By Joe Darby
Earlier this week we attended the monthly meeting of the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association.
After hearing a great history talk by Father Chad Partain, we got into our business meeting and we discussed the need for a new small refrigerator for the loyal, hardworking volunteers who staff the genealogical library at the Old Courthouse. One member cautioned that we need to be sure to get a frost-free refrigerator.
Everyone quickly agreed that was important. And that little exchange jogged my memory into thinking of the old days when most refrigerators were not frost free.
What did that mean, some of you younger readers may ask. Well, as the days and weeks went by, ice and frost slowly built up in the tiny freezer compartment that most fridges had in those days. If you didn’t take care of it, it would eventually take over the freezer compartment and turn it into one block of ice.
The way you remedied that was to take a dull knife and slowly chip away at the mass of ice until the freezer was pretty much frost free. Once you got going, the ice would come off in huge chunks. One time when I was assigned the job by Mother, I decided to hasten my chore and used an icepick rather than a dull knife. Of course, the ice pick pierced one of the Freon lines in the freezer, rendering the freezer and the rest of the refrigerator out of action. I don’t remember whether we had to buy a new appliance or we had the damaged one repaired. But it was a lesson well learned.
Also, instead of having a handy water and ice dispenser at your beck and call, the tiny freezers came equipped with two little ice trays. To make your ice, you had to take the tray to the sink, carefully fill it with water, put it back in the freezer and wait a couple of hours for the ice to form.
When you wanted to get ice from the frozen trays, you had to pull on a lever to extract a little gizmo that divided the ice into the handy-sized blocks just the right size for putting in a soft drink or a whiskey highball. Then you filled up the tray and started the process over again. If you were having a party, the ice trays could never keep up with the demand, so someone had to go to an ice house to get some.
Back in those days you couldn’t usually get ice at a handy convenience store so you went, as I said,, to the ice house. No the ice house was not an Eskimo igloo, but a building where ice was made on a commercial basis. Every town had one and in bigger cities, almost every neighborhood had one.
That’s about as far back as I go when it comes to obtaining ice. The days of the true ice boxes, where deliverymen would bring huge blocks of ice to your house daily and put them into your non electrical ice box, were a little before my time.
Of course in the old days, most houses didn’t have air conditioning. We had window fans, ceiling fans, attic fans, oscillating fans and hand-held cardboard fans. All they did was stir up dust.
It’s true The good old days may have had their good points, but we lived a lot less comfortably. I think I’ll talk more about fans and other ways of dealing with life next week.