Collectors warm up to ice box items


Time sure does fly. What happened back in the 1930s seems like yesterday to us older folks.

The ice box was a part of the kitchen furniture back then, and required daily attention or water would be all over the kitchen floor. A pan below the ice box held the water from the melted ice, but was often too shallow for 50 or 100 pounds of melted ice.

I have memories of chasing the horse-drawn wagon, later an open bed truck, down the street on hot days, jumping on the wheel hubs or running board while the ice deliverer was in the house, placing the large cake of ice in the ice box, grabbing a sliver of ice and retreating before the ice man returned.

Little did anyone realize that articles employed in this business, or any other employment, would be sought after by collectors. Ice tongs, Ricks (usually with an ad printed on the handle, or metal handled ones with embossed names), and the order cards that were placed in the house windows informing the ice deliverer what size of an ice cake to carry into the house, are all in demand.

I remember the ice man, wearing a large leather poncho heaving onto his shoulder a hundred-pound cake of ice as easily as if it was a 20-pound bag of feed. I think the ice deliverer in North Benton came from Sebring. He was a man about 5 1/2 feet tall, but the way he handled those large cakes you’d thought he was bigger.

Most cakes of ice in the truck or wagon were of the 100-pound size. To cut the size needed, the ice man would score the cake all around or sometimes just on top, by using an ice pick, which the deliverer carried in a leather sheath attached to his belt. Carefully he would cause the cake to break into a smaller square ice cake. He would then weigh the cake with scales placed in the wagon or truck bed.

The grabbing of ice from the delivery vehicle was the only way a youngster could acquire a small particle. Removing ice from the ice box was a serious offense subject to any number of reprimands. In the winter time when snow was clean and not contaminated by pollutants, we would collect a pan full and Mom would pour warm white sugar syrup on it and we enjoyed a treat.

During the summer, a carefully shaved portion of ice was scrapped off the block of ice in the ice box and we were occasionally allowed the same treat. Small tongs were given to the families on occasion as a sales promotion when there were rival ice companies involved. These are referred to as “family tongs.”

Ice cakes were low priced compared to these days, but remember many workers were only paid 50 cents a day, depending on their abilities. I used to hoe field corn in 1935 for 25 cents a day at age 10. During the early 1900s, the smallest cake, of 12 1/2 pounds cost 5 cents; 25 pounds sold for 10 cents; 50 pounds for 20 cents; and 100 pounds for 40 cents.

Ice boxes and chests cost many dollars today, depending on the auction attendance. Back in the early 1960s my wife, Martha, and I purchased many for a dollar or less. We acquired 15 in one summer, and sold them later to one dealer for a good profit.

Presently, a piece of ice is insignificant, but in the early years ice was a treat in the summer and an important commodity at home. To some youngsters, a sliver of the cold stuff was as much of a treat as a trip to Disneyland.


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