Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I am writing these anecdotes for all my children and grandchildren, and especially for Billy who asked how people kept things cold before there were refrigerators.  

My earliest memory of iceboxes is of the white porcelain, two door affair we had on Chauncey Street in Brooklyn, New York. Most of my earliest memories were formed there, at 324 Chauncey Street. The top level of the ice box, where many subsequent refrigerators have the freezer compartment, is where the blocks of ice went. The bottom compartment was where items such as milk, butter, meat, etc. were stored. Under the icebox was a pan to catch the melting ice. It had to be emptied daily. The iceman came around in a horse drawn wagon, and a few years later he arrived in a motorized truck. He came a couple of times a week in the summer and maybe once a week in the winter. The amount of ice delivered depended on the amount of money our mother had on hand for such a luxury. For a quarter (25 cents), she could buy enough ice to last a day or two or three. In the summer months, we might need an entire block of ice, which as I remember, measured 24 inches by 12 inches by maybe another 12 inches.

In the winter, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, our mothers would put many of the perishable items on the outside windowsill or on the fire escape in order to keep them cool. (Not everyone was lucky enough to have a fire escape.) 

During the summer months, the iceman would chip away the desired amount of ice for a housewife, sometimes leaving behind some mouth size chips when he delivered an order. These chips would never go to waste, as there was always a kid in need of a piece of ice to suck on. 

Around 1950, my parents finally were financially able to buy a refrigerator. It was powered by gas, and the brand was Serval. It was too big for the kitchen. We kept our refrigerator in the dining room. I remember that it always was filled with plenty of milk and food. My father had a good job as a “sheet metal mechanic” with Union #28. He took a great deal of pride in bringing his pay home to my mother each week.

© 2013, Patricia Aronica

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