Wolcott Historical Society History for May 2014
By Florence Goodman
This month I will share another section of Clarence Atwood's handwritten memories about life in Wolcott in 1930. It covers quite an interesting topic that most people today probably can't even remember - icehouses.
In the early part of the 20th century many families did not have refrigerators, as we know them today; instead, they had iceboxes. These iceboxes needed large blocks of ice to keep them cold. Therefore the ice business became a well-established and important industry during this period of our history and some Wolcott residents earned a living producing ice to fill them.
"Since the major part of Wolcott had no commercial power at this time, keeping food fresh was a hit or miss proposition. Many houses had a springhouse where perishables could be kept cool. Some put things in a bucket, which hung down in the well; we kept our quart jars of root beer under the bridge over our brook. Some houses had iceboxes, into which fathers could put a chunk of ice brought home from Waterbury. There was a commercial icehouse in Wolcott on Wilson's Pond off of Todd Road, which was later converted to DellaBella Mushroom Company. Another icehouse was that of Mr. Moroz on Wolcott Road opposite Nichols Road. The pond is still there, but the icehouses have been long gone.
One icehouse with which I was more familiar was that of Mr. James Bergin at Sunny Hill Farm on Ransom Hall Road. When the ice became thick enough he would produce a plow-like affair, which a horse pulled across the ice, producing straight furrows clear across the pond. Then he marked right angle furrows, which produced ice cakes, about two feet by four feet. An old auto engine on runners with a two-foot buzz saw was then drawn along the lines to cut the ice cakes nearly to the bottom. A long chute led from the water's edge up the bank and into his icehouse. Beginning at the water's edge, a channel was opened across the pond and ice cakes, one by one beginning at the far side were pushed along the channel and up the ramp into the icehouse where they were bedded in sawdust. This ice was used as needed to keep his milk cool until it could be delivered to customers on his daily milk route. Some ice was chipped and spread on the milk bottles to keep them cool during delivery. Sawdust was used as an insulator to keep the ice from melting and it did indeed, so the supply of ice lasted until the next harvest season. Our own farm had an icehouse and a small pond nearby, but it fell into disuse before my time.
Sometimes someone helping with the ice harvest fell into the water. The unlucky [person] was helped out of the water and hustled up to the nearby house to get thawed and dried out. Often times he was offered a good stiff drink of hard cider or sometimes some good homemade Brandy."
This particular story by Clarence piqued my interest because I knew there were icehouses in our town, but never knew where. I always thought there was one on Wolcott Road, only I thought the small, dilapidated house on the left side of the entrance to the Lion's Club property was the remains, of one; I was wrong. I found out that the Wolcott Road icehouse owned by Mr. Moroz was located at 259 Wolcott Road, and that the back corner of the house was only three feet from the pond. This icehouse was later renovated into a home, which was part of the Herbst family property and rented out for many years. Several years ago the house was sold, demolished and replaced by CPE Electric. The James Bergin, Sunny Hill Dairy Farm icehouse on Ransom Hall Road continued to be used by the Evers family when they purchased that property. I spoke with Gary Gemino, whose family owned DellaBella's Mushroom Company, and he stated that they purchased the land from the Theriault Ice Company. It seems that several years of mild winters forced them to close the icehouse and sell the land.
Clarence only mentioned locations and names of three icehouses in our town in 1930, but I'm sure there were more. We had many farms with small ponds scattered throughout our town and they would have had a need for an icehouse. Three locations that I think about are Cedar Lake in the northern section, Chestnut Hill reservoir in the west and Hitchcock Lakes in the east, so if any of my readers have information on any other icehouses that friends or family owned, it would be greatly appreciated.
In conclusion, one more memory on this topic sticks in my mind. Back in the late 1950s and mid 1960s there was still an ice company located at 1149 Wolcott Road; it was Souza Ice Service. The Society recently received an ice pick advertising this business. Thought you might enjoy seeing it.
(Information for this article was taken from hand written stories of "Wolcott in 1930" by Clarence Atwood, pictures from the Atwood family's albums which were scanned by Mark McDonald and pictures from the Atwood family's albums which were scanned by Mark McDonald and information from Eleanor Herbst Ramirez and Gary Gemino.)
James Bergen with his milk wagon.
Sunny Hill Dairy Farm on Ransom Hall Road.
Evers Pond from where ice was taken.
James Bergen with his delivery truck.
Wilson Pond also known as DellaBella's Pond or Lily Lake.
Sign from Theriault Ice Company.
Mr. Moroz Pond on Wolcott Road; also known as Herbst Pond. Today the pond belongs to the Wolcott Lion's Club. CPE Electric is where the icehouse was located.
Ice pick from Souza Ice Service located at 1149 Wolcott Road. Ed Spataro donated it to the Society in 2014.
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