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Saving and storing Ice on the Republican River, Nebraska, around 1900.

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The ice man making his rounds.



Summer Job - Iceman

One of the most flourishing enterprises in Indianola in the early 1900s was the storing and delivery of ice. Mr. Elmer, who owned the ice dock, was the local distributor.

Daddy (Shorty) was one of the more energetic teenagers who worked for Mr. Elmer during the summer months. As delivery boy, he drove a wagon pulled by two horses. He delivered to the business section of town; the biggest customers were the saloon, two drugstores and a meat market. The residents who could afford ice boxes were the other customers on his route.

During the winter months, ice was taken from the Republican River which flows by the town in the summer and freezes solid in the winter. The ice was harvested by scoring it with marking blades and then sawing out the blocks with long thick saws made for this purpose; the blocks were sledded to the ice dock and stored in layers in large underground cellars beneath the ice house. Layers of straw were placed between blocks. The ice house was a thick walled building and afforded storage until the ice was brought out of the cellar for the summer months.

In reminiscing about his ice deliveries, Daddy tells of several humorous incidents. One hot day when a rather buxom maid, who worked for one of the wealthy aristocrats of the town, proceeded to bawl him out for something about the delivery, he forgot his usual courtesy and flipped ice water from a piece of ice he had in his hand in her face. He then made a fast getaway, running through the door, closing it, jumping onto the wagon and whipping the horses to a trot.

Another woman, whose husband owned a drugstore, would reward Shorty with gifts of cigars, quite a luxury for a young man. This is probably how he started smoking cigars, a habit he held onto until he quit in middle age.

In another incident, one of Shorty’s more thoughtful customers nicely told him to always shut the back door on his way out. Upon the next delivery the customer reminded him that he had left the door open and the flies had swarmed in. Daddy said, without really being too impressed, “The devil I did!” He was politely reminded one more time and again replied, “The devil I did!” At the next delivery he left the door open and was cussed out and berated up and down. Shorty resolved after that experience, when people told him something, he would listen and be responsive so he wouldn’t ever be subjected to such abuse in the future.

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