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Posted on November 3, 2015 at 3:36 PM by Ken Kocher
As we all know, during the early years of the 1940s, America was embroiled in World War II. Efforts on the Home Front played a huge role, especially the production of food as evidenced by the Victory Garden and the Food For Freedom programs. Growing and preserving food for local consumption was of great importance, and while canning food had long been a tradition, there was a new method breaking on the scene – freezing food locally. Large home freezers were rare, but the concept of large, community freezers, known as Freezer Lockers, became increasingly important and popular.Georgia had only 10 Freezer Lockers in the entire state at the start of 1942. By 1948 it lead the Southeast with 163. The Madisonian subtly and not-so-subtly promoted the idea through the mention of freezer lockers in how-to articles from the Extension Agent and noting other Georgia communities who were working toward establishing such a facility. Mr. L.G. Hardman, Jr. presented to the Kiwanis about Commerce’s freezer locker at their April 1944 meeting. He told the group, “Such a plant is becoming almost a necessity in every live and wideawake town or city, and several hundred are planned in the state for an early day.”
It would seem that most Georgians agreed. During the spring of 1945, Georgia Power sponsored a "Five Ways to Make My Community Better" contest. The industries most favored were those which would process or preserve locally grown food products (an idea which has returned!). Freezer locker plants were mentioned most frequently by the contestants. The Madisonian was onboard too stating, “The need for a freezer locker for Madison and Morgan County grows greater all the time.” Their appeal was answered. A committee was put in place and the Morgan County Freezer-Locker Association chartered as a Co-Op in October of 1945.
The Association purchased the former Tumlin Stable, located at 153 W. Washington, in February of the next year and contracted Southern Insulation and Supply Company to remodel the building and install refrigeration equipment. The Morgan County Freezer-Locker opened in April 1946 with four hundred locker units available to rent at $15 a year in addition to an initial $10 membership in the Co-Op. But the Freezer Locker offered so much more! Within the locker room was a specially designed freezer where meats, vegetables, fruits, and other products could be quick frozen on minus 16 degree coils. There were also chilling and aging rooms for pork and beef. Farmers no longer had to wait for “hog killing time,” the cool weather of late fall, for butchering. Other amenities included a curing room, a smokehouse, a chicken picker, a scalding vat, a lard rendering kettle, and a lard press. This was truly a “food hub.”
The Locker was originally managed by L.C. Mitchell, but a passion for baseball took him away the next year to play for a team in Thomson followed by studies in coaching at UGA. His replacement was Cecil Hickox who manned the helm for the next four years. In spring of 1952, J.L. Atkinson began a 17 year career with the Morgan County Freezer Locker. Atkinson began as manager, but, when the Co-Op found itself in financial straits, he purchased the entire operation, running it as the sole proprietor from 1960-1969. With Mr. Atkinson’s retirement, the Freezer Locker closed its doors and the building prepared for yet another use. The increase in home freezers and changes in meat processing had rendered the Freezer Locker obsolete. As with so many things, a recent piece on NPR reports that the concept is gaining ground again. Who knows – maybe the Freezer Locker will return again!
Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Historic Preservation Commission and written by Ken Kocher, HPC staff. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Tag(s): WWII, Tumlin Stable, L.C. Mitchell, J.L. Atkinson, Freezer Locker, Cecil Hickox
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