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Historic Refrigerator

From spring water to kerosene to electricity,

we've been able to keep our foods at least cool

Carlis B. Wilson

In the days before electricity came to the small farms, life was without ice and refrigeration.

In the hot summer days it was a desirable thing to have a cool drink of water when working in the heat of the day. Today that would be no problem: Just fill the cooler with drinks, and pack the cooler with ice from the refrigerator.

What does one do to keep the cool spring water cool when the temperature outside is 95 degrees in the shade? One way is to cool a fruit jar with the cool spring water, then fill it to the top with fresh cool water.

Wrap the jar with brown bags or a wet grass sack. When in the field where the work is being done, find a nice size rock in the shade and place the jar of water with the wrapping attached under the rock. The rock at first should be cooler that the jar of water. This bit of ingenuity works well for a few hours and refreshes the workers.

Other ways of cooling and preserving were to use the running spring water, or a nearby cave or sink hole. There are many of these in in Adair County.

I remember on one occasion the minister from the Antioch church was to come on a particular day to visit and have a meal with us. The adults bought a case of pop and placed it in the running water at the spring, in a shaded area. This was much better than warm soda pop. Sometime the fresh milk would be cooled after milking, for the evening meal of cool milk and hot cornbread.

Refrigerator and no electricity

I remember the day the first refrigerator was set in the kitchen. As a young boy it was quite a mystery to me just how it was going to cool or make ice without electricity.

How is it going to work without electricity? I asked.

You will see. replied the adults. A storage tank of oil was set up outside and a copper tube ran into the refrigerator. When all was in place and oil in the storage tank it was time to start the refrigerator.

The cover was removed from a small burner and then lit. As the small blue flame began to burn, it was still a mystery to me just how the hot flame was going to make cold ice?

Later in life I became a little wiser and now understand the transfer of hot and cool temperature having to do with changing the Freon or other types of coolants used to bring a temperature change in the fridge. The hot temperature is moved from the contents and chilled by the presents of the cold temperature.

Electricity is just a better way of powering a motor to run a pump that moves the Freon through an orifice tube to change it from liquid to vapor.

Side effects accompanied kerosene use

With the use of kerosene there was always the ever-present odor from the burnt kerosene oil.

Another more modern experience I witnessed was when Grandfather Josh Wilson moved to Columbia to work for a contractor.

He rented an apartment in a large house which was near the place where the US Postal Service is located on Burkesville Street, today. There was a two burner kerosene stove on which he was cooking some biscuits.

When he served the biscuits for breakfast, they tasted like kerosene.

Needless to say as a five year old boy, I didnt eat many biscuits that morning.

Some things do improve with time.

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This story was posted on 2004-12-10 07:08:57
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