Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When the Iceman Came

The title of Eugene O'Neill's play The Iceman Cometh has a naughty source that I will not here repeat (I'm guessing it'll be more than easy to find it on Google).  But when I was thinking about that play the other day (not, of course, because of the title), I remembered the iceman who still came to a few houses on our street back in the early 1950s in Enid, Oklahoma.

Yes, there were still a few people around the neighborhood who had iceboxes--wooden devices with places to store ice and perishables.  No electricity.  Just a contest between insulation and the Oklahoma heat.  (Guess who won?)  Every so often the iceman would drive his truck through the neighborhood, and I would watch him open the back, use a set of large tongs to grab a block of ice from the pile (straw, I remember, lined the floor of the bed), then drop it on a dolly and wheel it inside to help keep Grandma's oleomargarine from melting for another few days (week?).

Joyce and I bought an authentic maple one at an antique store and kept it for a while, then sold it during one of our moves.  It looked almost exactly like the one in the picture.  We kept hot books in it.

Our family always had an electric refrigerator when I was a kid, but we still called it the "icebox," a term pretty much everyone used, no matter what device they had.  I don't hear that so much now.  As George Carlin once said, we have little friendly names now for that appliance--the fridge and so on.

Throughout my boyhood there were other people who arrived at our door for services.  The milkman came; we'd leave outside for him in a little case the well-rinsed glass milk bottles we'd used.  Maybe a note for what we wanted this week.  When we were living in Hiram in the 1950s and 1960s the local dairy in Garrettsville, Rand's, was still delivering.  The Garrettsville cleaners, Deluxe, would also pick up and drop off things.  (I'm remembering that the man's name was Whitey?)  Joyce and I actually continued these services for a long time.  Sealtest still had home delivery of milk when we were living in Kent in the mid-1970s.  Ernie was our milkman--a chipper, friendly guy, the kind of guy who always seemed to be whistling, ebullient.  Our little boy, Steve, loved the days Ernie came, and Ernie knew Steve's name and would joke with him.

But soon--like everyone else--we were buying our milk at Sparkle and dropping our cleaning off at Flashers.  And no more delivery trucks appeared in our drive.

The other visitor never seen these days--physicians.  Dr. Ross in Enid always came to our house when one of us was sick.  Black bag and all.  (In those days I feared a shot more than illness.)  When we were in Hiram, Dr. Sprogis would make house calls, too.  I remember once my great-grandfather was staying with us (he was nearing 90--and very cranky; the older I get, the more I understand it), and he ... well ... he ... was having trouble, uh, completely digesting his food.  He was sort of ... stopped up.  Dr. Sprogis came by one afternoon, enema in hand ...  The rest is history.  But it was not a procedure that Grandpa Lanterman particularly appreciated--or enjoyed--or accepted with equanimity.  Dr. Sprogis just smiled.

The last physician house call I remember.  We were living on Willow Street in Kent, mid-1970s.  And Joyce was feeling terrible.  Fever.  Throat.  Aches.  I called Dr. Fred Bissell in Aurora (I'd taught his children, was friends with the family), and he said he'd come right over!  A half-hour later he walked in the front door (Joyce was on the couch in the living room) and announced, fifteen feet away from her, "Strep!"

"How can you tell?" I asked, dazzled.

"I can smell it," he said.

He took a culture (yep--it was strep), wrote a Rx for an antibiotic, and Joyce set out on the Road to Wellville.

But those days are over.  Now--no matter how bad you feel--you've got to stagger out to the car, fire it up, weave your way to a med center, go through a half-hour of insurance checks, wait, wait, wait.  And hope that the physician you see has the same nose for the profession that Dr. Bissell did.

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