a chip of ice -- 8/1/14

Today's selection -- from The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills. Nelle Harper Lee's famous novel To Kill A Mockingbird was a glimpse of life in the small town South during the 1930s. Reminiscing in later years, she and an old friend named Ernie recalled the task of saving unused ice:

"[Ernie] explained. When they were children in the 1930s, getting ice, and keeping it, was a lot of work. And it cost money. The rolling store came through town twice a week, selling its wares, and so did the ice truck. It was out of Evergreen, the Conecuh County seat and home to the railroad station from which Nelle later set out for New York. The iceman hauled big blocks of ice in the back of the truck. He stretched a canvas tarp over the top to keep them cool, or as cool as they could stay under the Alabama sun. Air-conditioning didn't come in until the 1960s, and even then it was enough of a novelty that businesses that had it advertised the fact.

"So used ice was something to rinse off and keep, not toss in a sink to melt. Tom's mother washed off any ice that remained in a glass and put it in a sawdust-lined hole in the ground. Then she covered it with cloth. She would no more let ice melt down a drain than she would throwaway the scraps of cloth she stitched into quilts.

"[In 1962, when providing advice for the filming of her book], Nelle [told the filmmakers they] should have a block of ice on the exterior of the courthouse steps when we shoot this sequence. It seems that people chip off a piece of ice to take into the courthouse with them to munch on to try to keep cool."

"On hot days, which were most days, nothing was as refreshing as a chip of ice dissolving on your tongue and running cool down your throat. Just the sound of it clinking in a glass of sweet tea made you feel cooler. It was civilized. ...


Marja Mills


The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee


The Penguin Press HC


Copyright 2014 by Marja Mills


60, 18
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