The Day of The Ice Truck Revisited

For the past several days our 24 hour news channels and daily newspapers have been filled with stories related to the 10 year old murder case of a small girl, JonBonet Ramsey. It is possible that her killer has finally been arrested. Here in South Texas our television news has repeatedly run stories about a 14 year old girl, who was kidnapped, raped and stabbed 17 times, then left for dead. The little girl survived and the two boys who committed those vile acts are now in custody. Today we are bombarded with so many of these unimaginable things. The War on Terror, corporate corruption, Internet pornography, escalating child abuses, are constantly in our faces. This is far from the world of our childhood.

Several years ago I wrote about a time long ago, contrasting life then and now. I think that now, when life is filled with so many images of horror, it might be fitting to visit again about those “good old days”.

Whenever I start gritting my teeth over the degradation of mankind, I try to think back to those distant hot summer days and long departed ice trucks. If your visit to planet Earth started after World War II you most likely have no such memories. However, in the 30s and 40s the arrival of an ice truck was a most anticipated event.

With no air conditioning in homes, summers were spent with windows wide open, thus allowing the house to catch any hint of a breeze. Much of the family activity took place in front of the house, with grownups fanning themselves while rocking in the porch swing and the kids tussling in the grass of going through the motions of playing croquet. Those things were taking place up and down the block…until the ice truck came into view.

If it were not already in the window, people would get their ice signs and place them in easy view. The sign told our iceman we were in need of his services. It also indicated just how large a block of ice we wanted for the cooler. Coolers or “ice boxes” came in different sizes. You might want a ten-pound, twenty-five pound…or even a fifty-pound block of ice for your house. It was the only method you had to keep milk fresh and food from spoiling.

While the iceman was making his deliveries…. Kids lurked in the shadows. The minute his back was turned, we would race to the truck. A couple of us would climb inside and start searching for broken chunks of ice…while the look-out kept a sharp eye for the ice man’s return.

Many were the times when the driver would leave his ice pick in the back of the truck. It was then we would hack away at the big blocks, trying to free larger chunks for our special enjoyment. Once our chilly larceny was completed, we would grab up our treasures and race away to some secret hiding place where we could bask in the coolness of our bounty. Ice on the tongue…ice on the face…ice in the jars of water or lemonade we had prepared in anticipation of our planned raid.

On special summer afternoons or evenings, Dad would bring a huge lock of ice out and place it in a washtub on the porch. Then he would situate a rotating fan behind the ice and we would all gather in front of that washtub, either on the porch swing or setting on the floor. The fan would blow across the ice and a soft breeze would flow over our very warm bodies.

As evening came upon us, there was always a game of tag or dodge ball on the front lawn. Perhaps Mom would decide to make some of our favorite fruit flavored ice cream. What calming and cool memories.

Today we have Sesame Street planning to teach 4 and 5 year olds about being HIV positive. The Supreme Court tells us child pornography on the Internet is acceptable as long as it is computer generated and real children are not shown. Children 5, 6, 7 years of age have been found selling and using drugs.

Even more shocking than these continuing reports are the images on national television, which repeatedly document the activities of pedophiles that secretly dwell among us.

Reports indicate that more than 60,000 children are abducted each year. Authorities claim more than half of these abductions are by family members and “may” not involve harm to the children. Even if this is true…what of the remaining abductions?

Today television and radio tell us of beautiful little children ripped from their innocence and later found defiled or dead. Gangs of young boys, with knives and guns, attack defenseless people or other young boys similarly armed and dangerous. Another reports have ranged from a young girl taken at gunpoint from her own bedroom to those teenagers who killed and wounded their classmates at school. A little girl is missing for more than a year, while a caseworker files false reports of regular visitations. For young people today, it must appear the entire world has gone mad.

We have let “things” become more important than the people who are in our lives. We spend our time accumulating instead of living. Relatives or day care workers are raising our children. Our young are being denied their days of innocence.

The easy answer to all of this is for parents to once again become actively involved in the lives of their children. The reality is family involvement is happening less and less with each passing year.

It is impossible to return to those “good old days” when swiping ice from the back of a truck was the most serious happening in the neighborhood. It has become a time instead, of the Neighborhood Watch. No longer do we rock back and forth in the porch swing watching our children at play. Instead, we have some care provider do the observing.

For children today, there is no sneaking into the back end of an ice truck. Any child climbing into a strange vehicle is placing his or her life at risk.

Today our homes have become the fortresses, which protect us from a very dark world. When we gave up the front porch swing for the dead- bolt on the front door our lives were changed forever. We will never see the likes of the ice truck again.