COBWEB CORNERS: More about ice

By Mel McFarland

       Last week I talked some about the ice industry in the days before refrigeration and how it changed life on the railroad. Ice was not used as commonly as it is today. You would never see it in a cooler in a convenience store. Well, first there were no convenience stores! Grocery stores could be found in little neighborhoods around town in the old days. Shoppers made regular trips to the neighborhood store, mainly for that day's meals, and maybe tomorrow's. There was no way to keep much fresh food. Many families had gardens, and many had chickens and pigs.
       The well-to-do had ice boxes. This was a wooden cabinet, usually with galvanized lining. In the bottom was a space for a block of ice, and a pan to catch the water from the melting ice. It was generally sold from a wagon that traveled a regular route around town. Inside the wagons were huge blocks of ice cut from the lakes. They would visit regular customers, including some of the stores. Stores did not sell the ice, they used it to help keep what fresh items they were selling cool. This ice was usually not to be put in drinks! The wagons might stop at a house here and there if someone had an ice box. Often there were little signs or flags the customers put out if they wanted some ice. The guy on the wagon would find out how much ice was wanted. He had tongs to carry the blocks, as well as ice picks to cut up the blocks into smaller blocks if needed. An ice pick was a sharp pointed tool with a wooden handle that could be used to poke the ice, or even draw a line in it, which helped break it into smaller chunks.
       I can remember seeing ice trucks on the streets of Colorado City in the 1950s. Milk trucks (typically Divcos) and other refrigerated deliveries still carried ice then too! By the 1960s a real ice box was a novelty.
       Colorado City was right on that edge of modem conveniences. The town was not built with power lines and telephones, but we did have natural gas before Colorado Springs. A gas well was in the Midland yards, and some houses were constructed with built-in gas lights. Years ago an aunt of mine who lived out in the country even had a gas refrigerator! Long before electricity.