The Nuclear Nine in the Black Swamp Reunion.

stacked rocksI visited the Black Swamp recently for a sibling reunion. Our first actually. We managed to agree on a place and show up for lunch where they were out of perch. Now how could a restaurant 100 yards from Lake Erie be out of perch?

Lunch was long and full of talk, then we got lost trying to find Kit’s Ice Cream Parlor, and had fun remembering Kit was the name of the horse that pulled the milk wagon that delivered glass bottles of milk to our home in East Toledo. What? You don’t remember horse-drawn milk wagons and daily delivery of fresh milk? I don’t remember the horse, but I do recall milk bottles on the porch. Some of my siblings remembered horses. They even remembered petting good old Kit.

What ever happened to milk delivery? And all those milkman jokes?

Food processing, refrigeration, pasteurization and better seals (remember Sealtest?).

Such technology extended milk’s shelf life (see those little dates weeks away printed across the top of the carton) and consumers now just pick milk up at the grocery store instead of seeing the little paper caps pushed off the top of a half-gallon bottle when the milk has been on the back porch too long in the winter. Fun to lick.

Speaking of milkmen. They once had cool trucks with curved hoods like the nose of a whale and poured ice on top of the milk to keep it cold. This was after said trucks put Kit out of a job. I wonder what happens to unemployed horses? Out to pasture I hope. The truck driving milkman would occasionally give us kids a chunk of ice if we followed him back to his truck after he made his delivery (this was well before MBA’s with spreadsheets measured the rate of the melting ice and passed a rule that milkmen couldn’t give away free ice or the cost would destroy the company).

Now. This was no wimpy ice-cube thing, but a huge chunk the size of a hand grenade that looked like a big clear rock crystal that I could look through and experience a Dali-esque distortion of my kid world.

Plus you could lick it for hours. Smooth and cool on the tongue, very welcome when the temperature and humidity were both over ninety. Mom always wondered why I ran around looking for winter gloves in July. That ice was cold, and insulation for holding it was in order.

But Kit’s gone.

And the milkman’s curved-nose truck ice block is gone. But still I wonder, how did the milkman get all that ice in the middle of summer?

Turns out he was a planner who would cut ice out of the lake in winter and store huge 100 pound blocks of it stacked high in giant barns where it would wait for months, melting ever so slowly so there was still some left over for a generous milkman who surely had bigger and better things on his mind than to give a hunk to a tiny little kid who cherished it like it was a new iPad.

Thanks, Mr. Milkman.

spiralP.S. Before eating a giant hot-fudge sundae at Kit’s, we also visited the oldest continuously-operating lighthouse on Lake Erie and climbed the 77 steps (seemed lucky) to the top. The lake hasn’t changed a bit, but there are more, higher, faster, scarier roller coasters across the bay at Cedar Point than I ever imagined could exist in one place.

Ah, the face of progress.

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2 Responses to The Nuclear Nine in the Black Swamp Reunion.

  1. Catherine says:

    Ah, as one of the Nuclear Nine, that was a fun time. Great pics! I remember Kit & the huge ice cubes in summer. Actually, it’s one of my favorite memories from childhood. Thanks for the recap.
    Cath

  2. Larry says:

    As the youngest of the Nuclear Nine, but not by much, I don’t remember Kit. Kit-Kats, yes. And they have managed to still be with us. I’m not sure why as wax-laden chocolate was not ever my favorite. And the milkman jokes… I wonder if Eugene O’Neil would have had as much success if he had named his play “The Milkman Cometh”? As for me, I don’t remember getting a nice piece of ice from the milkman. I guess I was too young and they were afraid I would poke my eye out with the sharp end. I do remember the mailman walking down the street to each house with his push cart. For many years I thought that would be the ideal job. A relaxing stroll through the neighborhood, bringing people postal items they had been anticipating for days. Alas the Internet , Fedex and UPS has all but eliminated anything remotely useful that might arrive by post. Now the only reason to go to the mailbox is so I’ll have something to put into the recycling bin. If this is the circle of life, there surely must be a better way. Here’s to Kit, ice, and something of value in the mailbox.

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