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Classic Covers: Dog Days of Summer

Published: July 11, 2009

It’s an all out neighborhood war! The June 30, 1951, cover shows a passel of kids in a multiyard battle with garden hoses. Ah, the days before Super Soaker squirt guns. Pedestrians wisely steer clear, even though a squirt of cold water might feel pretty good on this hot summer day. (Try to get these same children to take a bath, and there would be heck to pay.)

Kids and fire hydrants go back a long way. A July 1915 cover shows us a little girl, baby, and dog cooling down with the help of a handy water source.

Sometimes you gotta pay to play. Stevan Dohanos’ baseball player of July 1946 is mowing the lawn as fast as he can so he can get to the game–while the team awaits. And sometimes you just gotta play. John Falter’s boys swinging into the water of San Francisco Bay looks risky, but the editors insisted, “If a small boy, when at play, is not doing something perilous, he must be sick.”

Perhaps less perilous (at least for the humans pictured, if not the dog) is the August 1952 cover, No Girls Allowed. Hoisting the dog up into the tree house, the boys know how to spend a summer day without video games, cell phones, or TV. E.M. Jackson’s kids in a water fountain found an inexpensive way to cool off in July of 1926.We certainly hope they don’t get in trouble.

Grown-ups, too, have their way of getting through the “dog days,” as demonstrated by the young lady in the August 24, 1912, cover by Artist Clarence F. Underwood. Check out the bathing suit! Not our idea of hot-weather attire, but probably 1912’s idea of a pin-up girl.

One of the most relaxing covers of a summer afternoon is John Atherton’s Sleeping Farmer of 1947. Under a shady tree, the normally busy land worker can’t resist a snooze, and it’s such a lazy day, even the cows and horses seem to be napping with him.

But no one knew how to spend the dog days of summer better than Norman Rockwell. His August 11, 1945, salesman couldn’t resist pulling the car over, stripping down, and getting up to his neck in cool water. (We won’t tell the boss.) Rockwell’s sailor on leave makes us envious of his downtime, even if well deserved. It’s hard to get more relaxed than a man and dog in a hammock on a sun-dappled afternoon. The sailor had to borrow his shipmate’s shirt for the decorations on the chest. Rockwell borrowed the dog from his own son, the hammock from a neighbor, the house from yet another neighbor, and Rockwell’s own shoes complete the picture. Somehow it comes together enough to make us want to find a hammock and snooze a dog day away.

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