There is a taste in my memory that I crave sometimes. It takes awhile to figure out exactly what the flavor is, but if you were a kid when ice trucks delivered blocks of ice, custom-cut at the curb to fit your ice box, you probably have the flavor in your memory too. The unique flavor comes from the blending of wet wood, canvas and ice scavenged off the back of a truck to quench my thirst on those hot summer days before everyone owned refrigerators.
My father, Julian Miller, worked for the Stanley Coal and Ice Co. in Sedalia in the ’30s, and ’40s, delivering coal in the winter and ice in the summer, so I knew that taste well back then. Sometimes dad would allow me to go along when he delivered the ice, and boy did I feel important standing on the wet bed of that old flatbed truck while he chipped the large blocks of ice into smaller blocks to fit in someone’s ice box.
Kids would come running from all around the neighborhood wherever we stopped to grab the pieces that fell as dad chipped the big blocks of ice. If there weren’t enough chips, dad made more so no one went away disappointed. The old wooden truck bed soaked up what was left, and the ice took on some of its flavor in exchange.
The other flavor that clung to the ice, and added to the unique taste, came from an old canvas tarp that kept the blocks from melting in the hot sun. I remember crawling under it to push the large blocks of ice out for dad, and sometimes I would linger in the cool, damp darkness next to the ice until he called me out with a little chuckle. I always suspected he would have preferred to join me on those hot days, though.
Some people may remember the square cardboard signs with “25, 50, 75, and 100” on its four sides that would be hung out on the porch to show dad how much ice that house wanted that day.
The door-to-door ice truck has gone the way of the coal and milk trucks that were so common back then, and now they only exist in our memories. They were replaced by progress, as it should be I guess, but I just can’t imagine ever being nostalgic over an ice cube tray.
My father died when I was 9, and I don’t have many memories of him, but sometimes this one pops up whenever I drive by the old Ice Plant that still operated on West Main Street when I wrote this memory several years ago.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.