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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Early-Day Ice Monster

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Recently a scene in a fiction novel, taking place in the late 1930s, triggered a memory long forgotten. The scene included a family buying a block of ice from a vending machine at an ice house.

In the old days, one of the chores associated with a weekly trip to Perryton each Saturday was to make sure we had a galvanized wash tub and an old quilt in the trunk of our car. These items were absolutely necessary in order to purchase a block of ice in town and drive 15 miles home on dirt roads and still have enough unmelted ice left for our ice box.
Water and Ice, Borger, Texas
Carrying Ice in Borger
1920s photo courtesy Ken Sharpe Collection

I can't remember exactly when we became addicted to iced tea. To the hardworking men of that time, iced tea was a must. I also don't remember how Mother made iced tea; she must have boiled tea leaves on the stove and then added water. I do remember all coffee grounds and tea leaves were saved in a Folger's coffee can to place around her house plants.

I can barely remember a man sitting on a wooden deck in front of the ice house chewing tobacco, who took your order, then fetched the size of ice block you wanted. He used ice tongs and wore a leather apron as he placed the ice block into the wash tub in your car trunk.

Later, a vending device was installed at the dock where you placed coins in a slot and punched a button indicating the size of ice block you wanted. As a little boy I stood on the deck feeling the vibrations of the compressor making the ice somewhere in the bowels of the building. Ice-making was a process few could explain at that time.

Ralls Tx - Ice House
The Ice House in Ralls, Texas
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, July 2009

When Mother dropped the right coins into the slot and pushed the button, the vibrations changed to loud thumps and an ever-louder roar as the ice block dropped into a chute and came thundering to the front. An opening covered with a canvas flap stood beside the coin slots where the ice block would burst through and stop.

My little boy imagination ran wild as I pictured the ice monster living inside the building, growling and threshing about as he spit out the block of ice into the chute. I just knew the monster would come out the chute and drag me back inside into his freezing lair. I'm sure my eyes were big as silver dollars as I anxiously awaited the outcome.

Suddenly the canvas curtain flipped upward as the ice block arrived in the chute. I waited, holding my breath until I was sure the ice monster would not follow.

The ordeal or adventure ended quietly as we loaded the ice into our car trunk. When we drove off, I sighed with relief. I had escaped the ice monster one more time.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" January 12, 2010 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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