Sunday, January 30, 2011

When trucks delivered blocks of ice

I was reminded of something when I read Paul Krugman's blog this afternoon. In part, he said:
"Now turn the clock back another 39 years, to 1918 — and you are in a world in which a horse-drawn wagon delivered blocks of ice to your icebox . . ."
And there it was again: the idea that it was only in the early part of the last century that they delivered ice to your home. But I can remember the truck that delivered ice to our building when I was a child in the early 1950s. I remember it distinctly.

I always came close to the truck to watch the men. Stuff like this is the highlight of your day when you're a kid sitting on a stoop. And yes, their truck was drawn by horses (as was the truck of the scissors grinder). First they lifted a big, brown, leather flap that covered the open back of the truck. Inside, it was very cold. Ice blocks were stacked on wooden pallets. It was wonderful in there.

My memories of the truck are summer memories, so the cold in that truck was alluring. Remember, this was in pre-A/C days. I'd always get as close to the truck as I could, just to feel the cool air billowing out. They also had dry ice on which I'd burn my fingers, thinking it great fun.

They used a long, heavy hook to haul the blocks of ice around in the truck. And then they'd put one big block of ice on a large piece of leather. Then they'd wrap the leather around the ice and cinch the long ends together, and grab the ends and throw this package over their shoulder. This is how they carried the ice up the stairs. I loved the ice men though they only grunted at me to get out of their way. Nice, nice ice men.

Over the years, older friends told me I couldn't possibly remember such a thing, that ice deliveries were way before my time. One even told me I must be remembering something I saw in a movie. And now here was Krugman, implying the same thing. So I did the only thing a lad can do in such a situation. I called my mother.

She told me everyone in our building, including us, used ice for refrigeration. There was no one in our whole neighborhood who had an electric refrigerator. I was relieved to hear her say this. So I wasn't crazy after all. I guess modernization hadn't yet reached New York's immigrant communities. 

Just a story running through my head today. I thought I'd pass it on. Anyone else remember ice trucks?