Sitting on top of the ice

Published 2:00 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

One of those fake reality shows caught my attention the other night. I don’t usually waste my time watching those, but when I saw a block of ice being put into the wilderness family’s icebox, I took notice.

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.

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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 was 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.

A lot of folks didn’t have refrigerators. Most folks only had iceboxes, so they would bring watermelons and crates of co-colas to the ice room to get cooled off. They would 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’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’d 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.

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, that would have been all right with us.