The ice-box.

Image result for Ice box


I remember the ice-box. In fact I used to collect the ice block from the ice-house on my bicycle. The ice block would get wrapped in a hessian bag. On the ride home the evaporation rate of the hessian was slowing the melting of this ice block till it reached the safety of the ice-box.

In 1956, electric fridges were rare. It was unknown and not really needed in the cooler climates of Northern Europe. After our arrival in Australia mid-summer, we had to find ways to keep food from spoiling. We quickly bought an ice-box. From memory, this box was made of wood with a internal lining of galvanized sheet metal. It had some shelving to put the food on. The ice block was placed on the top shelves with the melting water drained directly in a dish on the floor.

The top model ice-box was the Kelvinator. People used to gather around the kitchen and praise the Kelvinator. Now the discussions are about ‘Smart TV’s.’ We did not have the Kelvinator ice-box with its brash studded snappy locks and hinges. I think we had a hessian rag hanging in front of the ice-box. It worked well. My mother kept the beef-mince, butter, eggs and even bread in it.

After a year or so using the ice-box our family made a giant leap forward with a fridge that used a small kerosene burner underneath the fridge. It was called a ‘kero-fridge’ and the envy of many a migrant family. At the yearly outburst of a suburban unrestrained  jollity  at ‘bon-fire night,’ (Guy Fawkes) some neighbours, after a couple of outside beers, confided they too managed after years of struggle to get a ‘kero-fridge’. It did not take much to make for happiness then.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!  (bon fire jollity and Guy Fawkes)”

The kero- fridge used the heat of the burning kerosene underneath its solid bulk to cool the inside of the Frigidaire. This type of fridge worked remarkably well. If the fridge was in a good mood it could even freeze the mixture of milk, sugar and vanilla powder into an ice-cream. Dad used to be very chuffed when that happened. He sat in a chair in front of the fridge, smoking away while waiting and staring at this fridge to perform this ice-cream miracle. Again, entertainment was home-made. Who to-day would still watch a fridge making ice-cream? Not many, I reckon. Most walk around in a daze watching IPhones or Blue Teeth. Who would have thought that the world’s people now spends most of its time watching a phone with blue tooth capabilities?

It’s different now.


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25 Responses to “The ice-box.”

  1. Carrie Rubin Says:

    “ice-cream miracle”—I’ll take a fridge that does that, please. 😁

    I agree–far too much time spent on screens, in all age groups. It’s especially sad to see parents on their phones while their young children are trying to get their attention. We don’t get that time back. We need to use it wisely.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      And with all that ransomware doing the rounds, one wonders if being ‘on-line’ will come to an end? Will people again go for long walks and with their children start feeding the ducks?
      It is sad that so many parents are glued to those phones while the children wander off unnoticed to be retrieved years later by police drug squads.


  2. berlioz1935 Says:

    Our first fridge was a kerosene fridge converted to electric power. It worked pretty well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Our kerosene fridge had a will of its own, Berlioz. Every so often it would refuse to work. An expert on kerosene fridges living nearby told us to turn the fridge upside-down, and leave it overnight.

      This kerosene fridge weighted a tonne and it was no mean feat to turn it upside down. Perhaps it had air in its pipes, and like a baby, had to be burped.

      In any case, every now-and-then a strange apparition of an upside down fridge would festoon our kitchen with its steel legs sticking up like a dead wombat.

      They say, migrating to a strange country was only for the strong but back in Holland we never had to turn fridges upside-down.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    I dimly remember a kero fridge too, Gez. After that came an electric Kelvinator with a curved top that was useless for putting stuff on. I’m amazed that Dad didn’t make a wooden saddle to overcome that.

    Dad’s modern delight gadget was his Victa. Grass was totally at his mercy. Then the scared lawn when “cut your feet” tough as nails Buffalo grass replaced extremely invasive carpet-like Couch.

    Then a Pye radiogram graced the modest abode in Poverty Avenue East Hills and in 1958 a Healing 17″ Black and White TV – all on Custom Credit (ball and chain to the working class) 10% flat rate interest – which is about the same as modern credit card usuary.

    For the first few weeks the neighbours used to fill our tiny living room as if we were running a community facility – until Dad got the shits and told them to piss off and get their own set.

    I think that was the end of strong communities. I blame Reg Grundy, mainly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Well put, Trouserzoff.

      iOh, those early Victa lawnmowers are etched in my memory as sharp as my first wet dream.

      My dad used to pull that cord over and over again, the sweat running down his face, arteries bulging around his maniacally contorted face. Poor dad! He tried so hard.

      He never wanted a lawn at all. He loved peace and quiet.
      He just wanted to keep the grass short. Once, after hours of pulling and fiddling with the obstinate Victa, became so enraged with the flies slurping on his facial sweat, he grabbed the screwdriver and with murderous intent chased a particular fly. Alas he lost sight of it amongst the weeds.

