, Newburyport, MA


February 25, 2013

The iceman cometh


The ice chunks then had to be floated to the ice shed. Men would stand on the cut ice and with long poles push along to the shore. When it got there it, the large chunks would be cut down further into smaller blocks about a foot wide and 4 feet long. A conveyor contraption would pick up the ice slab in one compartment and move it along. The next section would pick up another. The contraption would move along picking up slabs of ice until they were carried to a staging.

The building that stored the ice was a large wooden structure with no windows, just a hollow shell with four walls. The front of the building was closed in but with openings about 4 to 5 feet wide. A staging something like painters would use was set up. There would be four to five guys or so working in each opening. It would begin on the ground level. The conveyor would deposit a slab of ice one at a time. The staging was built to be on a slant so the ice would slide down.

With my brother, we would stand by one opening. When it was time, a slab of ice would approach; I would stop it with the end of a pole. At one end of the pole was a metal pick pointed out straight. At the other end it has a curved pointed hook. I’d stop the piece, my brother would hook onto the end and then swing it onto the shed. I’d help by pushing. Another man would take it from us and slide it over to another man. He would place the slabs aligned in a nice line. This process would continue until the floor was completely covered. They would then spread sawdust and salt hay over the top. When completed the ramp would go up.

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