Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Iceman Cometh

Those Were the Days, My Friend
Picture this. An upper working-class suburb of Melbourne, Australia. A hot summer day. Early 1960's. A lone man walks along the street holding a very large block of ice on his shoulder. It's partly draped with a hessian bag, in order I suppose, to stop it slipping. "Anyone for ice?" he's calling out.

Bad timing Mister Iceman. By then we, yes even my family, had fridges. I suspect we were the last kids on the block to own a fridge. Before that we'd had ice-chests. And for the bulk of my readers - an ice-chest was a pre-fridge cooling device for use in the home.

The ice-chest looked like a very small refrigerator. If I remember correctly, there was a compartment for the block of ice at the top of the unit. The resulting cold air would convect down to cool the food that was stored, fridge-like, on the shelves below. The blocks of ice for the ice-chests, were delivered to the home by an "iceman" who had a refrigerated van for the purpose.

I googled "ice-chest" and came up with lots of pages, but they all referred to ice coolers or Eskies as they are known in Australia. Modern day portable devices for keeping things (usually beer) cool at sporting events or at beaches where there are no electricity outlets.

Ah, I am getting old my friends. Soon I'll be, horror of horrors, a receptacle for oral history, as opposed to ... better not go there ...

But to get back to my theme before my fragile brain wanders even further afield.

Second Avenue Subway Construction - A Four Year Project
The iceman of the suburban street of my childhood was a dying breed. I don't know how I know this, but that particular iceman on that sunny Australian day had just bought the business. A bad business choice.

I thought of the iceman when a new business started up around the corner from our apartment in Manhattan - a magazine store!

Not only had the business person chosen to buy in the middle of a downturn in the economy, in a place where drilling for a new subway was ripping up the street and keeping prospective consumers away in droves, but he (I assume it was a he) had decided to sell paper magazines. Un-Green, unWanted and unProfitable.

Poor Magazine Shop Owner. Poor Iceman.

The number of jobs that are becoming obsolete is mind-boggling, and one has to wonder why people enter into such business lack-of-opportunities and career paths when all signals screech, don't do it.

On the way out are paper boys, magazine stores (were they ever 'in'?), paperback writers (remember the Beatles), people who remember the Beatles, people who remember icemen, people who remember ice-chests.

On the way up are I.T. people, clouds, cell phone designers, greenies.

It's a mixed bag for yours truly. Oops - on the way OUT are people who sign off with

"Yours truly"

Yours truly,



Anonymous said...

Living in early 1940s Bexley ( a mixed, residential Sydney suburb on the South Line) our iceman came in a horse and cart. Yes, I'm THAT old. We trailed the cart hoping for chips of ice to fall. Pick 'em up, dust 'em off and suck 'em. Ahhh, cool stuff in the hot Aussie summer. Fridges became available after the War, at least for those who could afford one.

Anonymous said...

Ant Kathleen,
I am still retarded -computer-wise - and don't read all you stuff all the time. but enjoyed this ice-man thing. Amazingly (to me) I remember the milk bottles coming to Glen Iris on a horse and cart. The clip clopping in the dawn fog, and looking out the window at the poor bastard.
The ice man with the refrigerated cart should have seen the writing on the wall. There must have been a fridge\freezer of some kind at the ice factory, and then one day they made one that was portable enough to put on a cart. Get out of the biz, Ice-man! Household units are coming! The guy had no foresight. And that makes two of us.
all the best,
love, simon xx

nautiaussie said...

It was interesting reading your article, as I can remember those days in Australia, the horse drawn carts that delivered milk, ice and also the dunny man who took away "the nasties". I often wonder what jobs they went to next after theirs became redundant.

And what about today?? Things really are moving so quickly technologically, that it is hard to keep up with what is "out" now. I remember old 78 records, playing them and tossing them along with my 33's and 45's. My CD's are in a box in storage somewhere, and even the ever dependable iPod is on the way out as I listen to music on Pandora from satellite radio, from the iPhone by selecting one song and having others of the same ilk selected for me, all delightful.

What might I be missing in my own home that is already obsolete and I still don't know?? I'll know in months rather than years as this technological revolution keeps spinning at a great rate of knots. It seems such a long time ago that we waited for the White and Yellow Pages each year. Now, with just the click of the mouse and a search engine we can get all sorts of info, not just phone numbers, but who lives in the house and what it is worth.

And yet, with all these wonders, the simple joys of baking my own bread and canning my own fruit brings me, and my loved ones, so much joy. Hopefully some things will never be on the way out completely.

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