Fond Memories: Northern Sullivan County - Purple Mountain Press



by Shirley Tempel Fulton

From the chapter on country living:

In the days before mechanical refrigeration, the Tempel brothers (Joe, Bill, Lou, Conrad, and Gus) and their father Conrad cut ice from Shandelee Lake to supply Tempel Inn, other hotels, and the iceboxes of local people. Joe Tempel had an ice route during the summer months. The ice for Tempel Inn was the first cut in December, just before Christmas.

The first ice run was ready when the ice was ten inches thick. The first cutting was determined after making a small hole in the ice to check for thickness with a ruler. The greatest problem was getting onto the lake from the Tempel Inn landing. The wind blew down the lake causing large snowdrifts. These drifts were often so deep that water near the edge didn't freeze, and the horses sensed this and were afraid of breaking through. Special shoes were used on the workhorses. These shoes had four plugs, called corks, in each shoe. The cork was sharp and kept the horses from slipping.

Usually three to six men helped harvest ice. Albert Schleimacher, John Carlson, and Chauncey Turk helped the Tempel brothers. Ice sold for two cents a block or cake, later the price went up to three or four cents a cake. It cost approximately eighty dollars to fill an icehouse. They figured it would take two days to fill an average icehouse that measured 12 foot by 16 foot with about 700 cakes. Years ago, ice cutting was done by hand; later it was done with gas-powered saws. Conrad Tempel Sr. made an ice-cutting machine from an old 1913 Buick engine with a four-cylinder magneto ignition system and a hand crank. The blade on the machine was thirty inches wide. There was a special shoe on the cutter to set the depth of the cut.

Ice wasn't cut completely through. After all the blocks or cakes were cut, the men went along with a special handsaw to separate the large chunks. A channel was cut to float the ice along to a horse-drawn sleigh. Sand was placed by the sleigh to keep the men moving the ice from slipping into the water. Ice tongs and ice picks were used, a pike pole with a hook pushed the cakes along the channel. Katherine Tempel made the men wear special hats called "Sippel caps." She made coffee and dozens of donuts to help keep the men warm.

After the ice was removed from the lake, it was taken to icehouses. There was sawdust left in the icehouse from the year before and more was added for insulation. The Tempel Inn icehouse was 12 by 16 feet. Eight inches of saw dust was packed around the ice to keep it from melting. The ice could last to Labor Day.

Mr. Camphor of Livingston Manor had a huge icehouse and sold ice to the business people in town. His icehouse was 30 by 60 feet with sixteen-foot studs in the building. It took seven days to fill this icehouse. After the Tempel boys had filled Tempel Inn icehouse, they helped the Waldemere and Shandelee Camp fill their icehouses. They even went to Amber Lake a few times to help there.

Albert Schleiermacher and Joe Tempel helped Mr. Berkowitz of Shandelee fill his icehouse after Mr. Berkowitz had slipped on the ice and fell into the lake. He had on a huge coat that bellowed out like a balloon. He tried to get out, but the water kept coming up on the ice making it impossible to get a hold. Joe and Albert pulled him out of the water after much yelling.

There are several icehouses still standing. Charles Huber still used his icehouse for vegetables and storage. Charlie always cut his own ice. Tempel Inn's icehouse was made into a cottage. The Schleiermacher homestead was taken down, but the icehouse remained on the property for many years.

Shirley Fulton owns the Wildlife Gift Gallery in Livingston Manor and has published her column "Fond Memories" in the local paper since 1978.

November, c. 130 pages, illustrated, 7 x 10, 2007
$15.00 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright © 2007 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.