      Our first TV was on a two year ‘easy terms,’ plan. We all would pile up in front and watch Bonanza or in my dad’s case The Flintstones. The TV was made of wood and helped to keep the house warm in winter’s evening together with the kerosene ‘Fyreside’ heater

      With all that kerosene burning we suffered pulsating headaches but in those years we had the magic of BEX headache powders.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Therese Trouserzoff Says:

        People were tribal about their analgesics. Mum and Dad were addicted to Bex but Nan and Pop took Vincent’s powders.

        I could never work out why taking a powder was the first thing folks did every Day …. until I reached sixty myself and discovered the crow of the rooster often brings a new painful discovery – which I admit often eases with a bit of movement.

        I gather the epidemic of kidney disease caused by analgesic abuse led to “taking a powder” or having a cuppa , a Bex and a good lie down” becoming things of the past.

        Postscript – a couple of years ago I rediscovered the kero heater . A mate had one in her fisherman’s hut up on the Hawkesbury. There was no electricity connected. Funny how some smells are so heavily imprinted on one’s brain.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Our very last kero heater would light up automatically with the aid of batteries that somehow shorted and provided a hot glow point. Apart from dad pulling the Victa cord he also spent hours on his knees keeping the Kero-heater’s wick trim and level. This would lesson our throbbing headaches.
        Oddly enough, he used the same small scissors that he used to trim his nose hairs with.
        Revesby has a lot to answer for, Trouserzoff.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    sacred, not scared.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. leggypeggy Says:

    Oh the dreaded screens. Give me a fridge that makes ice cream any day.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My dad was happiest when this fridge made ice cream. As kids we had already tasted the real shop ice-cream and my mother’s concoction wasn’t all that much appreciated.

      I sometime wonder if I should have shown more appreciation of both my dad’s and mum’s dedication to the home-made vanilla ice-cream?


  6. Robert Parker Teel Says:

    You can still buy these kerosene refrigerators in the U.S., sometimes converted to propane or natural gas. Some of the Amish or Mennonite farmers use them, or people with cabins. One time, visiting my relatives in the Wasatch mountains in Utah, on a hot day we got ice blocks, put towels on top, and sledded down the longest grass slope at the college there. They line up straw bales at the bottom, because you get going pretty fast. Very fun, as long as you don’t mind a frozen fanny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Those kerosene fridges and heaters are keenly sought after antiques.

      In Holland we had timber sleds with steel runners on which we used to slide down the dykes onto the frozen canals.

      We did not care about the frost and ice and used to come home all frozen-fisted, waiting for a hot chocolate drink.

      Kids now use very sophisticated plastic sleds to down-hill racing.

      Down-hill racing is making a come back with the elderly eagerly scanning the list of funeral directors. (Just in case of an emergency)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Curt Mekemson Says:

    We had a kerosene driven refrigerator in Africa, Gerard. And it was much appreciated. Never did have to deal with an ice box however. They were pretty much a thing of the past when I was growing up in the late 40s and 50s of California. Like the vision of your dad waiting for the ice cream. 🙂 –Curt


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The ice-box in the mid fifties was still extensively used in Australia. The electric fridges were starting to appear in homes but were expensive. When visiting friends or neighbours who were lucky and wealthy enough to own a ‘real’ electric fridge, a study tour around the kitchen with fridge-viewing was obligatory.
      Chrome handles and hinges is what I remember as being absolutely magic.


  8. shoreacres Says:

    My grandparents had an ice-box that looked exactly like the one in your photo. It had the same galvanized metal sheeting inside, too. I can remember blocks of ice being carted home from the ice-house, where it had been cut and stacked in sawdust during the winter. Even when they got their electric refrigerator, they still kept the icebox. I don’t remember who got it after Grandma died — I think it was one of my aunts. I could have had it, but I chose the blanket chest Grandpa made from their first oak dining table instead.

    I’ve done a bit of cruising on boats that have the same sort of ice-boxes. Not everyone has a generator and an inverter. On a little boat, a big chunk of ice will do just fine for an extended weekend’s cruise, and you don’t have the problem of something breaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The ice-box might well make a come-back.

      More and more communities are disconnecting from the grid of poles and wires.

      Solar and other forms of energy might well marry frugal living whereby electricity is used with great care.

      Power companies are fighting back by paying consumers pea-nuts for feed- back into the grid and charging exorbitantly for the feed-in power.

      When our kids were small we had a caravan that was living in a beautiful wilderness area near rocks and beaches. Its fridge could run on 12V power, 240V as well as bottled gas.

      Of course when the kids were very small we camped in tents, no fridges.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    We emptied the large flat tray in the bottom of the ice box, just in time for the ice man to deliver the new block of ice. Butter and other things not prone to spoilage were kept in a little cupboard opening to the outside of the house. I can still smell it. Kids often followed the iceman down the street grabbing chips of ice out of his truck.


  10. vivienne29 Says:

    My family was not wealthy but we did have an electric fridge in 1953. Neighbours had an icebox like the one in your article. We had no sewerage so had outback loo for a few years. Nice memories you have Gerard.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. vivienne29 Says:

    Yes, it is amazing what some people put in their fridge when it should be in the pantry. Tomato sauce and lots of things that are already preserved.


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