There are many things we take for granted, don't we? Some of us take our spouses for granted and forget to tell them we love them. Some take life for granted and forget to give God our thanks, for He is the "giver of life". One thing we take for granted today that we did not 25 years ago, is ICE.
Today ice is a common commodity, practically available anywhere, anytime and in any quantity. Just drive over to Martha's, Milo's or any of their agents and you can easily get ice. Not so 25 years ago. All homes in San Pedro in the 50's went about their daily living without a cube of ice or even cold water and drinks.
When there was no ice in San Pedro, Tio Pil with his cargo boat, La Elsa, used to bring ice from Belize City for a few people who dealt in ice. This huge four foot tall block of ice was placed in a large crocus sack with rice shell around it. The rice husks served as insulation so the ice would not melt. Upon arrival on San Pedro, the merchants would place this giant cube of ice in a specially made icebox, which was a wooden box with Styrofoam insulation and sheet metal inside. These ice boxes or "Neveras" could preserve the ice for at least two weeks.
The most common use of this giant cube of ice was the selling of "fresco" or "raspado". A small device with a blade like that of a hand plane was used to shave the ice, which was put into a paper cup and syrup and milk would be added to it. It was absolutely (still is) refreshing and sold for 2 cents, then 3 cents and then 5 cents. When Don Juan Alamilla passed by one's house with his wheelbarrow, the kids would go out with their own cups to get their raspado. Or you could chase him two blocks down with your jug or pitcher and get it filled up for 20 cents. "Mista John", as the kids called him, was a generous man. When raspado was selling for 5 cents a cup, he would let any kid have it for 3 cents if that was all the money the kid had. And he always had a little joke to share. It was his raspado and his little jokes that made him very popular with the kids.
At Daddy's Saloon one could also get raspado, long before "Mista John". Tio Dolito used to sell raspado there and if you needed a small chunk of ice you could buy it for 10 or 20 cents. For a big event, an upcoming wedding or so, you ordered for yourself 2 or 3 giant cubes of ice one week in advance with Tio Pil and the day after the wedding, several friends would come over to get their small chunk of ice to do their wonders at home. Believe me, not a piece of ice was wasted back then. Even ice with fish taste was washed and consumed very enthusiastically.
Manufacturing ice in San Pedro came about with Caribeña Fishing Cooperative. Prior to this, all fishermen had to go to the city for their 8 or 9 blocks of ice for their 2 week fishing trip. Around 1965, Caribeña obtained its block ice machine. It was man-hauled from the lagoon off a barge and set up behind the processing plant. After that ice was taken for granted. Then came a shell ice machine also for Caribeña, which started selling ice at 5 cents a pound and for wedding and special occasions, you could get 4 or 5 baskets for 15 or 20 dollars. This was until around 1970.
Ice has made its way into our lives and is here to stay. Everyone manufactures it at home in their freezers or goes to the stores for his one and two dollar bags. Have you ever wondered how a piña colada would taste without ice? Well, don't take it for granted. Preserve it and conserve it. And don't take your wife's love for granted either. Caribeña lost its ice plants. You can lose yours too, your spouse!