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Coastal Voices: Story behind ice plant

In reference to the article in the Sept. 11, 2012, edition of the Del Norte Triplicate concerning the removal of the Del Norte Ice and Cold Storage building, the newspaper did not attempt to report any real history of the local facility.

As important to the community in personal and public service, both to the commercial and general public, Del Norte Ice and Cold Storage was a success story of the blood, sweat and hardships that go into creating a growing business.

Bonnie Adams, the owner of a personal care business, is the last of the original family that started and built the cold storage business over several years, beginning in 1938. Her father, Art Ames, came to Crescent City from Salinas at the encouragement of a refrigeration equipment supply company in San Francisco.

 

It wasn’t the best of times to begin a new business. Hobbs Wall Company, a major economy factor, locally, shut down the large lumber business due to labor disputes. As World War II was on the horizon, families were moving to areas where there was employment.

Art had learned the refrigeration and related electric business in Salinas, where he worked for a food processing company. When he came to Crescent City, he took over a small ice plant near the west end of Front Street serving the commercial fishing industry. Art took over a small evergreen processing business on Pacific Avenue across from G Street. That building was later moved to the Highway 101 location to begin the start of the new Ice and Cold Storage Company.

Art and his wife Vivienne developed a cold storage locker business for the general public. This was before the convenience of the home freezer. He formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Craig Mather of Santa Cruz. Craig was a professional butcher. He increased the services of the plant to include the cutting and processing of meats for frozen storage.

Over the years the company included many services, commercial ice to the fishermen, ice to home ice boxes and ice to cocktail lounges. The company whole-saled frozen food and ice to grocery stores.

The evergreens processing was an important part of the business, in different seasons of the year. Sword fern, salal, cedar, redwood and huckleberry boughs were bought, packed and shipped from the ice plant down to Southern California. Cascara bark was handled, both green and dried, for the laxative drug needs. Pasteurizing Easter lily bulbs was a phase of the business.

In addition to the production of ice, the plant also processed its own hamburger and sausage to supply the local restaurants and drive-ins. They also handled the brine freezing of Dungeness crab.

Every phase of the business required employment. It served many local folks for income over many years. The ice-making part of the Front Street building was torn down after Art started producing ice at his new location on Highway 101. Along with supplying ice to the commercial fishing fleet, they also bagged crushed ice and block ice for the vending machines located all over the county, including parts of Oregon.

Art and Vivienne sold the ice plant to their son-in-law, Bob Doan, who then built a small flake ice facility at the end of Citizen’s Dock, strictly for the commercial boats. This is still operational.

In reflection, there are many members of our community who have had some connection to the ice plant; employees, customers and associates were a large part of the success of the business.

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