The Iceman Doesn't Stop
Here Any More
Karen Radford Treanor
© Copyright 2015 by Karen Radford Treanor
One day my grandmother acquired a refrigerator. Its arrival highlighted something I’d never given much thought to: until then she’d had an icebox. I had known, of course, that it was an icebox—but I’d never really considered that most other people in the city had long since traded their passive coolers for electrically-powered ones.
I’d always enjoyed being allowed to put the iceman’s order card in the front window when I visited Gran during the summer holidays. The card was a primitive dial with a red arrow which you turned to indicate how big a slab of ice you wanted that day. The iceman would park his truck—the horse and cart having been retired some years previously—and hack off the appropriately-sized chunk of ice, then grab it in a huge pair of tongs and bring it into the back hall and slide it into the ice compartment of the oak cabinet.
The new refrigerator was a purchase worthy of comment. The Depression and its stringencies were still a living memory for many people. Money was easier now, but not to be spent unwisely. After the sweating men laboured away with the oaken icebox, Gran and I stood in silent awe before the enamelled metal replacement. It sat in the back hall, uncompromisingly square and blindingly white. It hummed and purred and occasionally went ‘ticka-ticka’.
“It’s too small,” said Gran, looking at the assortment of food which had been transferred to the kitchen table from the banished zinc-lined cabinet. “We’ll never get all that in there.” Tentatively she opened the door of the new machine and set a pound of butter on the shelf, as if half-expecting the fridge to spit it back at her.
“There’s a little door that says ‘butter’,” I said, peering into the small cavity so designated. Gran looked at it and transferred the package. “Maybe I don’t want to have the butter in there,” she muttered half to herself.
“You’ll have to buy some lettuce,” I said, pulling open the drawer suspended from the bottom shelf. “This says it’s a lettuce crisper.” Age 10, I knew an imperative phrase when I saw one.
Gran sighed and looked as if she’d give anything to have the old oak icebox back. Then she squared her tiny shoulders and began thrusting food into the new machine’s open maw with the air of one feeding branches into a garden shredder. “We’ll get used to it,” she said.
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