Shortly after the last ice age ended, and the glaciers withdrew, the Neanderthals started to notice that the carcasses of woolly mammoths began to go bad quickly. Soon, many people were looking for an artificial way of producing cold/ice. Finally, about 1850, using ammonia, some Americans perfected a machine to remove heat. It only worked on a large scale, but the race to develop a smaller version was soon on.
In 1930, Frigidaire (frigid air – get it?) developed Freon™, and made lighter, safer, cheaper, home-size refrigerators possible. The chiller-tubes (actually freezer-tubes) were wrapped around a small box at the top of the fridge, to increase the cooling area. The cold air drifted down to chill items on lower shelves, but anything placed inside the box froze solid.
The makers soon learned to put doors on these boxes. You could put a tray of ice cubes in, but there wasn’t much more room than would take a modern cell phone. Housewives still relied on regular trips to the butcher or grocery store.
This technology didn’t drift north into Canada very quickly. Possibly Americans felt we still had enough ice to keep us going. My parents relied on an icebox until after 1950. Too young to notice, I don’t know how or where we stored meat for daily meals.
One of the businesses on the main street was a lumber store, with saws and planers and sanders. The little office at the front did not require the full store width. In an attempt to increase his income, the owner had one of the big refrigeration units installed, forming a large, walk-in freezer. He installed various-sized lockers, and rented them out.
Of course, only the more well-to-do in town could afford this service – to pay for the locker, and afford to buy and have butchered, a side of beef, half a pig, or a dozen chickens. As a young child, wandering the main street, through the big front window I often saw the ‘Rich Lady’, from the other side of the tracks, entering this strange room, wearing a full fur coat – in the middle of summer. When I asked my Father, he explained about the rented frozen food storage.
By the time I got old enough to travel to other towns and cities, and look around, refrigerators were equipped with larger freezer compartments. Both the lumber store and the need for its freezer room had disappeared. I am not aware of this service anywhere else, but find it difficult to believe that it was unique to my little hometown. Have any of my (particularly older) readers seen or heard of this service elsewhere?