-Art's Art-
Recollections of a Small Town Boy


Limited by my perspective of a short span of life, the death of the icebox was not a sad event at all. The important thing was the birth of an electric refrigerator to replace it, duly greeted with squeals of delight. This servant of mankind would make ice cubes. It would make a passable tray of ice cream by using something called Val’s Basic recipe, add your own flavor and stir before the mess freezes. Heck, I thought it was good because it was cold, smooth and sweet.

Only later we realized how much we missed hearing the bell on the ice wagon, running to catch the big scales hanging from the rear, snatching chips of cold bliss to hot tongues. Then we watched awestruck as this big man in the black leather apron tonged a great block of ice to the rear of the wagon, chipped a line with expert jabs of his ice pick; miraculously the block broke off a slab just the right size and weight for our icebox! My best estimate is about thirty dollars a year at the highest price it commanded BD [Before Duke].

When the icebox died we traded away a bit more of self-sufficiency for a bit of convenience. Perishables would be safe longer, some could be frozen–and the derned thing made edible ice cream for undiscerning taste buds of eight-year-olds. Even so, we became more dependent on–and vulnerable to–electricity, the high technology of that age. Yes, there were electric lights in the house.

The wiring was primitive, consisting of a single drop and bulb in the center of each room.

Later, some table lamps were rigged with extensions draped from the ceiling fixture, but a power outage was never a reason for panic or even great concern. Kerosene lamps were abundant after all, and reliable aids to finish chores and light the way to bed. That was before the electric refrigerator.

If a question about our growing dependence arose, it was quickly overtaken by practical considerations. How long will the fresh pork chops be safe? Should I fry them for breakfast, then the round steak for dinner? What about the milk going blinky? Worries in the night.

Today is Sunday, March 7, 2004. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. For me a small breakfast, a church service, and a delicious lunch with good friends. Later at home, the wind was rising, fulfilling predictions. And more. At sundown I checked my e-mail. And the power went out with a great boom on the next block.

Back to 1935 with a larger check list to run through. Where’s the nearest flashlight? Are the lantern batteries fresh and do I have replacements? Get candles and light one or two in kitchen and bedroom. Refrigerators with slim walls now don’t keep food as long as the old ones. House will get cold. All of us know the drill. We curse the darkness–and some take it out on the power supplier!

We just don’t like having our dependence thrown in our face.

I wonder if Charles Darwin would have been astonished at how quickly this species adapts to comfort and convenience, given our poor survival skills in adverse conditions.

Art Darwin
December 26, 2006.

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