When the ice ran out

If you supplied ice to cottages back in the 1950s, before electricity reached many islands, what would the cottagers, and you, do if you ran out before the end of a hot summer?

You found some ice PDQ (without delay)!

For the Ojibway’s iceman that fall-back source was Oldfield’s commercial fishery on Range Island, Pointe au Baril. I believe the Oldfields hailed from Meaford.

Now I, a teenager, had been slugging ice and freight in and out of boats for two summers and figured I was in tip-top physical shape. In fact, privately I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I was about to meet my come-uppance.

When I pulled the Iceboat into Oldfield’s dock their boats of course were all out in the Bay hauling and setting their nets. Minding the fishing station was a young Danish man who had been expecting me.

Back at the Ojibway I had my own method of getting the big blocks out of the icehouse, washing them and loading them into the boat. They were heavy, usuaslly between 70 and 100 pounds. At Oldfields, before I could even grab my ice tongs, the Danish chap had washed a 100-pounder, hauled it to the boat and suggested I get aboard and stow it where I wanted it.

He then turned back for the next block and thus didn’t see (I hoped) my pathetic effort to load the first block myself (I was used to having a helper). After almost punching a hole through the boat’s bottom, I maneuvered the block on the aluminum pan where the ice was stored under a tarp. The Dane was waiting with the next block.

Somewhat amused (I thought), he suggested he would lower the block into the boat, and I could take it from there. Which is what we did. The whole procedure was done in minutes and I was on my way

Two days later I was back for more ice. It was a hot day and the Dane was shirtless, exposing the rippling torso of a bodybuilder, which he probably was. No way this skinny teenager could compete with that, I told myself, and we parted amicably, humbling though it was to admit I wasn’t a match for a muscular commercial fisherman.

Oldfields at Pointe au Baril for many years provided refuge to travellers caught in bad weather along the Bay’s east shore. The following link describes more:


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