The Hood River News, Hood River, OR., February 27, 1939, page 11


     "Of course you, who have been a resident here for only 20 years, would not remember the days when the ice crop was one of the most important of our winter industries, which gave steady employment to about a hundred men and many teams in each winter 35 and more years ago," said one of our pioneers to a News' man Tuesday.
     "Judged in terms of today, the wages earned by men from all sections of Hood River valley would possibly be regarded as so much 'chicken feed,' but, as I recall it, two dollars a day for every day and over a period of several weeks was a lot of money to many residents in the early days of Hood River county. For this was long before anybody had ever heard of the Jones family, which, we hear today, sets the standard by which many try to live.
     "When winter came in those days, the chief topic of interest was 'How thick's the ice on the big slough, north of the railroad tracks?" And many residents were more interested in this bit of information each day, than they were in what kind of a sulky So-and-So would be driving in the spring. In those distant days, there were no complaints, at least among the families of these 'ice' men, concerning the arrival of what today are called 'Walla Walla chinooks' for sub-freezing weather gave the assurance that work cutting ice at two dollars a day would continue. You'd never dream how much competition there was for one of these jobs, and the fun those engaged got out of cutting and lifting the ice, for the teams to haul to the big ice house, which long bordered on the O.R. & N. tracks.
     "Some of the joy, at least for the teamsters, was taken away, when somebody invented a chain conveyor, which carried the ice to the big storage house. But as this conveyor was operated by manpower, it cut only the teams out of their hauling job. For many years, huge quantities of ice were cut and stored during the winters, to be sent by rail to Portland during the summer. The demand over a long period of years was good and the industry was a thriving one, until ice was made commercially on a large scale in Portland. From that time on, the demand each summer slipped, until the project was finally abandoned.
     "Come to think of it, there would have been a very small ice crop on the big slough yhis and recent winters, and I guess the winters of 35 and more years ago must have been colder than they are these days for, unless my memory is failing me, I don't recall one winter in which a large number of men were not employed cutting ice from the big slough and storing it in the old ice house, just beyond the location of the present spray plant," said the Old Timer.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer