Ice Man Likes Summer Heat

July 30, 1982, Jane Hamlin, The Daily News Journal

The scorching summer days have got a lot of hot, sweaty people wishing autumn was already here – what with its dewy mornings and nippy nights.

But there is one man in Murfreesboro who would probably like to hover around 95 degrees all year long.

Hot weather, says Jesse Womack, Jr. is good for business.

Womack, a familiar face to Rutherford Countians, has operated an ice house on Broad Street for about 45 years now. Business goes up and down, he says, depending, of course, on the weather.

“I hope it doesn’t cool off anytime soon,” Womack laughed on a recent hot day. Hot weather is good for business. If it cools off too much, I might go out of business.”

Business has been a little off the past couple of days he said, “but is picking up and seems to be holding its own.”

Since 1937, Womack has been selling 1- to 300-pound blocks of ice in a small wooden structure next door to his Broad Street home.

Womack said he gets most of his trade during the afternoon and weekends, mostly in the summer months although the ice house is open all year long.

“People buy ice mostly for drinking purposes – we crush it up,” he said, “like for private homes or picnics – and on weekend everybody likes to go to the lake.”

Womack’s ice is priced from $5 to $100, he explained and “most people buy 10- to 25-pound blocks.”

The elderly Womack is an old hand at the ice business – he worked many years ago for a local ice company.

“I ran a route, delivering ice on a push cart,” the widowed Womack recalled. “Then I carried it with a horse and wagon, then went to a little tractor.”

“Then I just decided to open this ice house and keep it here,” he said. “I’ve owned it since 1937.”

Womack’s ice house may be the only one of its kind left in Murfreesboro, and it is certainly one of the oldest.

Also, he said, “My ice house may be the oldest place to be in business and not to have changed hands.”

The ice man remarked that he can’t leave the premises too often “because every time I leave somebody comes up and wants some ice.”

However, the retired Coca-Cola emplyee seems content to continue operating his ‘cool’ little business. His wife died several years ago, so he runs it by himself now with a friendly dog named ‘Spot’ to keep him company.

“My children and my grandchildren come to visit, but 10- and 12-year-old kids can’t really help with the ice – it’s too heavy for them,” he said.

Womack talks about his ice house proudly, obviously delighted with the curiosity it has aroused and the publicity it has received over the years.

Chuckling, he recalled, “Somebody saw my picture in the newspaper one time and said, ‘Jesse, you’re going to Hollywood now.'”

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