The Ice Truck

The gift of ice in the tropics and the ice man was a welcome sight.

The gift of ice in the tropics and the ice man was a welcome sight.

The following story was sent in by a good friend and classmate, Aubrey “Tito” Johnson, Jr. and it recreates a character, place and time in the history of Colon and Panama well known to the Silver People of those times.

By Aubrey Johnson, Jr.

I had some great times helping my friend Reds, aka Poroto, (r.i.p.) His only dream was to get to the US as soon as was promised by his friend Pancho Brown, (also r.i.p.),who was leaving and who would send for him once there. He talked incessantly about that great day, this great trip. Many a times arriving on the corner he would start a conversation with: “Last night I dreamt I was in New York, well lammed down and in his Florsheim……blah, blah, etc,” until the guys told him not to repeat that stuff anymore. He had a wicked curve ball- our iron horse pitcher whenever we competed in Mariano Bula Stadium against Penon, Corsarios, etc., and even against Angelini, in Panama ’s Santa Rita Stadium.

Reds managed his uncle’s Ice Truck and had contracts to deliver huge blocks of ice to various bars in Colon. After picking them up from the Ice Plant owned by Segura, down 16h Street I would tag along, hanging on a piece of rope from the back of the truck, swinging like a monkey on sharp turns. He was a strong dude.  With the ice clamp he would pull, drag those blocks off the back of the truck, 3 feet down on to the street with little or no chip damage to the blocks.

In my estimation, each slab must have weighed about 200 lbs. He would then tug, haul, slide, drag the slabs on the cement, clasped up the sidewalk with the clamp, into the bar to behind the counter, and with an ice pick: half them, quarter them, then place the smaller pieces into the ice box and continue chipping with the pick into smaller pieces for the drinks.  He was skillful in cutting the ice with his picks in a straight line. If I tried, the ice was more likely to split in a slant ruining the slab or merchandise. Knowing that, I went along mainly for the joking and skylarking and fun of it on the route around town.

Between bars, Porots would also make stops at  specific points in town, and as he approached, to advertise his presence, with a piece of pipe will loudly bang away, clang-clang- clanging his bell, made out of an old abandoned iron wheel drum.   At each stop people from the buildings would swarm downstairs to buy 5 cent, 10 cent cuts of ice, or even quarter blocks if they were going to have a party that night. Of course along the way he had lots of women friends he would help out with some change, here and there. Soon after I was able to leave for NY before him.

On my first return in 1964, I again accompanied Porots and found it very relaxing from that stressful NY life style I was beginning to experience. I noticed this time, however, at most stops dozen of kids would greet the truck and Reds with cries of Papa, Papa, Papa, and he would give them nickel and dimes, and among them he would point out some that were really his kids. At one count I think he accounted for 27 kids around town…Very prolific…

As people began replacing ice boxes for refrigerators, and the bars installing ice makers, the ice business began to decrease into disappearance.

While in the U.S., over the years, I lost track of Alexander Rudolph Knaves, a.k.a. Reds, Poroto. I was sadly informed he eventually died an alcoholic.

Though he died never making that trip to the U.S., he was a great boyhood friend, our great menor baseball league pitcher of Club Social y Deportivo Los Winchester. Here’s to his memory…

One response to “The Ice Truck

  1. This was a great article. I remember and still call them Iceboxes.

    Strange in Russia they just do not even care about ice.

    Never need it.

    3 quarters of the year it is frozen! 🙂

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.



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