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Looking Backward: Back when ice from the icehouse kept things cold

Now, we're into the dog days of summer. It hasn't been a particularly hot one, but a good summer just the same. When the heat and humidity get the best of you, it's nice to run to the refrigerator for a cold drink or the freezer for some ice cream. Now that our cars and homes are even air-conditioned, we take something like home refrigeration for granted. But, there was a time when ice came from an icehouse and was kept in an ice box, and the ice box (not a refrigerator or freezer) kept things cold.

Back before home refrigeration and rural electrification became common in the 1930's, ice was harvested on local lakes, ponds, and canals. The ice was stored in icehouses and delivered to homes and businesses. This was the only way to keep things cold throughout the summer.

According to a Messenger article in January 1972, by Tony Christopher, "A little west of Cooper's Marina once stood an icehouse which stored quantities of ice for summer use .ice was cut and put away in large sheds to be delivered to Baldwinsville residents in the warm months. One local ice field was Houghtaling's Sawmill Pond at the source of Crooked Brook on Ellsworth Road in the Town of Van Buren. From the 1870s through the 1930s, the mill and pond were owned in succession by Maynard Smith, Elmer Ellsworth and Orlando Houghtaling, all of whom were icemen. In fact, Christopher goes on to say that, "Some folks will remember the name 'E.E. Ellsworth' on two yellow ice wagons drawn by teams of gray horses, covering all the village streets in the 1910 era .A house customer would hang at the window a card sign having large figures facing each of the four sides, and marked 25, 50, 75 and 100. The numerals facing up indicated (the) amount of ice wanted."

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