Having gone through our share of slipping and sliding in snow and ice the past few weeks, brings to mind the tales that used to be told around Cassville about icing conditions in the distant past of the community.
My folks once talked about winters that were severe enough that Flat Creek, a free-flowing stream in those days, would provide ice for the community. That might be hard to believe in these days of ice-makers, but it was true.
The creek would freeze solid, and that area around east Seventh Street crossing of the stream, was a favorite one to secure ice for that time. Other areas were used at sometimes, but the Flat Creek near the community well that stood in the middle of the road, was probably as accessible as any, which made it the most popular.
Large saws, that resembled cross-cut saws, with a handle on only one end, were used to cut chunks of ice out of the creek and tongs attached would pull them out of the water with brute strength and would load the chunks on wagons for transporting.
Storage could have been in a couple of locations, either the mill that stood nearby or the old power plant, once called the Hide House. Winter weather was counted upon to prevent the chunks from melting fast as they were nestled in beds of straw or sawdust, whichever might be more available at the time.
Believe it or not, this method of getting a coolant in homes of Cassville worked fairly well for years. Naturally, when it was really needed, in the heat of summer, little or none of the Flat Creek ice remained for distribution.
Cassville got fortunate in later years when strawberries became the king of crops locally. So good were the berries out of our rocky county soil, there was a demand for them as far away as they could be shipped. St. Louis was a favored market for the berries.
Railway Ice Co. in Monett realized this need for shipment of carloads of berries out of points in the south part of the county and soon located a station in Cassville. The Ice House was at Sixth and East streets, part of the property now Arvest Bank and was stocked from the Monett plant where 600-pound chunks of ice were delivered as needed.
Their delivery out of a trailer truck was something to view, always from a distance, at Horine's insistence. They were slid out of the trailer, down a ramp and into the freezing part of the Ice House. There was a danger in this process, necessitating staying away from the ramp.
When a miscue did occur, some chunks of ice were fair game for the kids in the neighborhood who either took the large, dirty chunks home for washing, or ate them at the site.
Herschel Horine was the only manager of the plant here that I recall. Johnny Brock, a long-time employee and delivery person, who would also oversee the storage of any commodity in several seasons, which was a service that was helpful to many people and businesses.
However, the prime reason for the establishment of the facility here was to provide reefer car icing of strawberry shipments bound for as far as they could be shipped and remain in good condition. These were the days when there were hundreds of acres of Aromas and Blakemores planted and harvested.
Shipping points were also in Monett, Purdy, Butterfield, Exeter, Washburn and Seligman, with all these communities having their brokers and proudly displaying their berry sheds. Cassville's shed was adjacent to the Cassville and Exeter Railroad tracks about Ninth and West Streets, behind Jefferies Grocery Store, now the State Farm Insurance building.
Icing of the reefer cars was accomplished near the C&E Depot, which was not far from the Ray House up on Ninth Street and Townsend. But there was never a complaint from the folks for being awakened early in the morning while the cars were being prepared for receiving berries that would be picked later that morning. This was the process to keep them as fresh as possible.
Emmons (Hawkie) Hawk was the station manager at the time; his wife was my aunt Bland. She frequently accommodated me by providing a place in the second floor of the depot for me to watch the process.
One thing that has always amazed me is why something hasn't been developed to break ice on ponds during the wintertime for cattlemen? Seems like the only process that really works is a strong arm and a good ax.
When temperatures dip as low as they have recently, this is a process that needs to be accomplished more than once each day to keep water for animals.