The Iceman Cometh

Joan Griffith
(member of the Life Writing Group, Tweed Coast U3A)

In those days of yore, long before the refrigerator was introduced into our uncomplicated world, the humble ice-chest held pride of place in most kitchens throughout the land.

The ice-chest in our kitchen was a small, metal-plated timber cupboard with a hinged lid at the top. Inside this cavity fitted a huge block of ice, the purpose of which was to chill the contents of the cupboard below. This was usually half-a-pound of butter, a pint of milk, a packet of Kraft cheddar cheese and perhaps a few leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. I presume my Father stored a bottle or two of his best Victoria Bitter beer in the ice-chest as well, but I’m sure this would have occurred only if space permitted, because space in the ice-chest was very limited indeed.

However, this ice-chest served our needs admirably, because in those days of long ago we simply did not store vast quantities of perishable food at home. There were no supermarkets to sell non-existent frozen peas and beans, nor were there tubs of ice-cream or other such sweet delights available. Perishable foods such as fruit and vegetables and dairy products were purchased almost daily from the small local shops where the housewives were known by name.

But I digress from the ice-chest, and its by now melting block of ice!

The block of ice in its metal-lined cavity at the top of the chest was quite large and melted rather slowly, so twice a week was sufficient for “The Iceman” to call with a replacement, which he carried into the house in a hessian bag. Once the block of ice was deposited in its resting place the “The Iceman” had to chip away with an ice-pick, similar to a screwdriver, until the block was just the right size to allow the hinged lid to close securely. And there we were, iced-up and ready to go for the next few days.

Then along came modern technology in the form of the refrigerator and our little ice-chests became outmoded and unwanted, consigned to the scrapheap. Eventually, in the name of progress “The Iceman Cometh” no more!