Mason County News
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008 • Posted June 18, 2008


During the following journey into the past we will encounter items that many of today’s youth will not recognize and in all likelihood never hear of, but to the senior members of my audience. they will be fond recollections.


Reminiscing is such an easy thing to do. “ It is the lock nut of recollections which hold memories fast, and allows instant recall of events in the long dead past.”

It is so easy in fact that it is not limited to use only by the aged. Indeed, while it is a practice of all ages it could be said that it is reserved mostly for use by we senior citizens who rejoice telling and listening to tales of yesteryear.

One very interesting thing about recollections is that they have no particular starting or stopping place. They can go any place at any time in a mind’s instant, and in most cases are pleasure trips which leave us comfortable and well rested after our return from memoryland.

One might think a hog pen would be a very strange place for recollections to start, but strange as it seems, I must of a necessity start where today’s reminiscing began:

It all started when I began thinking about the milk people are buying these days and how we used to feed our hogs with far better milk than they sell to health conscious people of today who pay good money for milk containing from 1/2 % to 2% butter fat. In the early days when we had more milk on hand than we could drink, or when it would become blinky, we would skim the cream off the top and give the rest of the milk to the hogs. Shucks they liked it, and they paid us back with delicious hams, sausages, bacon, and meats that lasted through the winter and far into the summer months—and all we gave them was what in those days was called “slop” which consisted of all of our household left overs together with enough corn to produce a good fat hog. How many times have I heard Mama or Papa ask “Have any of you boys slopped the hogs yet?”

And many were the times when it was my turn to feed the hogs I would stand by the hog pen fence and with a stick in my hand, scratch those old hogs on their backs with that stick just to hear them grunt with pleasure. And even to this day I would share their grunts of pleasure if I could get my “pen” mate to scratch my back.

Another thing we did with the extra milk was to let it turn to clabber which we used in several ways: (1) some of us would put sugar in it and drink it; (2) Mama would use a tablespoon full in which to hide pills when it was time for us to take medicine (sometimes she had to mash the pills into powder to keep us from spitting them out), and (3) Mama would put a bucket full of clabber into a dish cloth and hang it on the clothes line until it dripped dry. The remaining content we called “curd,” which is these days we call by the fancy name of cottage cheese.

In the early days, before the ice box, our milk was kept in an apparatus called the “milk cooler” which was made of metal and constructed into two or three tiered sections that would hold water. The milk and other items requiring refrigeration were put in containers and placed into the water. Then around all sides of the milk cooler was hung a cloth material that would absorb water and yet was porous enough for the wind to blow through the wet cloth, thereby causing evaporation of the water which resulted in a cooling of the interior of the cooler.

This apparatus or cooler was generally kept on a side porch near the kitchen where it could catch the prevailing breezes. These breezes would soon evaporate all of the water on the cloth making it necessary to pour water down all sides of the cloth two or three times a day. (Some of these milk coolers were made small enough to fit into a window in the kitchen.)

After the “evaporative milk cooler” came the days of the Ice Box. With two Ice Plants in town we had daily ice delivery. The ice delivery trucks went up and down every street in town each day and the residences wanting ice would put their “Ice Card” in a window that told the Ice Man how many pounds of ice they wanted for the day. The Ice Card was four sided with one of the numbers 10, 25, 50, or 100 on each side. Thus, if you wanted 50 lbs. for the day you turned your card to so that 50 was at the top and the ice man would cut off a 50 lb. piece from a huge block of ice in his truck. He would then grab that piece of ice with his ice tongs, carry it into your house and place it into your ice box.

On the days you wanted 100 lbs. (which was generally on a Saturday in order to have ice for home made ice cream on Sunday) the ice man had to carry that size block on his back. For this purpose he had a large black leather shield that was worn over his shoulders and covered his back. He would then back up to the “ice truck,” grab that big hunk of ice with his tongs, hoist it onto his back and into the house (or place of business) he would go.

Now!! This was the time all of the kids in the neighborhood had been waiting for—with the ice man’s back turned they all jumped up on that step hanging down at the back of the ice truck and started gathering all of the small pieces of ice that had been chipped off onto to the floor of the truck. (Of course the ice man did not care for us picking up the small pieces but we boys thought that perhaps he might object so we grabbed our pieces and ran). In most cases however, the delivery man would give the small pieces to any child wanting the ice.

The ice box had a hinged top which opened to a metal covered compartment into which the ice was placed. This metal compartment also had a drain in one corner which led to the bottom of the Ice Box where a “drain pan” was placed to catch the melted ice water. Also, at the bottom of the front of the ice box was a small hinged flap that raised up to allow the drain pan to be removed, emptied, and replaced.

The emptying of the drain pan was generally the responsibility of one of the children and quite often when it was my turn to empty the pan I would forget it and it was not discovered until Mama found water running all over the floor. But, for me to forget was not a new story around our house. I “forgot” so often that it became known in our household that “Bill would forget his head if it wasn’t tied on.” And furthermore I have carried that marker with me into my 95th year.

As I said in the beginning “recollections can go any place at any time.” Thus we have traveled from our hog pen on l2th and College street to the “clabber,” the “milk cooler,” and “ice box” days of the 1920’s and returned home to 2007 feeling as refreshed as when we started, with our only regret being that we do not have a piece of ice from that old ice truck to chew on.

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