University of Nevada, Reno




Playing in the ice house

By LeRoy


LeRoyThere was another boy at Cima this time. It was the section foreman’s son. His name was LeRoy too. Anyway, it gave me someone to play with. One thing I have not talked about is the ice houses that all the sections had. This was a cool place. They were about 10 feet deep and they were dug down in the ground. So to go to the door, you walked down a walkway about 8 feet lower than the ground. And the walls were made of old railroad ties with a door like is on a walk-in freezer about a foot thick. I’m thinking that they were about 40 feet square inside. The floor was ties and the top or roof was ties. And then it was all buried with the dirt that they dug out to make the hole.


It was a well-insulated place and big enough to hold a boxcar load of ice. They would bring in a car of ice, which at that time they made in the Ice House in Las Vegas. They made ice in 300-pound cakes, and the cakes were marked with the mode mark where you could cut the cake at 25-pound blocks. Each ice house had an ice pick to do that with, too. It looked like a devil’s fork.


Now to keep the ice, they would unload it off the car by sliding the cakes down wooden slots into the ice house. They would put them in as close as they could but not touching, maybe two inches apart. Then they would cover all of it with wood chips. Every section got a car of ice every year, about March. And they used it in ice boxes and in drinking water for the section men. When you needed some, you went to the ice house and cut a 25-pound block and took it home to put it in your ice box or water.


Well, we kids were not supposed to play in the ice house, but like I said, this was a cool place. And by midsummer, it was about one-half gone and there were a lot of cool wood chips to play in. And you could always chip off a piece of ice to suck on, or you could take a cup of water with you and add ice to it.


 Oh, we had to use flashlights if we were going to be in there long, because we had to keep the door closed to keep the heat out. We all knew that we didn’t want the ice to melt fast, as that was all we had, and it had to last into September.


It is funny to me now. I asked a kid to bring me an ice pick to make a hole, and he didn’t know what I was asking for. As a kid, I didn’t know what TV was and now kids don’t have to cut blocks of ice with an ice pick. I remember when you would buy a block of ice and that was 25 pound blocks from a place that they made ice. They would give you an ice pick with their name on the handle. Really, I think about it now, and I don’t think I ever bought an ice pick. And all my life, I have used one in place of an awl for a screw starter or a marker or a scribe.


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