Harvesting ice. (Submitted photo)
Harvesting ice. (Submitted photo)
In the “olden days” before electricity, people kept their food cold in an ice box in the kitchen — usually a wooden chest. Some of these ice boxes still exist, being used as cabinets or storage. My daughter and her husband, Mary and Jim Boehmer, treasure this old cabinet.

What did they do when there wasn’t much ice on the canal during the winter? The people depended on that ice, which was cut and stored in straw or some sort of insulation in the Ice House. The Steinle Brewery had an ice house in one of their buildings. Men would have to cut the ice on the canal in large chunks for winter storage. Then it was hauled to homes and businesses to put in their ice box before refrigeration throughout the year.

Art Grothouse of Delphos was “the ice man.” Art passed on to his great reward on 6 January 2018. He was 96. Art’s story as ice man went something like this: In 1937, on Sundays after Mass, Art worked with his dad on the Steinle Brewery dock at the ice house. People would park their cars close to the dock, place their order and Art’s dad would cut the ice to order. Art would jump down and load the ice into a container in their cars for them.

During the summer of 1938, Grothouse was hired part-time to by the brewery to work on weekends. He worked alongside brothers, Leonard and Clarence Lause, delivering ice to homes and businesses in Delphos. Art was an “Ice Man.”

On Saturdays, Art and Leonard Lause would get to work very early, load up a Ford pickup with five or six 150-pound cakes of ice and head to Maude’s Restaurant. By 7 a.m., the crew of two were enjoying coffee and a doughnut before running their weekly delivery route.

Art said: “First we would get Maude’s ice, then we would drive up and down Fifth Street hitting all the bars, restaurants and most markets.” It was a day-long delivery process. He said: “Leonard would go in and get the order and I would chop the ice.” Leonard would use the tongs to carry the ice into the business.

When delivering to a bar like the Rustic, the ice blocks had to be chopped up to fit into a container surrounding the coils carrying the beer from the keg to the tap. “We had to make sure everyone had enough ice through Monday, since no one worked on Sunday.”

By the time they were done delivering to the businesses, they had to go back and pack up another load of ice before clamoring up and down the residential streets delivering ice to residents.

Grothouse explained that the cakes of ice were scored into sections, the smallest being 15 pounds, medium size was 25 pounds and the largest was 50 pounds. When they pulled up to a house with a card in the window showing the number of 15, 25 or 50, they knew exactly what size to cut the ice. Leonard carried the ice into the house and put it into the ice box, which had a tub that would collect the melted ice water.

His boss, Charles “Butch” Steinle, moved the production of ice from the west side of the building to a big insulated room on the east side, which served as an ice house. The huge ice cakes were made by freezing the water in tanks and then a crane overhead would pick the tank up and dump it on the dock.”

People who were not on the regular route would call in and Leonard and Clarence would deliver to them through the week.

“Refrigeration was just coming in so we would deliver ice to the whole town.” The Lause brothers and Grothouse had added work during the Allen County Fair when it was held in Delphos. The “street fair” was big time in Delphos until it moved to Lima.

“Our route started out the same.” Grothouse explained. “By the tine we got to Main Street and drove down past Eighth Street, we had to watch for all the livestock — sheep, hogs, steers — and all the cattle tents set up in the streets.”

In addition, the Steinle Brewery supplied and delivered all the beer and ice for the Landeck and Fort Jennings festivals. Grothause said the the company would supply a 6-foot long container that was loaded with 16 gallon kegs of beer covered in ice with a tap. After delivering the beer, he and Leonard would have to stay at the festival and monitor the kegs, changing them when they ran dry. Even though there were extra kegs there, it was necessary for them to drive back and forth to the brewery to get more kegs and ice. When Monday rolled around, they had to go back to the festival location and pick up the kegs and taps.

“It was a way to earn a living and I liked it while it lasted.” He added “We were paid in cash by the hour.”

After graduating from St. John’s High School in 1939, Grothouse worked a few years delivering furniture and moving family belongings from one home to another.

“The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Air Force,” Grothouse spoke proudly. ”After training in Alaska, we formed a bomb group and I became Crew Chief of a B-24. We bombed the Philippines.”

While in high school, he played basketball and was named an All-Ohio basketball player. Art was married to Mary T. Ricker in 1947. She survives him in Delphos. He has two sons, Tim and Dan; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Heather Grothouse; brothers, Ollie and Raymond Grothouse; and one sister Barbara Sterling.