‘All was right’ at the ice housePublished 11:00pm Friday, July 13, 2012
The cold blast of air from the coolers at the Piggly Wiggly took me back to my childhood and to the time when I spent most hot summer days sitting on a 250-pound block of ice.
My family owned and operated the ice plant in Brundidge and every day I would hop on my bicycle and go “help out.”
By the time I pedaled all the way to town, I’d be stinky hot and I’d make a beeline for the ice room. That’s where they kept all the 250-pound blocks of ice. A hundred or more of them.
Mama gave me a towel Daddy “got” when he stayed at the Palmer Hotel to keep my be-hind from freezing when I sat on a block of ice. I’d sit there until I got good and cooled off. Then, I’d help out.
The ice was “made” under the floor in big, metal vats. When the ice made, the vats had to be lifted out of the floor with a pulley and pulled over and placed, two at a time, in the dumpster. The 250-pound blocks of ice were dumped from the vats and through a floor-level door into the ice room that was kept at 30 degrees. The ice would then be chipped into smaller blocks or crushed to be sold.
My cousin, Jimmy, and I “helped out” by swinging on the pulley when ice was not being pulled. Most of the work we did was helping customers.
Back then, most folks didn’t have refrigerators with freezers and some folks only had ice boxes, so they would bring watermelons and crates of “co-colas” to the ice room to get cooled off and come back later and pick them up.
I’d have to go in and out of the ice room a hundred times a day to get watermelons and co-colas. Getting watermelons wasn’t too bad because folks would get them and go on home. But the men would come and want a co-cola out of their crate and they’d sit and drink it and want another one.
Daddy said the men didn’t take their co-colas home because women didn’t drink them – made them burp and that wasn’t lady-like. Co-colas made me burp, too, but I didn’t care. They were the best things in the world.
Uncle Seef wouldn’t drink a co-cola. He said he’d drink one and “Buuuurrrp. There go my nickel,” he would say and I’d laugh.
The most fun that we had at the ice plant was when other children came around. We’ take them on a tour of the ice room and let them sit on a block of ice. Then, we’d run, turn of the light, go out and slam the door. They would be scared to death in that cold, dark place. Not one, tiny bit of light could get in there and they would scream and holler. We’d let them get good and cold before we let them out. Sometimes, we made them give us a nickel.
Daddy put me in charge of making snow cones for children or grownups that wanted one.
When we crushed ice for bags, the tiny slivers of ice would collect on the inside of the crusher. Back then, germs had not been discovered, so I’d scoop up the slivers of ice in my hand and pack it down in a cone-shaped paper cup and squirt colored, flavored syrup over the ice. A snow cone was a nickel and I got to keep two pennies for every one I made.
The biggest thing that ever happened at the ice plant was when Mr. James Danner had an idea to put colored, flavored syrup in one of the vats and make a 250-pound popsicle.
My job was to watch the vat and, when the middle started to get icy, Mr. Danner brought in a 2×4 and stuck in down in the vat to make a popsicle stick. We had to leave the cover off that vat because of the stick sticking out.
When the strawberry popsicle got dumped, we all jump around and yelled. Folks came from everywhere to see that 250-pound popsicle. That was probably the biggest thing that ever happened in Brundidge.
The days that I spent “helping out” at the ice plant in Brundidge were some of the happiest of my childhood. Late in the afternoons, when everything had settled down, Daddy would cut a watermelon with his pocketknife and I’d get my Tuf-Nut knife out of my pocket and we’d sit on the porch of the ice plant and eat watermelon.
Daddy didn’t care if my hands were dirty or if I let watermelon juice run down my arm. I don’t think he even noticed. He’d tell me stories about when he was a boy and how they would raid the watermelon patch and I’d laugh.
Then, he would get a co-cola out of our crate to take home for Mama because she loved co-colas. If she burped, I never heard her. If she had “me and Daddy” wouldn’t have cared. All was right in our world.
Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.