2009-05-29 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Good Old Days When The Ice Man Was - 'Boss!"
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

There are not many of us left who remember the many icemen that did supply frozen liquid gold - "ice" - for the many iceboxes in the Rockaways winter and summer. There were no mechanical home electric refrigerators, and the Rockaways had several commercial icehouses that manufactured cakes of ice for local icemen, who delivered and sold pieces of ice ranging in price from ten cents to a dollar or more.

A cake of ice made in the icehouse weighed 300 pounds and measured 60" by 36" by 12" approximately, and when I worked with my grandfather in the iceman business … this size was "big time."

On the second floor of the ice house on Beach 44 Street between Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, I grabbed the standing cake with my ice tongs and turned it down to the floor for movement to the chute which led to the first floor and the truck dock. Fourteen times (a truckload) I rode the cake down the chute to the truck dock, sitting on my potato burlap sack as a saddle, with my ice tongs hooked into the ice in front of me. What a ride, and I never got thrown off. Later the chute was blocked off.

The other icehouses were in Far Rockaway on Nameoke Street near the old Long Island Railroad yard, and on Beach 79 Street in Hammels. The latter later became the Ross Bicycle Factory. There were a few small ice factories around, but these were absorbed, as all were, by the Knickerbocker- Rubel Ice Corporation in New York City.

The local iceman was always a gentleman due to the fact that most of his customers were women. In the old days during World War II it was said that there were eight women for every man, and the ice man had his pick! To cut the ice into small pieces to fit the icebox, that is. The iceman depicted in this caricature post card doesn't seem to want to take his job seriously!

The iceman is long gone, but ice will be required for many years to come.

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