Local Forecast: Ice-Cold Front
For anyone outside of Texas calling 80 degree weather “Fall” is incomprehensible. Despite this one thing that is impossible to deny is compared to triple digit temperatures, 80 feels down right comfortable. This time of year you start to see people leaving their air conditioned fortresses before nightfall and the joggers and bikers start packing the trails, enjoying some semblance of relief from the heat. If you aren’t the athletic type you still have outdoor options that go beyond opening your windows on your way home. My old neighbor always enjoyed walking around the neighborhood until he broke a sweat then heading to the icehouse for a cold beer. It might come as a shock but not a surprise that an icehouse as an open-air bar is unique to Texas.
When you stop to think about it icehouses fit seamlessly into the Texas way of life. Icehouses are a cultural tradition that took an already established hub of the community and morphed it into a place for friends and neighbors to enjoy an ice-cold beverage on a beautiful day kids and dogs in tow. At this point you might be wondering what an outdoor bar has to do with indoor air quality but for anyone who was growing up in the first half of the 20th century it’s probably clear. Icehouses were originally built to sell ice before refrigeration and before air conditioning. They represent a time where weatherization of homes and air particulate were not as important as staying cool and inside or out.
Historically, ice houses allowed a trade in ice that was a major part of the early economy of the New England region of the United States, which saw fortunes made by people who shipped ice in straw-packed ships to the southern U.S. and throughout the Caribbean Sea. In winter months, ice was chopped from a lake surface and often dragged by sledge to the ice house, and in summer months, was delivered from local ice houses to residences in ice wagons or ice trucks, where it would be stored in an ice box, which was used much like a modern refrigerator. As home and business refrigeration became more common, ice houses disappeared. The home ice delivery business declined, and was virtually gone by the late 1960s. For some reason icehouses in Texas did not disappear. Instead of selling just ice they began to diversity. Walk in coolers began containing beer kept cold (a luxury!) by the abundance of ice that was also for sale. A man sitting at a booth would take your money on your way out and you would find a place to sit and enjoy your beverage. Food, groceries and music were to follow and a place for the community to congregate was born. As the years went by the ice that was once for sale disappeared and icehouses turned into bars in the most barebones sense Cards, dominoes, horseshoes and pool are common activities you will find while hanging out at the icehouse. Don’t expect a variety of mix drinks, but do expect to be able to purchase a set-up. Don’t expect waitress but do expect to be able to buy a bucket. And most of all don’t expect to be cooled to a perfect 65 like you would inside but do expect to stay cool and hopefully entertained enough to forget about the heat for awhile.
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