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Joe Cooler: 1942

Joe Cooler: 1942

February 1942. "Ask the man who repairs one, and he'll tell you to turn the freeze control back to normal after quick-freezing ice-cubes or ice cream. If you leave it on high, foods will freeze and you'll waste electric current." Medium-format nitrate negative by Ann Rosener, Office of War Information. View full size.


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The Old Ice Box

We didn't order ice by the pound from "Tony the Ice Man."
It was ordered by the price; a 10-cent piece on weekdays and a 15-cent piece on weekends.

"Be sure and empty the basin under the icebox and keep the door shut before the baby's milk goes sour" was the daily warning.

Private Cooler

How many more weeks after this photo was taken before Joe Cooler, able-bodied young advertising model, got that smile wiped off his face by a drill sergeant?

Mighty mite

I inherited my aunt's 1939 General Electric refrigerator that she got as a new bride. Looks and runs like new. Do not underestimate the might of that little freezer. It's called planning.

I have the original entertainment booklet that tells you how to plan a sit-down dinner party for 14. What others failed to mention is that there is a glass tray under the freezer unit and anything you place in it freezes rock hard. The booklet explains how to start making your ice for the glass tray in advance. How much frozen ice cream, mousse, or sherbet you need to make, where to chill the ice cream dishes, place your cold drinks, salads etc.

Today people have a freezer the size of Manhattan and can only produce instant micro nuke-and-puke dinners. I just looked in my freezer and it contains 48 ice cubes in trays, ice cream made two hours ago, in the glass tray is a pack of tilapia, chicken breasts, buffalo sausage and a pound of butter.

In the freezer box along with cubes and ice cream is bag of peas, box of spinach, mixed vegetables a large can of frozen punch mix, with room for few more boxes or bags of vegetables.

In this house we are never out of ice or something good in the freezer. Running on sulfur dioxide gas, the most thermo efficient coolant known. If this one ever dies I will be on eBay in a heartbeat seeking another refrigerator from the 30s 40s or 50s. No more frost-frees for me. Frost-free units use four times as much electricity as these older units do. Yep, they sure do not make 'em like that anymore.

Butter and eggs

Eggs were not rationed in the United States and butter was not rationed until December 1942. (How many of us remember our mothers breaking the capsule of orange food coloring and mixing it into the margarine?)


"Wait a're not from Verizon!"

I apologize in advance but.

...this is a blonde joke waiting to happen.

[Or a gray-haired housewife joke. - Dave]

Fark fodder

This is totally going to get Farked, I think, but Farked or not, I like this shot. Mrs. Hausfrau's head tilt is an example of textbook overacting, but the young man's smile seems genuine enough and is certainly pleasant. He looks like he's about to put his arm around her shoulder and call her "Ma." Those covered glass containers in the fridge are lovely. 'Twas once upon a time, just before Tupper and his ware come on the scene.


He reminds me of Eddie Haskell.


sure looked different in 1942. Young guys, however, have that certain timeless look. Same now as then.

5, 10, 15, 25

Regarding old iceboxes, when you needed ice you put a sign in the window telling the iceman what size block you needed -- a cardboard placard with "5," "10," "15" and "25" written on it, indicating pounds. Placed with the amount you wanted in the "up" position.

My friends and I, all of us in the 3-5 year age range, enjoyed picking up the slivers from the floor of the ice wagon, on those hot summer days. The slivers came from the ice man using his pick to split off the proper-sized chunk.


For those of you who had iceboxes, do you remember how big the ice block was, and how long did it last? Just curious.


We had one like it back in the '50s. One day my mother was using a knife to "get something out" of the freezer and punched a hole in the coils. I think they carried ammonia or something like it.

We also got a new fridge that day.

My fridge!

Or close to it, anyway. I bought a 1947 GE model ND-8-DC back in the early '80s and it's still chugging along nicely. I had to have the cold control replaced about ten years ago and I replaced the gasket a few years later. My freezer is slightly bigger - it has one more shelf and it came with four metal ice trays. (When I was a kid we called those trays "fishbones" because of the way the inserts were articulated.) The enameled fruit and vegetable bins have glass tops and there's a wire basket for butter and cheese under the top shelf.

