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Brenda Beam Interview

Beam, Brenda
Sides, Beth
Date of Interview: 
ice delivery, Charlotte, Kings Business College
Mrs. Loy Beam talks about her father-in-law's ice delivery business in the 1920s and 1930s. She provides descriptions of the old ice boxes and details of the ice business in general. Mrs. Beam also briefly describes her educational experiences.
Charlotte, 1920-1930
Interview Setting: 
Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The WSOC-TV Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
BS (Beth Sides): This is Beth Sides, and I am interviewing Mrs. Loy Beam October 23rd 1979, and just follow what you've been telling me earlier about your father-in-law's business, the ice delivery.
BB (Brenda Beam): All right, all right.
BS: Just go ahead, talk.
BB: My father-in-law was an ice deliveryman, and he had two big horses that he hitched to a ice wagon, with the ice stacked on it in blocks. The ice was made in the icehouse in big, big vats or tanks. You put water in them, and they freeze that in 300 lb. blocks, and he has lifted a many a 300 lb. block. He'd get it on his back and carried it where he had to take it.
BS: Could you give me an estimation about what year this was all going on?
BB: Well it was 50 years ago.
BS: At least 50 years ago?
BB: At least 50 years ago, and it was before the modern refrigerator came to being. That everybody had a ice-box and old ice box. It usually sat on their back porch and the, they had a card with different amounts, 25 pounds or 50 pounds or 100 pounds or whatever they needed to go in that box. And they'd hang it on a little nail on the front porch, and the iceman came down the street, and he would know how much ice to deliver to that house. But my father-in-law delivered mostly down town, right down in the down town area.
BS: And he delivered right off of his buggy?
BB: Right off of off the wagon, yeah. Right off of the ice wagon.
BS: Well you said that the iceboxes then were on the back porch. They'd just pull up to the back porch and put it in the ice box?
BB: Well, they'd stop on the street and carry it around the house to the back.
BS: Carry 300 pounds down around the house?
BB: Well it would depend on how much the person wanted that day, you see.
BS: Oh , I see.
BB: They'd hang the little card out, and it would depend on how much they wanted that day. And how much he would carry around.
BS: Did you yourself as a child have the same type of icebox?
BB: Yes we did, yes we did.
BS: Well, how long did like say a 20 pound block of ice would last?
BB: Oh it would last a couple of days.
BS: A couple of days?
BB: Yes.
BS: I bet that was hard in the summer time then.
BB: Well it was, it might melt faster in the summer time, and it always had a pan under the bottom of the ice box you had to empty the water once in a while.
BS: Oh , I see.
BB: It'd catch the water as the ice would melt.
BS: So the refrigerators then were just like one compartment?
BB: Well, no they had sev --several doors. One, one little area to put the ice in. It was usually metal, metal lined, and then another side to put the food in and, and one under the block of ice was another compartment.
BS: Oh I see.
BB: I still have one of the 'ol iceboxes, and it has three doors.
BS: Three doors on it?
BB: Yes, where you put the ice in, and sometimes you had to put the ice into the top of the icebox.
BS: Oh.
BB: But them mine had three doors on it: one that opens to put the ice in, and one underneath and one long one on the side.
BS: Well you say that you're living now in Tuckaseege. Is that your home? Where you've been born or raised? Or did you, are you from Charlotte or-- ?
BB: No, I'm, I'm from Gaston County. I'm originally from Cherryville, but I came to Charlotte and married my husband, and we've lived in Charlotte ever since. We celebrated our 50th, our golden wedding anniversary back in February.
BS: Congratulations.
BB: And we built the home we're living in out on Tuckaseege Road now.
BS: Well, kind of what were things like around here in Charlotte when you first moved here, you and your husband built your home and things?
BB: Were there wasn't as many automobiles [Laughs] wasn't as many, much traffic in the streets weren't as confusing to get around in. People didn't drive as fast because the cars wouldn't go that fast.
BS: Right.
BB: I remember that and I look at it more or less nowadays cause I'm still driving [chuckles].
BS: Well in, at the time when your father-in-law was having this ice business, I presume everything was basically horse and buggy or was that mainly the delivery people?
BB: That's just mainly delivery people at that time when I beg-- when I became acquainted with them. That was just mostly delivery people then. But he, he delivered ice mostly to restaurants and cafes and hotels and fruit stands and meat, meat markets, you know. They had to have ice to keep everything cold.
