Something we all take for granted in this day and age is ice. All refrigerators are electric and have a freezer within them. Some make their own ice cubes that can be readily accessed at any time. The earliest refrigerators were equipped with trays that had to be filled with water, which was then frozen to make the desired cubes.
The predecessor to the refrigerator was the ice box. This originated back in the 1800’s and was responsible for extending the life of the family’s food. It got the name “ice box” because that is what it was. The earliest ones were no more than an insulated wooden box into which ice had to be put in regularly to keep everything in it cold. A more sophisticated version made of oak and doors with brass hinges appeared in the late 1800’s and is sought after by antique collectors today. The earliest suppliers of ice were George W. Collins, who operated on the corner of Lake and W. Isabella Sts., and the Salisbury Ice Mfg. Co. that was located near the railroad tracks and the N Y P & N railroad station. There are still members of society that remember the ice man that delivered ice for the W. F. Messick Co. The ice boxes of the 1920’s were contraptions into which you had to put a piece of ice in a compartment on the top that would drip its chilling water to keep everything refrigerated. The size of the block of ice depended on the size of your ice box. Someone also had to empty the “drip pan” daily or they would have a lot of water on the floor of the kitchen. The ice company provided signs that housewives would put in the window when they needed ice, and it also indicated the size of the block of ice. The familiar tongs with which the ice man would pick up the block and sling it onto his leather covered shoulder are seen now only if you go to an ice house. The ice houses of today no longer have to deliver to residences, and most of the ice is dispensed to the many trucks hauling produce, seafood or chicken.
Usually the ice man was a welcome sight to the local children. They would flock to him for a sliver of ice to help them cool off on a hot summer’s day.
It has always amazed me the way they procured ice a hundred years ago. They would go to the frozen ponds and lakes and cut the blocks out with a saw. It would then be hauled to an ice house and stored there packed in straw until it was needed the following summer. I have never figured out why the ice didn’t melt at the first sign of warm weather. But, without any mechanical refrigeration, this was the only way to get ice for use later on.
The things we take for granted today were a very busy part of life a hundred years ago. Just think how much the world has improved in regards to what are really the necessities of life. Transportation, electricity and communication are just three of the things we take for granted. Imagine what the world would be like today if we had to live as they did a hundred years ago. Wouldn’t you like to be around in a hundred years to see what else man can improve upon? I wouldn’t!