And Jazznocracy, this is the easiest refrigerator to defrost! I turn it off, open the door and point a fan at the freezer. Dry, cool air is the secret. The ice just drops into a pan.

More Fridge Advice

>> Ask the man who repairs one, and he'll tell you to turn the freeze control back to normal after quick-freezing ice-cubes or ice cream.

Also, shut the door and chat elsewhere.

The ice man, part II

Seeing this photo reminds me of that old play on words:

"Every husband has his wife
but the ice man has his pick."

If you're under a certain age it won't make any sense. If you're older than that, it's pretty funny!

Bigger than a Britbox

After having lived a year in London, I can assure you that this refrigerator is still larger than most in Britain.

Metal ice trays

Those metal ice trays were the worst. Man, I could NEVER get those things to work properly. It was either run some water over them or use a small hammer and gently "coax" out those pesky cubes. I wouldn't mind having a few around for old times' sake, though.

So clean and handsome

What an orderly fridge with those covered glass refrigerator dishes, what a well-dressed happy "repairman" and neat, wholesome housewife, both looking so happy to be doing what they are doing in life. This is a feel-good picture that makes an old fossil wish he could go back there and visit a spell. Yes, WW2 was on, but people seemed to have a lot more personal dignity and appreciated everything they had. Butter and eggs were rationed, among other things, but the more kids you had, the more stuff you could get so I would guess this pretty lady had dependents. You can't help but like these people. Thank you Shorpy for the nostalgic trip back to 1942.

40's Icebox

Don't get paranoid, Doreen. We had an icebox in the 40's, and the ice man would come regularly to put a block of ice in it. The ice was in the back of his open bed truck covered with a tarp. He would haul it out with huge tongs and tote it on his back into the house.

The Iceman Cometh

What a lucky and well-heeled family in 1942 during the war years to have a fridge.

I didn't know anybody on our street who had a refrigerator. We all had iceboxes and waited for the iceman to walk up the steps with a block of ice every week. It wasn't until after the war in the fifties before many families could afford to buy a fridge.

Did everybody have a fridge in the early forties or were we just poor?

Shallow Freeze

"Ice cubes OR ice cream" is right. The freezer is too small to do both at once. With most current refrigerators, the freezer compartment volume alone exceeds what the Mrs. had in total back in '42. And today's freezers self-defrost. As a kid, that was my job. I always spilled the hot water on me, the floor, everything. Ugh.

The Ice Man

Um, yeah. Repairman is not so much looking at what he's meant to be repairing.

I can't imagine turning the freezer DOWN after the ice is frozen... I guess people only used ice intermittently?

That fridge!

My wife and I just bought a fridge very like this one — a GE from 1946. We got it to supplement our GE Monitor Top from 1934. You'd be surprised — defrosting them isn't that bad at all. Seems like in the past the process was to empty out the fridge entirely to do it. That's totally unnecessary. We just put a pan under the evaporator and turn the fridge off for a couple hours. The fridge warms enough for the ice to basically fall off the evaporator, but still stays cool enough to keep the food safe. Then you just wipe down the evaporator and turn it back on. Easy. It's a small price to pay for the pleasure of using these beautiful examples of American craftsmanship. They truly don't make them like this anymore!

Step 1: Open door

Yes, your refrigerator experience just isn't complete without a thorough mansplanation ...


This brings back memories, for sure. I wonder how many of today's young housewives have interacted with a freezer as small as those old refrigerators featured.


Oh my goodness! Every time I look at one of those old fridges, even tho they look cool, I can only think of the ordeal of defrosting them, especially in the summer, when it's so hot and muggy!

Well groomed!

Joe is sporting the finest example of comb furrows I have ever seen.


I think that rascal likes what he sees.

I want that shirt!

Great shirt. Love the satin-face pinstripes. Even the collar would still work. But I don't think I'd roll the sleeves all the way up to the shoulder.

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