Remember ‘Defrosting’ the Fridge?

Remember the first fridge your family ever bought?

Prior to refrigerators we had ice chests. The ice man would come every second day and deliver a big block of ice which he would carry with ice tongs (were they called pliers?) and deliver it into the top of the ice chest.

It must have been around the mid-1950s when the brand new fridge arrived. It was shimmering white, glossy and very tall (compared to the ice chest). It was the first appliance that was plugged in, turned on and never turned off. We’d bought our first shiny object.

The ice chest was moved to the sleep-out and spent the rest of its years as storage space.

I can’t recall the brand of the new fridge, however I can remember it was an ‘unsealed’ unit which meant it had a separate motor and compressor connected by a belt and so was quite noisy, especially at night.

It was very sparse inside with a small freezer at the top, just big enough for two ice-block trays or a brick of Amscol ice cream.

And it needed de-frosting. Once every six months or so everything came out of the fridge, the temperature control was set to zero and Mum would scrape away all the built up ice. It was a messy job and took about a day to complete.

Our next fridge, several years later, was the newest Kelvinator. It was that “Kelvinator” cream with an enormous shiny chrome handle and a freezer that was as wide as the inside of the fridge itself. Now there was room for the two ice block trays, a tub of Amscol ice cream and a bag of frozen peas. Other outstanding features were, it was frost-free, so no more defrosting and the light came on when the door was opened.

I’ll never forget, as a kid, wondering whether the light ever really went off.

Those early refrigerators were built to last forever. I recently came across the story of 74 year old Mrs Rowarth who, back in 1957 paid 65 guineas for her first fridge. That’s the equivalent of over $1,000 in today’s money. But it was money well spent. Sixty years later the fridge is still going strong and now sitting in her daughter’s farmhouse kitchen.

Mrs Rowarth recalled how she was heavily pregnant at the time and very excited about buying a refrigerator when the appliances were only just gaining popularity.

“Not a lot of people had a fridge in those days,” said Mrs Rowarth, a retired nurse.

“They were very popular in America and I really wanted to have one.

“We didn’t have much money, I was expecting my second child and all we had was a food safe in the pantry which was little more than a box with mesh on the front to keep the flies out.

Once installed, it made “an enormous difference”.

“I remember thinking I don’t have to dash to the shops every day,” said Mrs Rowarth. “It was such a new concept to keep things so cool. Neither of our parents had fridges.”

She used the fridge to store milk, cheese, meat and bacon.

“I can’t believe it’s still going,” said Mrs Rowarth.

Her daughter added: “The expression ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ can be applied to my fridge. I don’t know what I would do without it now. It’s part of family history.”

Lots of the old fridges have survived the test of time and now live in the garage or spare room as a back-up for storing drinks or bulk food.

1 Comment

  1. Prior to 1952 we had an ice chest at home with a lift up hatch on top where the ice went in. The cabinet below was where the food was kept, including the milk, the butter and meat.
    Beliow was a secluded tray for catching the melted ice water, however it wasn’t big enough to catch a whole melted ice block. It had to emptied daily or a soggy mess would ensue.
    Being a nosey toddler, I had to open the top to look at the ice and toppled the whole ice chest on top of myself. I ended up cold, wet and squashed.
    In 1952 we got a new Electrolux gas fridge and the gas pipe from the gas stove was extended to the new fridge.
    In the fridge was a small box on the right with two small ice trays and a larger one for making ice-cream.
    Amscol ice-cream in those days was in a cube and wouldn’t fit in where the large tray went, so we had to eat it all at once. A bit later Amscol packaged their ice-cream in a long flat brick which then fitted.
    The reason Dad chose a gas fridge was that electric fridges then had a separate motor and compressor connected by a belt and were quite noisy. Later sealed unit fridges were a lot quieter!
    Gas fridges were totally quiet, except for an occasional refrigerant gurgle.
    Wasn’t it great when we got full width freezers in the fridge, especially the ones with a totally separate door.
    I’ll never forget the ice-chest and now you’ll know why! 😃

Comments are closed.