air conditioning didn’t exit, and my grandmother’s family didn’t have electricity so there were no electric fans.  In those days families congregated on the porch on hot summer days to relax and enjoy the breezes. Friends would often stop by, and a dessert would generally “just appear.”

I’m glad that modern technology makes our summers more bearable now, but I sense that we’ve also lost something. Does anyone sit (or entertain) on their porch anymore? (As I write this, I realize that we now have decks and outdoor rooms. Maybe they serve the same purpose that porches did in days gone by.)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

62 thoughts on “Enjoying Friends, Family, and Dessert on the Porch on Hot Summer Days

  1. I spent a great deal of my childhood out on the porch of our house. I have a porch on this house but it isn’t well designed so I rarely sit out there. It’s either too hot, too cold or too windy; rarely just right. 😦 I think a porch, a good one, is a wonderful thing.

    1. I also have a porch that isn’t well designed. It’s barely a porch – it’s a cement slab with a roof over it. I do have a bench sitting on it – but somehow it doesn’t quite seem like a “real” porch.

  2. I remember sometimes sitting on our front stoop when I was a kid. The Good Humor man would sometimes come by, the nuns from the convent a couple blocks away would stroll in groups and wave as they passed by . . . today, my husband and I have a small table and chairs on our front porch. Sometimes we sit out there — if it isn’t too hot and humid out — and enjoy the solitude. We’ve hedges around the porch, so we’re pretty icognito from the neighbors. I don’t ever see anyone else in the neighborhood sit on their porches, though.

  3. I can identify with your grandma… Growing up we didn’t have many fans,but we did have a porch that was screened in. There were times my siblings and I would grab our pillows and a sheet and sleep on the porch floor. We have a porch on our home now that is very lovely to enjoy in early spring and fall even winter sometimes. Summer would be nice if it was screened in.

    1. It sounds like fun to sleep on the porch with your siblings. I’ve always liked old houses with “sleeping porches,” but never had the opportunity to sleep on one.

    2. Deb, you just reminded me how, when we were kids, we got to sleep over at our grandparents’ house (they lived on the next block) — and the sleepover was on their back porch on the chaise lounge. Ahhh . . . . those cool breezes made sleeping great!

  4. This is such a great reminder! Here we are sitting in our air-conditioned home (which is a nice luxury), but I think we need to get out on our porch more often in the heat and really experience the feeling of summer! Thanks for this post! 🙂

    1. Similarly to you, I want to feel summer. 🙂 Somehow it I don’t feel like I’m fully appreciating summer when I’m spending much of my time in cold air conditioned rooms.

  5. We used to sit on the back porch all the time, but when the sun isn’t on the front porch, we sit there now. It’s a great way to know which neighbors are on their porches. Once in a while we porch-sit together. I should add that we live in the mountains, so summers are not as oppressive as in other parts of the country.

  6. My parents in Texas have a huge front porch with 6 rocking chairs and a porch swing on the upper front porch. We have a rather large family, and gather on the porch for iced tea or other drinks during family gatherings. But yes, I am more accustomed to our deck out back, where I hang out at the patio table with umbrella and chill after a long day at work or laze about and read a book or magazine on the weekend.

  7. Decks and patios seem much more private or isolated than porches. Not many porches in my neighborhood. Hope to have one when I pick a retirement home!

    1. Yes, decks and patios generally seem to be designed in ways that make them more private than porches. A porch seems like a good criteria. 🙂

    1. The ways that we socialize have changed over the years. Technology facilitates wonderful communication which enables us to easily plan gatherings with friends and family – yet we are all so busy and widely dispersed geographically that it can make it difficult for informal and impromptu gathering to actually occur.

    1. Technology has it’s advantages – though sitting on the porch with friends at a lovely farmhouse sounds divine (though I’m sure that I’m not fully grasping the heat, mosquitoes, etc.)

  8. At least in Texas and Louisiana (and perhaps elsewhere), they’re often called a gallery, and many homes have them all around the house. If you have a gallery on at least three sides, you always can find a spot in the shade, or the breeze. I’ve always been a porch sitter — at least, when the opportunity presented itself. And the whole point of porch sitting “back in the day” was socializing. In some places I’ve been, it still is. I’ve got a piece about porch sitting in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, that needs to be finished up. This is a good little “push” to do that.

    Grandma’s porch had a swing, too. It was the perfect place to read in the summer.

    1. It’s new to me that porches are often called galleries in some areas – though I love the name. It’s so descriptive. A house with a gallery on 3 (or all 4) sides sounds absolutely wonderful I want a house like that. I’m looking forward to reading your piece about porch sitting. I’m glad this post is giving you a nudge to finish it up. 🙂

  9. How sweet! I also have memories of passing hot afternoons outside wherever there was a breeze! Now I tend to sit on my deck behind my house both early morning and evenings and catch the breeze. While my neighborhood is full of evening walkers I rarely see people just sitting outside anymore. When my kids were growing up it was not uncommon on summer evenings to have lawn chairs with moms sitting in my front yard while dads and kids played basketball on our driveway!

    1. It sounds lovely how families spent summer evenings together playing basketball and other activities. My husband and I often go for walks around our neighborhood, and we often see people out – but they are generally working on their lawn (or walking like us) rather than sitting.

  10. I remember sitting out on my parents front porch in the summer watching the cars and people go by. On my first date with my husband, we ate at a restaurant that had a porch and both commented on how nice it would be to have a house with a porch. When we built our house we made sure there was a big front porch complete with swings and rockers. Luckily we can use it year-round with cold drinks in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter.

