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Tech Diary — Around 1960

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Tech Diary — Around 1960

freezer communities

When eating ice cream with relatives, the conversation turns to cooling technology.

Gretel C: We used to have a community facility. Nobody had a freezer there. It was up in the salt barn. All places had that, a common freezer.

I photographed this house in autumn 2022 in Rabenau, Hesse. It is not one of the buildings that the relatives talk about, but is only used here for illustration. The freezing plant shown was shut down at the end of 2008.

House wall painting: two penguins, next to them the word 'freezing community' in a font usually used for tombstones

Detail from the photo above

Kathrin: When was that approximately?

Gretel: When we moved here, there was still a common freezer in W. and in H., nobody had a chest freezer there. At best, a refrigerator, but that was the pinnacle of prosperity.

Trudi P.: There was the Frigo in Switzerland, the Kasterl that hangs outside, so everywhere in the ski resorts.

Franziska Nyffenegger and Lukas Imhof, the Switzerland experts of the technology diary, cannot assign an object directly to this description. I’ll ask for more details when I get a chance.

Werner C.: Two cold storage rooms were set up in the Salzstadel, and the municipality …

Kathrin: You rented a compartment there?

Gretel: Well, the farmers, if you slaughter a cow, then you have a lot of meat.

Kathrin: How big was the subject you had there?

Gretel: Ask me something easier.

Kathrin: So you didn’t have one?

Gretel: The bit of meat we had.

Kathrin: Well, it was something that only the farmers used for slaughter and stuff like that. And could you go back in there at any time?

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Werner: I think everyone had a key. Anyone could get in at any time.

Kathrin: And when was that approximately?

Werner: After the war.

“In 1958 there were around 5,500 community freezers with around 207,000 compartments in the Federal Republic of Germany.” (Wikipedia: Freezer Community)

Kathrin: What was the Salzstadel anyway?

Werner: The big building to the left of the street. The building happened to be vacant and that’s where the bottom was installed. In other villages it was built into some stable somewhere.

Kathrin: And when did that go out of fashion again?

Werner: With the refrigerators, quite simply. Then came the refrigerators… At the end of the 1950s.

Gretel: There were also freezer compartments on campsites.

Kathrin: Yes, I know that from the campsite.

Trudi: It was a big freezer, and you put small freezer units in there and then took them back into the tent to cool the stuff.

Richard K.: Well, we go to the brewery every morning at a fixed time, there was a dispensing compartment that rumbled terribly, and then a pile of ice came out.

Trudi: That was also the case with us in H. at the beginning.

Gretel: For the ice cream machine, they also got that from the shelves where they made ice cream in the bathroom* … and they got it afterwards, they put it in the machine, stir, stir, stir for hours, you had ice cream . That was the high point of the summer.

H.’s old outdoor pool was the pond created by the local brewery, from which ice was extracted for cooling the beer in winter. More on this at de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiswerk. The racks were wooden frames over which water was piped, see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisgalgen.

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Richard: We had that too, a mixing barrel and chunks of ice and salt went in around the outside.

This conversation had to be heavily edited and condensed, mainly because it was about eating ice cream. The ice cream consumed comes from the freezer in the basement, an electrical appliance with drawers that has probably been there since the 1980s.

Werner: And now I would finally like to be praised for serving you such good ice cream.

Kathrin: Just as good as yesterday.

Trudi: But my teeth freeze more than yesterday.

Werner (satisfied): I don’t have any of my own anymore, that doesn’t carry over.

(Recorded by Kathrin Passig in summer 2022)

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