Column: Back in the old days, things were differentWORTHINGTON — Sometimes I am asked how a subject comes to my mind. I really don’t know. Then I hear someone say “I’m going to the icebox,” but there aren’t iceboxes anymore.
By: Al Swanson, Daily Globe Historical Columnist, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Sometimes I am asked how a subject comes to my mind. I really don’t know. Then I hear someone say “I’m going to the icebox,” but there aren’t iceboxes anymore. They are refrigerators, but we don’t say refrigerator; it’s the fridge. This stirred my memory, and I had my subject.
In the “olden days,” ice was delivered to each home by horse and wagon. The iceman knew the weight of the ice that was wanted by looking at the sign in the window. He carried the ice on his shoulder and put it in the “icebox.” The kids all liked him, as some pieces of the ice got chipped (accidentally) and each kid got some. It was great on a hot day, and it didn’t cost anything. I know — it was how I got the ice those days.
In the 1940s, I went to the Army for about five years. When I got “home,” there was no icebox. In its place, was an electric refrigerator — a “fridge” for short.
There are many terms like this from back in the “old days.” Ask me — if I don’t know, I’ll ask Hardy Rickbeil.
Another term from back then was the lead pencil. Students were told, “Bring your pencil to school.” Most of them did, but some “forgot” and sometimes you got one from the teacher.
Then there were many things that could happen to a pencil. You could wear down the point by “hard work” or it just might get “broke.” Then you had to go to the pencil sharpener. There was almost always a “buddy” who needed to sharpen a pencil at the same time. “Get to your seat,” said the teacher. “But it’s broke” and it always seemed to break for two kids at the same time. Were the pencils that fragile? They just seemed to break.
But things like that changed. When I got back from the Army, there was the ballpoint pen. It didn’t break, but it could run out of fluid. “I don’t have another one.” Something always “happens” and particularly at school. Tell me about it. I think I have heard “everything.”
Al Swanson is president emeritus of the Nobles County Historical Society.