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Railroad Park history and icebox memories
Random Thoughts - July 28
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - With the change of shelters at Muscoda’s Railroad Park there may be folks who wonder about the history of that facility. Following is a bit of information about the park, written by Frances Kratochwill, who served as village clerk for many years. It appeared in Vi’s “Smitherings” column in the August 30, 1973 issue of this newspaper

“In April, 1921, a committee of the Advancement Corporation appeared before the village board and reported, in reference to the park on railroad property north of the depot, that the Railroad would furnish the dirt for filling the area, to be delivered on cars here, and that the curb around the park could be built for $70.00 and the village would pay that sum. The Advancement group would move the dirt from the rail cars to the proposed park.

“In April of 1921 the village board voted to pay for the planting of trees in the park. In May of 1924 Ed Petranek went before the village board with a plan for landscaping the railroad park. Shrubbery and plants were to cost $140 and the board accepted the plan and the shrubbery was planted.

“In the 1930s a bandstand was erected and on Wednesday nights during the summer concerts were held. They were sponsored by the Advancement Association. Stores were open on Wednesday nights at that time. In recent years that bandstand was dismantled with the roof section taken to Riverside Park where it still serves as a shelter.”

So, Railroad Park has been part of the life of the community for more than 100 years.

For a brief time another structure was located in Railroad Park. It was during John Hanrahan’s time as village president. A former large icehouse was relocated to the park as a historical display.

At one time, prior to electric refrigerators and deep freezers, icehouses were an important part of village life. During the winter, ice was cut and harvested from local river bottom lakes with large blocks of it stored in structures insulated with sawdust.

Ice from those structures, some on private property, was the cooling agent for businesses and homes throughout the summer. Ice harvest was a major winter event. There was some controversy about the icehouse in the park and its time on display was limited.

My own memory has a picture of a home-size wooden icebox standing in the kitchen of my grandparents’ home. When the time came to dispose of their lifetime belongings the icebox was considered an antique. It was sold at auction to a party who was going to ship it from Nebraska to California. The icebox brought more money on the sale than did a nearly new electric refrigerator that was also sold.

Vi has a vivid memory of the icebox in their kitchen. The REA did not arrive at the Korth farm until she was a sophomore in high school so ice was important during her early life. She has fond recollections of the “ice man” coming weekly during the warm months, bringing manufactured ice from a facility in a nearby community.

If her family wanted to make homemade ice cream during the winter a small creek or a nearby stock-tank provided the necessary ice while a root-cellar cooled the cream and other goodies needed for a party.