Our New Refrigerator – 1948

Ice box. Ice cost $8 a month.

In 1948 I was almost two years old and I lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. My family had an ice box. The ice cost $2 a week and was delivered daily. I don’t actually remember ice being delivered by horse wagon, but that’s how it worked. Ice came in blocks 25, 50, 75 0r 100 pounds, depending on the size of your ice box. We were a bit behind the average because by 1944 85% of households in the USA owned a refrigerator.

According to an online article (which you now have to pay to read), the ice rested on a metal corrugated shelf which allowed for the ice to melt with the water passing through a tube in the bottom of the compartment to a flat pan located under the icebox to catch the water. Some finer models had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or holding tank. People would lift the bottom flap, empty the water pan, and replace the pan for the next day’s use.

That summer, we spent three week visiting family in Detroit. While there discussion took place between my paternal grandparents and my parents about purchasing an electric refrigerator to replace our ice box in Springfield.

Steiger’s Department store in 1947

When we had returned home to Springfield, my mother and I went downtown to Steigers Department store and bought an electric refrigerator on time. Below is a letter she wrote to my paternal grandparents about the purchase. It is transcribed below the image.

July 17, 1948

Dear Folks,

Well – Kris and I went down to Steigers and bought the refridgerator yestereday- to the tune of $315.00! Can you imagine? I had been thinking in terms of $200! It is a G.E. De Luxe 8 ft. (medium size) and is certainly beautiful. They also had a Philco – same size – same everything – but only $277.00. I sort of favored it, but I called Toddy and he said (from the bed of course) “G. E. – period!” So it will be delivered next Wednesday.

The store gave us a ten percent ministers discount of $31.50. Carrying charges came to about $20 – so final price was about $304. Down payment was $56.70 and beginning August we’ll make eighteen monthly payments of $13.80. That should hardly be felt because ice comes to amost $8 a month and I’m sure I’ll save more than $5 on food – to say nothing of convenience and peace of mind!

Kris is completely recovered and she told me yesterday – “That’s the way” – then smiled and said “Gamma.” Then she said “Gamma’s hat” and pointed to her head.” What hat does she remember? The black shiny one at the station? Anyway she looked pleased about it.

Write soon, Doris

In my mind, I can still hear my grandmother Cleage saying “Dat’s de way!” as she did to the littlest ones.

My stylish grandparents – Albert and Pearl Cleage. He is wearing the rakish white hat and she is wearing the stylish black hat, with a feather. Was that the hat I remembered? It is very memorable.
June 1948 during that trip to Detroit at my maternal grandparent’s house.

My grandmother Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother Doris. I am standing on the table. I was 22 months old. My mother was about three months pregnant with my little sister Pearl.

This is the same refrigerator still working fine in 1962. My mother standing in front of it 14 years later.

That refrigerator was still going strong when I moved out on my own in 1969. When my parents left Detroit in 1975 and moved to a house that had a more modern fridge they left it behind. That new one, I might add, did not last as long as the one my mother bought in 1948.

This is the inside of the refrigerator. The freezer is that door on the right. There were two ice cube trays.
Ice cube tray. You had to run a bit of warm water on it to get the ice cubes out.
Click for more Sepia Saturday posts

Links to related posts

K is for King St. Springfield, MASS

Cousins Christened – 1948

1948 Sears Christmas Book – add for refrigerator

14 thoughts on “Our New Refrigerator – 1948

  1. How charming…your family helping your grandmother get her first refrigerator. A great story of generations. Loved seeing the pics of your family! My grandmother had an ice box that I remember had a hose that let the melt go out the bottom of the floor to the crawl space, I guess. I knew because I was little enough to be exploring under the ice box, probably looking for a toy I dropped. So I was pretty young. I also remember a round oak table with lion claws on balls for the legs. Then my grandfather did lots of expanding on the house, and my older uncle lived with them for years. A refrigerator was part of that updating.

    1. No, no. My grandparents may have helped my parents get a refrigerator! I think my grandparents already had refrigerators. My parents still had an ice box. My father was a minister and didn’t have a very large salary.

  2. Great story and photos, and perfect match for the prompt too. And wonderful how old letters can help with details of “everyday life” (or special events) as well 🙂

  3. I can’t believe the refrigerator cost $315.00 in 1948. That was a lot of money. I love that you have letters and information about your family.

    1. I couldn’t find any advertisments for 1948 refrigerators, but I did find a Sears Catalog with a full page ad for one. Different brand, but they show two. One cost $259.95 and the other $289.95. It was a lot of money and I guess that’s why they had an ice box up until then. And that they were paying so much down and by the month. Here is a link to the catalog. http://www.wishbookweb.com/FB/1948_Sears_ChristmasBook/files/assets/basic-html/page-249.html
      And it’s good to see you over here commenting!

    1. I remember shopping at Sears with my mother, but I don’t remember any Sears catalogues around the house. Later I had J.C. Penny’s and my kids liked to look through them and pick out things they wanted. In their dreams. I only remember ordering clothes.

  4. This was a super memory to share! My maternal grandparents bought a refrigerator around the same era and I think it was likely a GE too. It was replaced by a more modern appliance in the 1970s but the old one just went downstairs to live in the basement. It was still humming and keeping itself cool in 1998 when we moved my grandmother to a nursing home. I remember it fondly because my grandfather always kept it filled with Coca-Cola in the old 7 oz returnable bottles which was my special treat. There was something magical in its simple operation making things cold. Only needing a defrosting every so often.

    My grandfather came from a small town in Minnesota, and on one occasion during a vacation there, he took me to the ice house at the train yard where a cousin worked. I was shown an immense room filled with stacks of ice blocks covered with sawdust. All harvested from a Minnesota lake the previous winter and destined to be shipped by rail all over the country. It seemed a peculiar “cash crop” but harvesting ice was once an important industry of Minnesota.

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