Cutting Ice on Cedar Pond

CUTTING ICE ON CEDAR POND By Elmer Snow of Luther Haven
When I was nine years old in 1930 I was sent to live with my grandparents on Cape Cod This was before many families had refrigerators. We had a wooden icebox with an ice compartment on the top. The ice compartment was lined with tin and had a drain to a round pan underneath the icebox that caught the water from the melting ice.
wooden icebox with an ice compartment on the top

If you forgot to empty it, it filled to overflowing and sometimes, if you did not have a cat, it was possible there would be a drowned mouse in the water. This was before electric refrigerators and there was iceman who delivered ice. (We did not have a refrigerator until 1935.)

There was an iceman in Orleans who delivered ice. He also owned an icehouse on Cedar Pond. When his truck arrived at our house he would grab a large block of ice with his ice tongs and carry it over his shoulder into our house. Underneath the ice he had a thick leather pad to protect his back from the cold and dampness of the ice. A piece of ice cost about 10 cents. He was very skilled with his ice pick. With a few deft strokes of his ice pick he could cut off a piece of ice that would fit in the icebox without further trimming.

Ice was needed about every three days in the warmer weather. At that time there was not a lot of storage of meats and foods, as they did not keep well even in the icebox. In the winter many people did not buy ice. A tin box could be purchased that fit into the kitchen window. The cold outside air was supposed to keep the food from spoiling. However it was not of much use unless the temperature remained below 35°.

My grandmother had a pantry off of the living room that served as a cooler in winter for perishables. Later on when an addition to the house was built and running water installed a pantry off the kitchen was included in the addition as well as a place for a refrigerator.

The winter of 1934 was extremely cold. Because of the prolonged cold spell, the ice on the ponds was 18 inches thick and there was ice for skating until late in March. We used our ice skates so often that they became dull and had to be sharpened in mid-winter.
During the winter of 1934 it was possible to cut ice twice and the icehouse was filled to the top.
icehouse on Cedar Pond
The icehouse looked like a large barn. Six to eight feet was below ground level to help preserve the large blocks of ice in the summertime. At the end of the icehouse was a wooden ramp that sloped down into the pond. There were two levels of ramps that led to the doors at the end of the icehouse. A series of wooden frames the size of an ice block were connected with ropes to make a conveyor that was powered by a small gasoline engine. The blocks of ice were guided into the frames and they were pulled up the ramp to the doors where men diverted the blocks into the icehouse.
Two-man teams of men with large handsaws cut the ice into blocks 12 inches wide, 3 feet long. Workers using long poles with sharp iron points then guided the blocks along the channel to the ramp where they began the trip into the icehouse.

Ice shrinks during storage. However when the icehouse was full there was a minimum of loss in size of the blocks. The ice usually would last into the late Fall, however the winter of 1934 was so cold that the icehouse was filled and the iceman had a more profitable year.Thus ends the story of cutting ice on Cedar Pond in Orleans.

If you visit Cape Cod now Cedar Pond is still there but after WW-II, the Mid-Cape Highway was built. Where it passed through Orleans it cut across one side of Cedar Pond so that little remains of the pond. The icehouse was torn down long ago. My fondest memories are of the years on Cape Cod with my grandparents.

However, on cold winter days, the memories of cutting ice on Cedar Pond and my early years in Boston when the iceman climbed four flights of stairs to our apartment to deliver ice remain still vivid.

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