The Ice Block

Here’s a quick memory jolt for you. Since our freezer was about the size of a breadbox when I was a child, the production of ice was limited to those little aluminum ice-cube trays. As a result, every very summer picnic, excursion, reunion or bar-b-cue usually meant a visit to a very familiar stop in McKeesport.

I used to always make the trip with my dad to Lysle Blvd in McKeesport in order to buy one or two giant blocks of ice. The vending machine was located relatively close to the McKeesport Hospital area directly on Lysle Blvd. I remember eagerly awaiting the huge block of ice to be ejected from the inner depths of the machine. After a lot of groans, moans and belches from the old machine, a gloriously clear and sparkling perfectly formed block of ice would shoot out from behind a black curtain that was made of strips of rubber. The block had to be around 14 or 16 inches square. Dad would always have an ice chest or an aluminum washtub to place the block in for its trip home.

Once we arrived home with the block, Dad would begin breaking down the block with an ice pick and a hammer, and create the perfectly sized chunks to ice down metal laundry tubs full of bottles of beer and cases of Regent pop, Mission Orange pop, and Mission Grape pop. By the time the event started, every bottle was perfectly chilled and ready to be enjoyed by family and friends.

One of my favorite songs of summmer is by Nat King Cole. I think the songs sums up the entire summer season in just a few versus. Too bad he didn’t mention anything about Kennywood!

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                      Those days of soda and pretzels and beer                                                                                     Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                        Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies                                                                Then lock the house up, now you’re set                                                                                        And on the beach you’ll see the girls in their bikinis                                                                    As cute as ever but they never get em wet

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                      Those days of soda and pretzels and beer                                                                                      Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                              You’ll wish that summer could always be here

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                          Those days of soda and pretzels and beer                                                                                     Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                         Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

Don’t hafta tell a girl and fella about a drive-in                                                                              Or some romantic moon it seems                                                                                                 Right from the moment that those lovers start arrivin                                                           You’ll see more kissin in the cars than on the screen

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                      Those days of soda and pretzels and beer                                                                                      Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer                                                                              You’ll wish that summer could always be here

You’ll wish that summer could always be here

You’ll wish that summer could always be here

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7 Responses to The Ice Block

  1. Gary Volk says:

    The “picnic” picture was taken in my parent’s (Gary and Helen Volk) backyard. It may have been from one of our many 4th of July picnics which was attended by many of our relatives from both sides of the family. We always had a volleyball game going as seen in the background. After the volleyball game, we’d take down the net and play wiffle ball. Jimmy Bickus, my Mom’s cousin, would always bring the fireworks and later we would watch the Kennywood fireworks from our backyard.

    I think the people pictured in the foreground are: Grandpa George Volk, Aunt Millie Volk, Aunt Helen Volk, Grandma Anna Volk, Uncle Chin Rusnica and Aunt Peg Rusnica. Does anyone have any better guesses???

    • Jim says:

      Hi Cousin Gary! You’re relatively close (no pun intended.) Left to right are: Grandpa George Volk, Aunt Kay Volk, Aunt Peg Volk, Grandma Anna Volk, Uncle John Volk and my mom, Aunt Millie Volk. I believe your dad, is manning the grill in the background.

  2. Joe Haver says:

    We had a drug store in Homestead, and every morning the ice man brought a block of ice, and using his ice pick would crack a piece the perfect size for the coke machine for the day, there by making all the cokes, and cherry cokes cold.
    What a memory, thanks.
    Joe Haver

  3. Jack Schalk says:

    Being a bit older than you are Jim, I can remember the horse drawn wagon that used to come thru the alleyways of Duquesne with the huckster shouting out “ice” every 1/4 of a block. Our alley was between Kennedy Ave. and Sherman St.
    His old horse would know exactly when to stop so that ice could be dispersed. Minimum size was a quarter of a block and the big sale was a full block. We lived next door to my cousin Bob Vislays family and we always split a full block to save a few pennies.
    The ice on the wagon was covered with burlap bags and sawdust which gave pretty good insulation as it lasted through the day.
    The kids would follow him till he had to split a block of ice which left some shards from the cutting process. These shards were free for the grabbing and the kids all had some for immediate tasting as well as a couple of melting lumps in our pockets.
    What a joyous thing a chunk of ice was!

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Great story, Jack! Although I don’t remember ice wagons on the streets I do recall being told how slow they were. In ’66 I was a JV quarterback for the football team and we had a night game at Swissville. My dad invited all my uncles to attend to see me play. A couple of days later I stopped at my favorite uncle’s house to hear his thoughts. He wasn’t offering any comments so finally I asked what he thought of my playing abilities. He said he thought I ran like an Ice Wagon! Nuff said. 🙂

  4. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    My parents always talked about their ice boxes and the ice man bringing blocks of ice to cool it. But the best memory of all was the Three Stooges episode when Curly “shaved the ice”. I remember watching the Paul Shannon Show with Paul in his snow flake sweaters and those great clips of the Stooges. Thank you so much, Jim, you bring back so many memories. XO

    And, why didn’t anyone in the family except our mothers fill those ice cube trays with water??????

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