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Ice: In the age before freezers, it was an important resource

In this edition of Remember This , the Timmins Museum National Exhibition Center looks back on Ice cutting, a long lost occupation and lucrative winter industry in the region
Mr. A.E Phillips and his crew pictured here cutting Ice on the Mattagami River circa 1940s.  Timmins Museum photo

From the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center:

One thing Timmins has a lot of other rich ore bodies and vast forests is ice.

Mr. A.E Phillips of the Union Coal Company was turning that all abundant ice found on frozen waterways into cold hard cash during his career.

In the 1940s the process of harvesting ice on rivers became streamlined and ultra-efficient. A mechanical planer removed the top 5 inches of ice, priming the surface for the mounted circular saw. This big old saw was hauled across the surface by two men cutting at a depth of 12 inches forming neat rectangles of ice to be taken away at a rate of 100 tons per day, if you can believe that.

Twenty years prior, crews where harvesting ice using crude tools such as hand saws and hauling away hundreds of pounds of ice blocks using horses. Cutting 400 pound blocks the old fashioned way would be tough indeed, but Union Coal was cutting massive slabs with ease producing over 2,000 tons of ice for the town’s consumption in January 1948.

Most folks in the 1940s still had ice boxes to keep perishables fresh and depended on companies such as Union Coal to keep them stocked up. 

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here.