World War I in Lawrence: Residents adjust plans because of ‘ice famine’

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence during World War I.

A local labor shortage combined with a mid-August heat wave combined to make ice a rare commodity in Lawrence in the summer of 1918. The Lawrence Ice and Storage Company announced that “because of the ice shortage now imminent, deliveries at its plant will be stopped after ten o’clock at night and that on Sundays no deliveries will be made except at the plant.” Manager R. C. Rankin told a Journal-World reporter that all reserve supplies of ice had been exhausted and future deliveries depended on the plant’s daily output of fifty tons per day. Reserves had been drained on days like Saturday, August 17, when 86 tons of ice had been delivered. Lawrence patrons were asked to cut back their ice consumption at home. A few days later, after city officials met with ice company officials and county food administrator Clarence Hall, it was announced that the supply provided to local ice cream manufacturers was to be cut in half as long as the summer heat lasted. “The private consumer must be protected. It is the health of the individual that must be looked after,” Hall told a reporter. “Ice for the preservation of meat, milk and food is far more needed than is ice cream.” At least two ice-cream socials, to be held by local churches, were canceled that week “on account of the ice famine,” according to notices in the social calendar on August 20. Three days later, the food administration went further, forbidding the sale of ice cream after 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. “The order went into effect immediately and the show crowds were disappointed in that they did not get their after-the-show treats as usual.” An editorial that week reminded readers that even if all luxuries were eliminated, with bans placed on “all candy, soda waters, ice cream, cake, pies, fancy meats and fancy drinks,” citizens on the home front would “still be living in luxury as compared to the soldier who sleeps on straw, does his work in mud and rain and under blazing sun, knowing that every moment may be his last. Stripping to the essentials is far easier on us than on the boy in uniform.”


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