Shady Lake and the Prudence Island icemen

Roy Gustavus was one of the ice delivery men on Prudence Island.

By Marina, a junior at the Prudence Island School

PRUDENCE ISLAND — In the early 1900s, before electricity, most people would use ice boxes to keep their food cold. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How do they get ice for the ice boxes if they don’t have electricity to make ice?

Roy Gustavus was one of the ice delivery men on Prudence Island.

Roy Gustavus was one of the ice delivery men on Prudence Island.

Well, near the pond on the east side of Prudence Park, there used to be an old ice house. During the winter, the ice house workers would cut 100-pound blocks out of the frozen pond and store them below the ice houses underground, surrounded by sawdust for insulation until the ice was needed. To cut the blocks of ice, the workers would use drills and hand saws.

When the winter ended, the ice house would be used for others things like for the storage of tools. Not only was the pond used for ice, but it was used for ice skating and is still used for that today. When we visited the pond, we ice-skated without the skates. We had a blast.

When the summer came, the ice would be sold to the summer islanders because they would constantly need ice. The summer islanders did not have wells like the islanders who lived here full-time.

The year-round islanders would dig wells and would hang their meat, milk and butter down them in containers. The temperature in the wells would be about 40 degrees even on the hottest days.

Later, around the 1930s, an ice plant would make the ice. It had to be run 24 hours a day, powered by a gas engine. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have to use blocks of ice to keep things going? That must have been rough. It must have been a ton of work for the guys who cut the ice.

We are very lucky to have freezers.

This story was reprinted from the March issue of The Prudence Wave, the Prudence Island School’s student newspaper.


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