An era has ended at my house. For most people, buying a new refrigerator and getting rid of the old fridge is just one of the many things you do when you own your own home. But for me, this refrigerator is a link to my past and my childhood.
I don’t even know what brand this appliance was; I say was because by now it’s probably in appliance heaven, or a junk yard. The insignia went by the wayside many, many years ago. With the motor on the bottom, freon in the lines to keep things cool, two drawers to hold vegetables, meat and cheese, this fridge was about the size of today’s dorm refrigerators. With five people living in the house now, including two growing kids, there simply wasn’t enough room to hold a week’s worth of food anymore.
My mom and dad bought this fridge in 1942 or 43, about the same time my oldest brother was born. Of course, I wasn’t around so it may have been a bit later than that but it was definitely in the mid-forties. This was during World War II and it wasn’t new then. I think it was shortly before they moved from the Flathead down here to the Bitterroot.
One of the drawers was situated just under the tiny freezer. If the freezer was defrosted, there was enough room for two ice cube trays, and two packages of frozen meat. We didn’t have a freezer in those days, instead we had a locker which was in a giant (at least it seemed to me) walk in freezer where the meat was kept. These frozen packages were brought home and put in the little drawer to gradually thaw out as mom needed them for meals.
There were a lot of these lockers around the valley and they were big enough to put a beef or an elk in. They were rented out to lots of families. One of the lockers we had was at the old Howe’s Creamery on Main Street in Hamilton. Later on, we had one in the back of the Victor Merc when it was on Main Street in Victor. These rooms were slightly terrifying to me as I was always afraid the door would shut and we wouldn’t be able to get out. As I remember it, we would go to Hamilton about once a week to get frozen meat, and also pick up whey for the pigs from the creamery.
The ice trays in the tiny freezer contained one tray of ice cubes and one of ice cream. This wasn’t the normal ice cream but a concoction Mom had come up with to keep weight on my dad. I know this isn’t a common problem these days but Dad worked so hard and just couldn’t keep from losing weight. The fact that he also had a sweet tooth helped too. Mom used fresh cream, sugar, and vanilla in this ice cream. It wasn’t churned like normal homemade but just mixed up and frozen. Topped with fresh fruit or chocolate and it was delicious. She made this every day in the summer.
There was room for milk, eggs, and vegetables but not a lot more. More recently, a lot of the room was taken up by condiments. Aside from catsup and mustard with Mom and Dad, there weren’t any more condiments back then.
I often wonder how Mom would be able to cook an entire turkey dinner for the holidays and keep the leftovers in the fridge. Of course, there was the time when the handle had broken on the old fridge and Dad had stuck a wooden handled fork in to use as the handle. This worked fine until Thanksgiving.
My brother and his family came over from Spokane on Thanksgiving Eve for the weekend. My nephew Mark was about four years old and as he ran past the refrigerator, he pulled the fork out, locking the door. You could have heard a pin drop as everyone realized the turkey was inside the fridge, AND THE DOOR WAS LOCKED! It took Dad and Tom a couple of hours to get the hinges off the door and open it from the other side but they did, and we did have Thanksgiving Dinner after all.
With a refrigerator as old as this, it had to be defrosted quite frequently. I admit I didn’t do it as often as Mom did, but I did it at least once a month. I don’t know how Mom did it prior to portable hair dryers but one thing I do remember is the large chunks of ice coming off the freezer. She would put them in a pan and then carry them out to her moss roses, the only flower garden she had, and place the chunks in with the flowers. (We didn’t have running water so no water was ever just thrown out.) Even after I took over and started using my hairdryer to speed the process, I still put the chunks in a pan and took the chunks out to water my moss roses.
I wasn’t at the house when they took the old refrigerator away last week. It’s just as well because I probably would have cried. The delivery men did say this was not the oldest refrigerator they had picked up. I bet that other fridge would have stories to tell also.