  11. I have a small modest house. A few years ago, when many people were upgrading, I asked myself what I wanted most in a house and my quick answer was a big front porch with a swing. So we hired a contractor and made my dream a reality. My husband and I are retired so most days we eat at least one meal on the porch. When growing up, I spend a lot of time with next-door retired neighbors who had a front porch with a green painted floor. Most every summer evening I would sit on the porch with them and swat flies. in 2009, when my hometown celebrated its quasquicentennial, the local newspaper requested folks to send in memoir stories for publication. I paid tribute to my favorite neighbors by writing about sitting on their porch along with my black mutt, Penny Boy. By the way, my porch is covered with easy-to-vacuum green carpeting.

    1. I think that you and your husband made a very wise decision when you decided to build a large porch. Your porch (and the swing) sound wonderful. I love it that you wrote a story for the paper about your memories of sitting on your neighbor’s porch. What a wonderful way to honor your neighbor and to share some good memories!

  12. That’s a good point! My grandparents, and most of the people of their generation, spent almost every evening sitting out on their front porch, chatting and watching the world go by. The houses were close enough together that they could easily speak with their neighbors, and they also greeted people walking down the sidewalk. You almost never see that now, and I miss it.

    1. I think that air conditioning and modern home designs are wonderful – but these changes have made it a little more difficult to get to know our neighbors. . . sigh. . .

  13. I have great memories of sitting on our front porch as a child. Both my parents and grandparent’s had front porches. My grandparents was screened in, but my parents was not. We still were able to sit out there most summer evenings. We also had a back porch, but rarely sat there, it was always the front one. Now decks, patios, etc. tend to be in the back of the house. More goes on in front and makes it a little more exciting. I notice on newer houses the front porches are narrow. There is barely enough room to put a chair and every one has to sit in a row. Makes conversation a little harder. Just my thoughts on the subject.

    1. Front porches facilitate the initiation of easy conversations with neighbors. I guess that it’s also easy to walk to the edge of the back yard (or lean over the fence) to talk with neighbors, but somehow it’s just different.

  14. Lovely pics; many a time I too wish to be transported back in time; back to the good old “gadget free” days where things were lot more simple, clean and pure fun!

  15. One piece of modern technology I wish we didn’t have is TV. My family spends too much time in front of it and I want to throw it away! Your post reminds me of a few years ago when we had a terrible snow storm and power was out for several days. To stay warm we had a fire going in the fireplace and spent most of our time gathered around it talking, laughing, telling stories. I was kind of sad when the power came back on.

    1. It sounds wonderful how the fire in the fireplace on those cold days without power facilitated some fantastic family time together. Sometimes snowstorms and other challenges can be a blessing in disguise.

  16. I think people probably did sit outside more in the old days. Perhaps more people came by to call and more socialization went on, especially in the towns and cities. We do spend time on our deck (when the mosquitoes or black flies aren’t biting too much) and truly enjoy that. Your table picture made me think of long outdoor picnics in France where whole families eat outside regularly in the summertime. That feels like it would be so special.

    1. I grew up in the country, but there it always seemed like neighbors would just drop by. Now it seems like it is considered impolite to visit someone without planning ahead – but in some ways it seems like we’ve lost a little of the spontaneity.

  17. Very few people today live in homes/neighborhoods where they can sit outside and feel that others might stop by except maybe where there are a lot more dangers by sitting outside.
    Nobody wants to sit outside in Arizona in the summer!

  18. The difference is that nowadays the outdoor entertaining space is usually in the BACK of the house – the back patio, around the swimming pool, next to the BBQ. No more sitting on the front porch sipping iced tea and watching your kids play Red Rover with the neighbors’ children across the unfenced front lawns.

  19. I sit outside on my front porch almost every evening–rain or oppressive Mississippi humidity–and watch the birds at the feeder. I live rural, at the top of the hill, so no neighbors dropping by, but I enjoy the ritual.

  20. My family home has a big sundeck, but somehow it’s not at all the same as a porch. When I was little, I remember always being enraptured by the idea of a wooden porch where I could sit and sip lemonade on muggy summer evenings. I also love the idea of friends stopping by and a dessert “just appearing” hehe 😀

  21. Hi Sheryl. I’m sitting here reading your post with the electric fan behind me trying to create some breathable air! We don’t have air con so it must have been so difficult in days gone by. A perfect excuse for cold drinks of any kind!

  22. Clearly, you’ve struck a lovely chord with this post.
    The first thing I did when I moved into my house 18 years ago, was to build a screened in back porch, and this past summer, I added a beautiful front porch. Friends and I gather all the time on the porch. Heaven!

  23. Here in Belgium, people don’t have porches in front of their houses & I have always envied that, like you see that in the American movies,…That would be so cool!

    1. Interesting. . . I’ve always liked porches – but until you mentioned it, I never thought about how they are sometimes featured in U.S. movies. 🙂

  24. We generally have verandas in Zambia and not porches and usually an integral part of the house. My parents’ verandah has a beautiful view because the house is on a hill. That is where I love to sit when I visit and they entertain – people they don’t want to allow into the house:).

  25. When folks come to visit us, if the weather permits, we spend the visit on the back porch.
    Truly in my youth the kitchen and the porches are where most of the visiting was done.
    Nice post, it brings back many fond memories.

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