Jewish World Review July 13, 2004 / 24 Tamuz, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Ice man cometh; How far away from a TV should one sit?; more | Q: In the old days many folks, even in the Deep South, had ice boxes and a block of ice was periodically purchased from the ice man as he made his rounds. But this was before electricity was commonplace, so where'd the ice come from? - Roger Williams, Concord, N.C.

A: The ice man.

An enduring image in our culture: A young man hauling a huge block up the stairs, bringing relief. When it comes to cool, the ice man delivered.

But where'd he get it?

Before artificial refrigeration, ice was harvested from lakes in the winter and stored - or shipped to warm climates.

Ice was first shipped commercially in the United States in 1799, when it was sent from New York to Charleston, S.C., according to History Magazine. There wasn't much ice left when that first shipment arrived.

But in a few years the process was much improved. Insulating materials and ice houses cut the amount that was lost to melting from 66 percent to less than 8 percent. Uniform blocks of ice were cut, aiding storage, transportation and distribution.

The History Magazine article says, "natural ice" distribution boomed, and 14 million to 15 million tons of ice were consumed in 1907, nearly triple the amount in 1880.

Ice was once one of the most-shipped products in the country, according to Cape Pond Ice of Gloucester, Mass., an ice company started in 1848. Even Henry David Thoreau's idyllic Walden Pond in Massachusetts was harvested for ice.

Throughout the 1800s, innovations were made in refrigeration. In the late 1800s, many breweries began to use electricity. A bit later meat packers began to use electric ammonia-compression refrigeration machines.

Initially the ice companies that delivered blocks door-to-door got ice from the north. Later on, many - like Herrin Brothers Coal and Ice in Charlotte, N.C. - made their own ice with electric ammonia-compression machines.

Marshall Herrin, 76, is president of the company that's provided ice for Charlotte since 1937. When he was 14 he started hauling ice. The kids loved the ice man, and the girls liked him, too. But the work wasn't easy.

Herrin hauled 50 to 60 blocks a day. His pay for a seven-day week? Eight or nine bucks.

"Those were good days," he says.

Most folks put a sign in the window requesting a block of 25, 50 or 75 pounds. He would haul that in from a pickup truck and leave it in the wooden icebox lined with tin and insulated with sawdust.

"People would just leave their doors unlocked," he says. "You never really knew how they would be dressed."

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Q: How far away from a TV should one sit? I recall that when color television first came out, we were advised not to sit too close to it. - G. Culyer

A: Hey, you kids. Go clean your rooms, the adults have to talk about something. None of your back talk, young man. Your room looks like it got hit by a tornado. Get goin'!

(Are they gone? Good.)

The truth is, most doctors agree sitting close to the TV won't hurt your eyes. But this is one of the great things for people to yell at their kids about, and we don't want to deprive anyone of a classic parental harangue. This one's way up there with "You'll put your eye out!" and "If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?"

Early televisions emitted a fair amount of potentially harmful electromagnetic radiation, so viewers were advised not to sit too close. Most modern TVs, however, emit minimal amounts of radiation and pose no particular health risk. The only pertinent research has shown that prolonged viewing of a close TV or computer monitor can cause eyestrain and headaches, but no permanent eye damage.

So, how far should you sit from the TV? Well, how far away is the couch? Better answer: Sit where you're comfortable and able to see the screen well, which will probably put you somewhere in a range of four to 12 feet away.

As for the kids, make `em quit watching and go do something else. (It's almost time for the game to come on, anyway. Hee hee!)

We heard that, young man!



On netiquette, or polite behavior online:


2. Is it OK to forward jokes to a big group of people from different areas and walks of life?

3. What do you call e-mails of strong criticism or angry language?

4. What's spam?

5. The golden rule of Netiquette is "remember the human." Explain.

6. What does :-(ASTERISK) mean in "emoticon" language?



1. You are shouting, and that's rude.

2. No. This broadcasts your friends' e-mail addresses to people they don't know.

3. Flames.

4. Unsolicited e-mail advertisements.

5. Don't just type off into outer space. Keep in mind that there's a real person on the receiving end of what you send.

6. Kiss!

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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