Thursday, June 10, 2010

Deep Freeze

It was a summer day in the late '50s. A miraculous mystery was about to change our life. My father got a second-hand deep-freeze. Benny and Elroy, the neighbors, helped him move it into the basement. A huge white box with one silver handle on the side. They got it in place, shimmed it up with 2x4s, and fired it up. Suddenly, everything went dark - apparently you couldn't plug it in with an extension cord to an outlet screwed into an overhead light socket... Eventually, they got it on the workshop circuit using Grandpa's heavy-duty extension cord, but just for now, because he needed that on paint jobs.
The deepfreeze was such a mystery. It made a deep distant whirring sound when it ran. It had a wonderful smell that I can remember to this day, not a food smell, but a musty cork insulation smell, the smell of artificial cold.
Now there were new family chores -- we filled freezer cartons. From the garden, there was asparagus, rhubarb, green beans, we even tried buying a huge 25-lb can of cherries, and divided it up into quarts.

And now, we could strut into Habhegger's Butcher shop and buy half a cow - it raised one's social status to be a Wholesale Meat Buyer. The meat came frozen in all sorts of new and odd shapes, all sealed in white paper, and marked with purple rubber stamps as to what was in it. “Hamburger” “Liver” “Ribs”, etc. With our newly fixed-up basement, even relatives coming over for one of the kids’ birthdays became a full-fledged party occasion, opening up Grandma’s old dining room table in the basement and inserting all the leaves.

And there was an aluminum pail (must have been 3-gallon, but it seemed to much larger at the time) of Mullen’s vanilla ice cream. In the white metal cabinet usually reserved for laundry supplies, there were boxes of cones. They weren’t quite the same as the cones at A&W or Schuett’s, they were kind of boxy, without the reinforced edge at the top. Some of them were colored, kind of brownish versions of red, green, and blue. Those tasted the same as regular cones - that is, they had no flavor at all. But the important thing was – we could now make our own ice cream cones – such a great degree of independence! The ice cream was too hard for kids to scoop, so we couldn’t snitch any. That didn’t stop us from opening the freezer, prying the lid off the pail, just looking at it and smelling that wonderful smell.

And we were constantly nagging for an ice cream cone. Once the pail ran out, Dad didn’t get another one, until the next party. Ice cream usually came to us at home in half-gallon cartons, which opened at the end, not on the long side. That same freezer from the 1950s is still running in the basement of our old family house. They don't make 'em like they used to....

written 06.22.07 - from "45 rpm", an on-going unfinished project about life as I knew it as told from the POV of the appliances that changed our lives.

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