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The Ice Man Cometh

Remember the days before the electric refrigerator.

In the days before the electric refrigerator became standard in every home, Cleburne had
two ice houses, one, Frigid Ice; was at the southwest corner of North Wilhite and East
Wardville Streets, the other; Cleburne Ice & Cold Storage, on North Border Street where
Johnson County Auto Parts is now located.

Cleburne Ice was the largest of the two, having a contract with Santa Fe to ice down all
the refrigerated rail cars. They had a conveyor belt running from the ice crusher out over
the track just east of the building. The refrigerated rail cars had doors on top at each end
over special bins to hold the ice to keep the produce, or whatever they were hauling, cool.

A switch engine would line several cars up on that track and push them in place for the
conveyor to be lined up directly over the openings for the ice to fall into. As each bin
was filled the switchman would move the cars forward to align the next bin with the
conveyor, continuing until all the cars were filled.

Most people had coolerators, or ice boxes, rather than electric refrigerators. Many of the
older models were made of wood, double walled, with insulation. Most of these had a
lid on top, where the ice would go, and a lower section with a front door where the food
was put. The later models were made of metal with a second, inside door, for the section
where the ice went.

Cleburne Ice had a truck with wooden side boards and a tarp over the top that they used to
deliver ice from house to house. They would make deliveries on the east side one day
and the west side the next, everyone getting a delivery every other day.

Everyone had a “Ice Card,” each card about 11 inches square, with the numbers 25, 50, 75
and 100 on each side. (See example at bottom of page.) On the day the ice man
made his deliveries you would place the card in the front window with the number
up indicating the size block of ice you wanted that day. If you were planning
on being gone you left the back door unlocked and the ice man would go ahead
and put the ice in your ice box and add the amount to your bill.

The truck had a small crusher on the back powered by a gasoline engine. If anyone
wanted crushed ice for making ice cream they requested it and the delivery man would
crush it right at the truck. When that engine started up and the first large chunk of ice
was dropped in, it made such a racket that all the children in the neighborhood could hear
it. Upon hearing that sound, all the children would come running.

As the ice was put in the crusher some of it was thrown out on the bed of the truck.
What kid could resist grabbing a piece of ice to suck on a hot summer day? The ice man
was almost as welcome as the ice cream man.

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