Heartwarming tale about an ice box

Updated 2/11/2014 9:07 AM
  • Stephanie Penick's dad, Don Crookston, with his prized 66-year-old Sears Roebuck Coldspot refrigerator.

    Stephanie Penick's dad, Don Crookston, with his prized 66-year-old Sears Roebuck Coldspot refrigerator. Courtesy of Stephanie Penick

  • Stephanie Penick's parents bought this refrigerator in August 1948. It has never seen a repair man and it's still running as good as new.

    Stephanie Penick's parents bought this refrigerator in August 1948. It has never seen a repair man and it's still running as good as new. Courtesy of Stephanie Penick

When the city of Naperville posted a brief regarding the "Illinois Recycle My Fridge Program," an initiative aimed at accepting residents' secondary refrigerators, the news sparked an idea for my funny valentine.

According to "City Notes," residents served by an Illinois Municipal Electric Agency-member utility can get rid of an old refrigerator or freezer, for free, and receive a $35 prepaid card. For details, call (877) 341-2313 or visit www.RecycleMyFridge.org.

That's all I'll say about that program.

On Valentine's Day, my parents will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary. They have spent nearly 66 years in Muncie, Ind., together with the same Sears Coldspot refrigerator.

Still in perfect working order and never having needed a single service call, the only repair ever made was to replace the gasket around the refrigerator's door in the 1980s. And my father handled that one.

That Coldspot, a Sears Roebuck brand that existed from 1928 to 1976, was purchased in Muncie in August 1948. According to my father's notes, the refrigerator was built for Sears Roebuck by Seeger Refrigerator Company in Evanston, Ind.

Searching online, I discovered that during the 1950s, Evanston had been known as the "The Refrigerator Capital of the World."

I also found it a coincidence that the Coldspot electric refrigerator debuted in 1928, the year after my mother was born.

According to the Sears online archive, the Coldspot met with immediate public acceptance, and the 1929 model was a main attraction for visitors that year to the Paris International Exposition.

Recognizing there'd be a large market for electric refrigerators, Sears' engineers designed 6-cubic-foot models that would serve a family's needs for reliability and serviceability at an affordable price.

When my husband worked in the textile industry, he called on Sears Roebuck in Chicago. I recall his telling the story of how a Minnesota railroad agent, Richard Warren Sears, teamed with watch repairman Alvah C. Roebuck, a partnership that later led them to establish Sears, Roebuck and Co., with its headquarters in Chicago in 1893.

As my parents' primary refrigerator, that Coldspot moved with them four times as our family grew. Today, my dad boasts that the Coldspot has outrun four other refrigerators since 1954.

After a short time in the kitchen at my parents' current address, the Coldspot was replaced by another brand with more cubic feet. The Coldspot was moved downstairs, where it remains in close quarters behind the bar in their "rec room." It's impossible to open its door all the way, a door with a loud distinctive sound when it latches upon closing.

While downstairs, the refrigerator became the place to store fresh fruits, vegetables and any surplus of groceries needing refrigeration. By the time my brother Jim turned 21, that secondary refrigerator had become the primary cooler for beer.

"As a cooler for beer since the 1970s, the door likely has been opened and closed more than any other Crookston refrigerator," my dad noted recently.

My dad is 90 and my mother is 86. For several years, they've been trying to downsize 67 years of prized possessions that fill their four-bedroom home. Every time we visit, we return to Naperville with another carton of books, box of tools, piece of furniture or one of my cherished keepsakes they've kept safe in my former bedroom.

We have no room for the collectible Coldspot.

And I wonder: If a hidden camera had been inside to capture our curiosity through the years, recording our pleasure whenever one of us -- eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, my two brothers, our spouses or I -- peered into that refrigerator.

Whether looking for an apple or some tasty treat, or helping to find a request for my mother from her kitchen upstairs, that old fridge also comes with our habit of sometimes simply opening to see what's inside.

It's funny. With a warm fondness for many of the furnishings at my folks' home, that refrigerator is one hearty item that has connected us all.

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