My Dad, The Iceman
Before the refrigerator there was the icebox. The icebox required ice, of course. You could either buy it yourself at the ice plant or you could have it delivered to your house by the iceman.
My Dad was The Iceman.
Dad delivered ice to homes and businesses in our town for 61 years; 365 days a year. The only time he was absent from his deliveries was during The Great Depression.
Dad was so well known in our town, he was simply called The Iceman.
Even before Dad went into the ice business, he had some early exposure to it as a young boy.
At 10 years of age, when ice was delivered by horse and wagon, he earned money by taking care of the horses.
My earliest memory is with Dad. There is snow; there’s a room with a wire cage outside the window with milk; Dad’s going outside to chop firewood. I follow Dad out; he tells me it’s too cold and to go back inside with Mama. I turn to go back but all the cabins look the same; I choose a cabin; I open the door and see strangers. The memory ends there.
Mama told me years later that what I remembered happened in Chouteau, Oklahoma, when I was 3 years old. It was during The Great Depression and Dad had to leave our hometown to find work. He helped construct the Grand Lake Dam.
Like most everyone else in the world, The Depression had a profound effect on Dad.
He didn’t trust banks. Dad kept his cash at home in the quilt box. It was a big quilt box.
He was never, ever in debt. Dad paid cash for everything he purchased including land, houses, trucks and businesses. Everything!
He never ate chicken again. Dad said he ate enough chicken during The Depression to last him the rest of his life.
Dad had some quirky personal rules as well.
Rule: Never eat in restaurants. Dad said he had seen too many restaurant kitchens while delivering ice. Enough said. But Dad would buy tamales from Tojo, a Japanese immigrant, who had a street cart and sold tamales for 5 cents each. Go figure.
Rule: Never eat hamburgers. Dad’s sister, Velma, died during an appendicitis operation. Because Velma’s last meal had been a hamburger, Dad was convinced the hamburger was the cause of Velma’s illness.
Rule: Never, ever go to Mexico. Dad was certain that Mexico was so dangerous that if you traveled there, you would never return.
As if delivering ice 365 days a year wasn’t enough, Dad had sideline businesses: Dad raised chickens.
He had the chickens because he wanted the freshest eggs. The extra eggs he sold to friends and neighbors. Dad always charged 50 cents a dozen, no matter if the egg market was up or down. Always 50 cents.
I can remember the sweetest little neighbor boy knocking on the back door and politely asking, “You got any iggs?” He always said the exact same thing and Yes, we always had “iggs”.
Dad raised pigs.
Even though there was plenty of room at home (the lot was a quarter city block), Dad bought some land outside town for his pigs. Maybe that was because of a city ordinance or maybe that was because of a Mama ordinance. We’ll never know.
While delivering ice to restaurants, Dad saw how much leftover food was thrown away. Pig food! The restaurants were happy to have Dad haul it away to feed his pigs. Mama had a sign made for Dad to put on the road where he raised pigs. The sign read “Pylant Pig Patch”.
Dad raised gladiolus flowers.
My chore was to help Dad plant thousands of gladiolus bulbs. When they bloomed they were absolutely beautiful but no one ever saw a single flower at our house. During blooming season, Dad got up before dawn, cut all the near-blooming gladioli and stored them under the house in the dark (following florists’ instructions.) Later in the day, he took them to sell to the florists.
Dad was a strong man.
Carrying blocks of ice 365 days a year will do that.
The ice plant froze warm water into 900 pound blocks of ice. The blocks were scored so they could be cut into 300, 100 and 50 pound blocks. Dad could carry 300 pounds on his back if necessary but most often he carried 100 pounds.
Dad had a contract with the railroad to fill or top off the “refrigerated” cars when the train stopped in our town.
Dad would stand in the bed of his truck, pick up a 50 pound block of ice with his ice hooks and fling it up to my brother Ted who was standing on top of the train. Ted would catch the 50 pound block of ice with his ice hooks and drop it into the refrigerated car’s opening.
Dad once entered a rowing contest at nearby Lake Murray. He rowed so fast and was so far ahead of the other contestants, the announcer wondered aloud if Dad might have a motor attached to his boat.
Dad no longer delivers ice in our town but if angels should ever need ice, I know who’s standing by…….
My Dad, The Iceman.
– Sue Williams