Ice Harvesting – Estes Park Trail-Gazette
My father, Pops, said the rural electricians’ associations deprived him of a good winter job. The last ice harvest he remembers in our hometown was in 1947 or 1948. Once electricity was available and refrigerators were installed in most homes, there was no longer any need to harvest ice.
I would have been four or five years old with vague memories. I asked him the question years later. While he was talking about it, I asked about those memories. He corrected some of those memories.
Pops carefully checked the ice and listened to the weather forecast to determine when it would be particularly cold for several days in a row, to be sure the ice would last all summer. He wanted it twelve inches thick or more. The thicker the better, to support the weight of crew and trucks. I remember walking on the lake with him. He drove a steel bar into the ice, pulled it out, and measured the thickness in several places.
Its crews used trucks rather than horse-drawn sleighs and bobsleighs as had been done before. It was fifteen miles from the town to the lake. The trucks could make the round trip much faster than with horse-drawn equipment. In the past, ice was harvested from a small pond on the outskirts of town and the nearby river. The lake yielded a much larger harvest.
Fritz, the local Iceman, wanted the ice cream cakes to be as snow-free as possible. The snow melted the ice faster and wasn’t as clean. Fritz’s customers wanted clear ice. So clear it looked blue/green.
The day before the harvest started, I saw my uncle Wendell and a neighbor, Bide Edwards, washing their trucks in which they usually transported gravel, sand, dirt or coal. When they were done, they pulled the trucks to a local lumber and hardware store that used to be a livery. It was so cold that the night inside didn’t stop the brakes from freezing. The engines started fine but the trucks did not move. Pops pulled out his Oxyacetylene torch and with judicious use of the flame, he thawed the brakes.
The wind at the lake blew a lot of the snow. Pops plowed what was left and marked out the area he wanted to harvest.
The crew dug a hole in the ice and cut the first block, which they simply pushed below the surface of the ice, as it was almost impossible to remove this one from the lake. After cutting other lines of blocks, they finally got it back.
I have seen two types of ice saws. Both had a “T” handle at the end of a shank about eighteen inches in length from the very large teeth and at right angles to the blade. One style of ice saw was straight, tapering in width from the handle to the tip of the blade. The other had a bit of a curve, teeth on the outside of the curve. The metal handle was usually wrapped in fabric or leather. I don’t know what style Pops used and never asked.
More to come next week.