Arnold LeMay was born March 18, 1917 in
Harpswell, Maine. He was born in the same
house that he lives in now. That house is
about 235 years old and it is on the Shore
Acres Road near the post office. Arnold's
parents' names were Grace and Edgar. He had
two brothers named Edward and Lewis and two
sisters, Dora and Lillian.
Arnold and his brothers and sisters went to
the Harpswell Center School, which was near
the Allen Point Road next to what is now the
Scout Hall. They walked two miles to school
Arnold's family did ice
harvesting. The family got ice from the pond
that was beside their house. They started
the ice business sometime during the 1880's.
People needed ice to keep their food cold.
There were no electric refrigerators back in
The pond had to be kept
clean from snow because if they let snow
stay on the ice, they would have soft ice.
The ice had to be at least a foot to fifteen
or eighteen inches thick before it could be
harvested. The ice harvesters used a board
to make a straight line down the center of
the pond. They used something sharp to make
grooves in the ice. To get the blocks of ice
they had something that tipped over to make
a guide mark to the next groove. To cut the
ice they used a kind of saw with teeth that
were about a foot long. They were then able
to use a bar on the grooves and could get
blocks of ice that were even and uniform in
size. The blocks were 22 inches wide and 44
inches long. The weight of the blocks was
250 to 300 pounds, depending upon the
thickness of the ice.
As the ice was cut, it was
pulled out of the pond by a horse. There was
a rope on a wheel that was something like a
clothesline pulley. The rope was attached to
the horse and went to a hook that was on the
ice. The horse walked along the edge of the
pond and drew the ice into the special house
where it was stored.
The LeMays ice house had a
space between the walls of the ice house and
the ice. The ice was stacked up and covered
with sawdust. This method kept the ice from
melting all through the summer.
It took two days to harvest
the ice from the pond. During a really cold
year, ice could be harvested more than once
during the same year.
Ten, twelve or fourteen men
were in an ice harvesting crew. Some of the
Harpswell men that worked at LeMays pond
were the Bibbers, Merrimans, and Chipmans.
Arnold's mother was the only woman that
helped. At age nine or ten Arnold started to
help with the cleaning of the pond. At age
fourteen or fifteen he began to help with
the harvesting. It was a family chore and he
didn't get paid.
Arnold liked cutting ice
because it was something different to do and
it was also a social time. It was sometimes
dangerous because you could fall in the pond
or get hit by a block of ice. Once George
Allen fell in the pond and all of his
clothes were frozen like ice. It was a scary
time for him. He went in the LeMays house
for a while and then was taken home.
The LeMays delivered ice to
all parts of Harpswell Neck. People also
came to the house to buy ice. The price of
the ice was decided upon by the weight and
by the thickness. Arnold remembers it being
two cents a pound, but the price may have
been different at other times.
Besides delivering ice to
Harpswell homes, the LeMays also sold ice to
places such as Auburn Colony, Merriconeag
House, Guernsey Villa, Ocean View Hotel, and
Lookout Point House.
Before there were
refrigerators, people used ice boxes. Ice
boxes were made out of wood and were usually
lined with zinc. A big chunk of ice was put
in the top part of the box. Some people
wrapped their ice in newspaper to make it
last longer. As the ice melted, the water
would go into a pipe and then flow into a
pan at the bottom of the ice box. If the ice
box was in the shed, the water sometimes
went into the ground.
If people didn't have an ice
box, they used to keep their food cool by
putting ice in a pail or bucket and lowering
it into a dug well or cold stream.
In winter they put food in a
box and put the box outside or in a cold
room. The Will Dunning family, the Millers,
and Laurence Merriman family harvested ice,
but only for their own use. The Dunnings and
Merrimans needed a lot of ice on their farms
and the Milers for their inn. Ed Hayes Moody
on Basin Point sold and delivered ice the
same as the LeMays. On the other side of
town a lot of ice was produced at Dingley
For several years after he
was married Arnold LeMay still helped with
ice harvesting. The family stopped ice
harvesting in the early fifties. By then
most people had electric refrigerators and
not much ice was needed.