Friday, April 23, 2010

Keeping Things Cool Before Westinghouse.... Pre-refrigeration Days !

Today's heading about pre - refrigeration days is an afterthought to my previous  ruminations on Carnation milk. Keeping perishable foods safe for human consumption has always been one of mankind's main concerns...... and we were no exception to that Golden Rule back in the 30s and 40s when I was a lad in Pokiok .

First of all my Dad dug a giant hole in our backyard not far from the house , brought home two huge oaken hogs - head barrels from the docks (probably by old Mr Blum , the junkman , with his horse and sloven) and sunk them there ....... making sure that at least three quarters of both were well below the frost line. Into one he would put his dahlia tubers , rosebushes and various bulbs in late Fall so as to keep them safe from the harsh winter and ready for early budding the following Spring The other hogs - head would serve as kind of a root cellar for vegetables from his garden.... potatos , squash , beets , onions , turnips , etc and he always kept the snow shovelled away from the cover for easy access during the cold months. I can still see the big scoop he had made from a long stick wih an old coffee can nailed to the end.... like a soup ladel... he used to retrieve vegetables from the sunken barrel. Finally there was this massive earthenware container..... an enormous crock with a heavy lid that Dad had lain hands on somewhere and managed to drag home. He sank it also into the earth right beside the other two ......but would use it for other foodstuffs mainly during the more clement seasons as a kind of "cool spot ".

During the winter months we kept a rather impressive galvanized tub in the back porch which was boarded in where my folks kept smaller , frequently used items such as eggs , butter , milk , meats, etc.This was our version of an icebox. My Dad would leave metal pails outdoors half full of water overnight so they could feeze solid...... then bring them inside , set them on the stove for ten minutes or so to permit the ice to loosen up a bit around the sides ... then pop them into the tub in the back porch... throw a thick blanket over it and we were in business. In late Winter ..... maybe towards the end of March.... the men from out the road would saw up 18 - square - inch hunks of ice from the Twin Ponds... our skating rinks.... and store them in a nearby shack ... covered with sawdust and wood shavings. In this way they had ice well into the month of June.....

In closing I would like to add that I have been blessed with two healthy sons.... now in their 40s. Both pay very close attention to what's written on food labels as to the expiry dates and if it says "better before March 5th ", they will not eat it on March 6th ! They are a bit "persnickety " in that respect I guess ! I keep telling thm about my youth ... and before me ..... when folks simply used their common or horse sense to tell them whether something was edible or not. My counsels seem to fall on deaf ears.

P.S. The above picture was taken around 1935 with Mom and Dad in unfinished front porch.


  1. That is very interesting, Gerry. I remember an old ice box that my aunt had. The iceman would come and put a block of ice in. She also hung fresh made cottage cheese on the clothesline. To this day I really don't know why?

    I am the same way about expiration dates. LOL I check them carefully and even still have found "blinky" milk - which I hate. Then again - we are in a much warmer climate then you.

  2. Hi there , Cindy Anne.... what a delight to have you visit me in my Pokiok !! A few households along our road had real iceboxes and , like your aunt , would have ice delivered now and then.... but not all by any means !I am just getting this site up and running so please drop by often and feel free to comment.Hugs to you and stay cool down there in Rockport