Growing up in the midwest, the closest I ever got cooling off in the spray of fire hydrant was dancing around in spray from a little lawn sprinkler—an experience that surely pales in comparison.
Here are some articles that provide all you need to know about the history of cooling off in the Big Apple.
The scene: a steamy day in July or August, heat distorting the air above a scorching pavement. People hold bottles of cold water or cans of soda to their foreheads. And some kids, or teens, crack open a city fire hydrant. The cool water is the block’s savior. Kids and adults alike dip their hands, feet, and faces into the gush of water.
New Yorkers have been uncapping with and without permission since the “Great Heat Wave of 1896,” which lasted 10 days and resulted in more than 1300 fatalities. On that occasion, the hydrants were technically opened to cool down the streets and help wash away accumulating piles of garbage, but this didn’t stop New Yorkers, especially the city’s youngsters, from running into the street to cool down.
No image says summer more than a cracked-open fire hydrant spewing city water into a New York street. Although not intended as their primary role in the metropolis, it turns out that fire hydrants have served as guerrilla heat relief for 120 years.
New York Times
Children came and went constantly to the spewing fire hydrant, dousing themselves and others. Jamick Paris, who is 7, stood right next to the hydrant until water dribbled down his legs and you could hear the slap-slap of drops on the pavement. Then, in their unruffled innocence, he and a friend laid down in the middle of the street and let the water run over them.