BS: Well you say you remember getting ice as a child in you home and everything --?
BB: Oh yes> in my childhood I did.
BS: You were saying, saying that the ice was delivered to restaurants like that. Do you remember eating at places like that?
BB: Yes ma'am.
BS: Were there that many restaurants in Charlotte?
BB: Yes ma'am. Of course, people didn't eat out as much then, but I remember eating at some of those places.
BS: Could you tell me about some of them?
BB: And they first started, the fist icebox was just a big square box, and and they just put the ice down in it. You put your food on it in just one big box, and of course, you know like everything else it improved and got better looking more convenient and prettier. [Chuckles]
BS: Do you remember then the first type regular electrical refrigerators came out?
BB: The what?
BS: The electrical refrigerators?
BB: Oh yes I remember that, yeah.
BS: Well how long was it before --
BB: We probably had one of those, the first one for the first few years anyway you know.
BS: Could you describe it?
BB: What the electric refrigerators?
BS: The first one you had?
BB: Uh huh, all you had to do was take a cord and plug it into the electrical socket, and the thing would run. And you had trays of water that you put up in there to make the ice, and then of course you had, some of them had different compartments. Some of them would open at the top where the freezer part was and some at the bottom where the food is. And they had different drawers in it that you could put your meat in one drawer and--
BS: I presume they were, they big and bulky like the iceboxes used to be?
BB: Well not really I wouldn't think they were really 'cause you could get them in different sizes. Depended what's on what size family you had. But they were really, they took away the work from the iceman and the housewife could have--. It kept food colder really.
BS: Well didn't it back sometimes back you had the iceboxes in your family, was it kind of an inconvenience to have to run out on the back porch and get food out of the ice box?
BB: Yes, yes. It did. It was a little bit.
BS: And you went out in all types of weather trying to get?
BB: But people worked harder then than they do now. They didn't mind all them long steps.
BS: Well did you work as a young girl? Or did you I know you had college education, did you work while you were in school?
BB: We had a little small farm in Gaston County, and, and I worked in that.
BS: You worked on your father's farm?
BB: Right. Just -- yeah.
BS: How old were you when you married?
BB: I was nineteen.
BS: Nineteen.
BB: I was young like they are now [laughs].
BS: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?
BB: I said. I said I was a modern girl way back then in 1927. I left home when I was sixteen went to Kings Business College, graduated from high school in Charlotte down here, near Charlotte in the suburbs of Charlotte. And I never did go back home. Because I came down here to stay with my sister, and I stayed with her and stayed that last year that I graduated from school. And then she persuaded papa to just let me stay down here because I was coming back the next year to go to Kings Business College and take a stenographic course, and I never did go back home. I got married at nineteen so wasn't that modern? That's just like they are now. [Laughs]
BS: True. So you finished high school at what age? You said you were coming down here you left home at what sixteen?
BB: Seventeen.
BS: Seventeen.
BB: They didn't have but eleven grades then.
BS: Eleven grades.
BB: Yes, and I finished school when I was seventeen.
BS: Oh, is there anything else you'd like to tell me?
BB: Well I don't know. I could tell you a little something about my, my father went to pick up his ice one morning, and they had the wrong horses hitched to his wagon. Because his horses knew just which alley they turned down. He didn't have to get in there and drive them. They knew exactly where to stop, which alley to turn down and where to stop, where he was going to deliver ice. He had them real trained but he, he went to work that morning and had the wrong horses. He says, "I'm not going to deliver ice today then I'm gonna go deliver them to some other people."[Laughs] And they changed the horses for him so he'd have the same
BS: Well I'm sure it would have helped to have them though.
BB: [Laughs] They were so trained that they, and you know the little children used to run along behind the ice wagons, and when they would chip the little blocks of ice off different measurements of ice off of the big blocks, the little children would run along and pick up these little pieces of ice and suck the water, the cold water. They suck that cold block of ice.
BS: So that's how they did the block of ice. They chipped it off a larger block?
BB: Right, right, right
BS: I see. Do you remember like how much a block of ice cost?
BB: I have no idea. I don't know about that
BB: But they would just chip off the amount that the housewife would have her card hung out for. They would chip off that amount. They knew just how to chip it off. They had an ice pick and of course they had a ice axe. If, if the commercial places needed a big block because, you know, they'd have an ice axe to cut the big --
BS: Well, I thank you.