Ice is Really, Really Hard Water

©copyright 2015 Glyn (Bud) Roberts

As I mentioned in my introduction, Blue Island Resort had very limited seasonal electricity supplied by the Kohler electric generating plant.  Its total 1500 watt output was overtaxed supplying lights to the resort and powering one water pump.

From 1944 through 1947 our family relied upon Mr. Dewey Trapp to put 300 cakes of ice into the resort icehouse each January.  He had been the previous resort owner’s supplier of ice.

Our icehouse was extremely well built with a full roof, three foot high concrete lower wall with machine half logs forming the upper walls.

At the first sign of clearing snow from the surface of Big Arbor Vitae Lake, we inquired as to the time cutting would begin.  The next day the cleared field area was scored with a circular blade power saw equipped with runners spaced to guide parallel cuts in the ice.

When first cleared and cut, the ice thickness was at sixteen inches.  This was ideal because when “scored” or partially sawed through the standard size block was 16 inches wide, 32 inches long and 16 inches thick.

With January night temperatures dipping into the minus 20’s and 30’s any uncovered surfaces quickly added thickness.

Once the field was scored, a channel of open water was formed by hand sawing through scored lines and pushing the floating row of blocks under the adjoining ice shelf.  With an open channel of water, the next row of blocks was easily separated with a wedge shaped splitting bar.  The freed floating blocks were directed by using pike poles toward the chain conveyor.  The conveyor was a ruggedly constructed device of planks and a moving endless chain.  The chain had short fingerlike bars welded in place with interval spaces to accommodate a 32 inch long block of ice.  The lower submerged end of the endless chain lifted the floating blocks as they came into position.  The slow moving blocks continued upward to the platform end of a waiting truck.

My first experience went well as I locked my ice tongs into the sides of each elevated cake.  I had to quickly slide the blocks to the front of the truck platform and form rows.

The chain conveyor was powered by a Ford Model “A” car which idled along turning a drive shaft attached to one rear wheel.  A jack was employed to raise the rotating wheel from the ice.

When the last block of the load came on to the truck I quickly hooked an end chain across the back row to secure the load.

It was necessary to put tire chains on the rear duals because travel was on snow and ice.

Upon reaching the resort ice house I backed up to the entry door and with my Dad’s help set the new chute in place by hooking it into the rear stake pockets.

Sliding off the first row of blocks went well down hill.  However, the entire first layer needed to be carefully set in place.  The two of us using tongs placed each block level.  The sugary snow of winter was carefully shoveled and swept into any cracks and spaces between the blocks to exclude air.

Around the outside of layer one, we shoveled in dry sawdust from the rear bin and packed it down to hold the blocks form moving.  The second through the fifth layers were easily slid into place with the help of gravity.  Once the higher levels were reached it took a length of rope and some pushing to slide the heavy blocks uphill.

After several days the remaining sawdust was filled around the entire column of ice and over the top, as well.  Ice was ready for the spring and early fishermen guests.

Once ours was completed we hauled ice to fill Lloyd Stevenow’s Grandview Resort icehouse on Big Arbor Vitae Lake.

Peter Haslacher, who cut the lake ice, charged ten cents per block or cake loaded on our truck.  He asked me to haul ice for him as he had a contract with Red Crown Lodge, Coon’s Franklin Lodge and McAllister’s Resort all on Trout Lake.  Those were large ice houses and the ice was cut across Highway 51 on Sparkling Lake which had crystal clear ice.  There were two other trucks hauling ice besides mine.

When I took the first load to McAllister’s resort, now named Marywood, I had been told to back in off of Highway 51.  I did not realize that there was a driveway and road parallel to the highway.  I put the rear tire chains on and slowly backed down the steep slope from Highway 51.  Because of the sharp angle my load of blocks shifted rearward anda was only kept in place by the tightly strung chain.

There was ano way I could pull back up the hill with or without tire chains.  I pondered possible solutions to my serious situation that I had placed my new truck in for several minutes.

All of a sudden I heard a semi braking and as I looked up, there was the huge red Moland Truck Lines rig belching black diesel smoke rolling to a stop.

The driver rolled his cab window down and leaned out.  His first words were “Hey buddy, you go’na get out a there by yourself?”  I replied, “I don’t think so.”  He then said, “Hang on, I’ll be back.”  He shifted gears and more puffs of black smoke rose out of the twin stacks.  At the next crossroad to the south he turned the long trailer around.

In those days there was little winter traffic on “51”.  Shortly, he eased his rig past me and angled the trailer slowly backward well into the snow covered shoulder.  He dropped out of the cab and proceeded to drag heavy tow chains from his under-bed storage compartment.  It took two fourteen foot chains to reach my truck’s front end.

He climbed back up into his cab and revved the engine only slightly while slowly taking the slack out of the chains.  I could feel the steady forward thrust as I steered my truck gradually to the right and level highway surface.

We unhooked the tow chains, shook them free of snow before stowing them in their storage compartment.

Going through my mind was the question – “How can I pay this driver for his great help?”  I had a single five dollar bill in my wallet to buy truck gasoline and that amount didn’t seem adequate, anyway.

The time had come that I had to ask, “What do I owe you?”  He smiled and replied, “Hey, next time you find someone in a fix like this, give ‘em a hand.”  I thanked him and he climbed back into his cab and turned around again to travel southward.  He waved and I waved back.

As his rig became fainter in the distance I vowed that I would never forget that driver and his kindness.  It’s been 58 years now and I still remember.  I hope that I have payed at least part of that debt.