By Norris Chambers

              These hot, sunshiny days make a good background to think about snow cones or other cooling diversions.

            Our first awareness of snow cones came many, many years ago. We had never heard the term “snow cone” and probably couldn’t have guessed what the term meant. Our acquaintance with the cooling and refreshing mixture was in the form of snow. When the rare snows came we went to the cellar door, or other good collecting surface, and filled a big glass with the cold white stuff. We took the glass to the kitchen and added whatever kind of flavoring we could find to make a nice dessert. Vanilla and sugar was a good mixture and just about any kind of juice from canned fruit with sugar added was ideal.

            Most folks called the snow treats “glass A”. I still don’t know where it got a name like that unless it was an attempt to pronounce some foreign word. Some folks referred to the mixture as just plain “ice-ee”.  By any name the snow and flavoring with sugar was a real treat for kids and most adults.

            When snow started falling Clifton and I waited patiently for enough accumulation to fill a glass.

            Sometime in the late twenties a nice little gadget was introduced that made snow anytime ice was available. This little thing was about six inches long and two inches wide and the lid lifted back to open the box at one end and the top. The bottom was smooth, like a carpenter’s smoothing plane, with a sharp blade set at an angle on the bottom. When the device was moved along the top of a block of ice the top was shaved off and accumulated in the box in the form of snow, or finely shaved ice. When the container was full it was opened and the contents slid into a glass. About two shaves and the glass was full and ready for the flavoring. Just about every family in the country had an ice shaver.

            Every little town had at least one place that sold block ice. The blocks came in 25 or 50 pound sizes. In larger ice houses 100 or 200 pound blocks were available. Usually when a trip was planned to town an old quilt was thrown in the back seat to wrap the chunk of ice that everyone in the family expected to enjoy. If the town were close and the family owned a car with a bumper the block of ice was just placed between the bumper and the fender for the quick trip home. Most families did not have an ice box and the block was kept wrapped as long as it lasted. This helped to prevent premature melting. Just about everyone had an old hand-cranked ice cream freezer as well as an ice shaver. Homemade ice cream was another welcome treat that the ice provided.

            When we first began to see snow cones that resembled the present day treats the ice was shaved with one of the old hand shavers and emptied into the container. The block of ice was in an insulated box of some sort and the lid was closed when the shaver was not in use. Some commercial booths had a glass case on a table where the customer could see the ice being shaved for the cone.  There were several glass containers with various flavorings and the customer pointed to the one he wanted. The merchant poured a generous amount over the snow and the “goodie” was ready to go.

            How did the old snow cones compare with the modern version? That would be hard to decide because all snow cones are either good or better. You might also ask if the old snow treats were a lot of fun. It was pretty funny when we caught one of Clifton’s younger brothers, Carl, shaving our old hound dog with the ice shaver. The dog was very cooperative and was submitting to the treatment with a smile on his face. The dog’s natural gray color was beginning to change to pink as blood from a few nicks began to discolor the nice, slick coat.

            You could have a lot of fun if you took your short-haired dog to the White Settlement Museum, where an old ice shaver is on display, and gave him a clean shave. The museum attendant might even help with the treatment. For a higher grade of fun you could take a short-haired cat instead of your dog!