The George West Utilities
In 1927, Walter E. Lamm, Sr., his wife, Jennie McGee Lamm, and their five children (Mabel, Virginia, Maureen, Walter, Jr., and James R.) moved to the town of George West. Walter purchased the utilities plant (lights, water, and sewage) from the George West Estate. The family stayed for four days in the West Hotel while waiting for their furniture to arrive from their former home in Desdemona, Texas.
In 1929, Jennie McGee Lamm’s brother Guy became a partner in the business. He moved his wife, Stella, and their three children (Jean, Jennie Ruth, and Guyweldon) to George West. Guy McGee later opened a hardware store in downtown George West.
In the 1940’s, James and Walter, Jr. purchased Guy McGee’s share of the plant. A few years later, James and his wife Dorothy Kendall Lamm purchased Walter, Jr.’s share. In 1953 Walter, Sr. and James R. Lamm sold the utilities (water and sewer) to the City of George West and focused on the ice plant.
The picture shows the original utilities plant for the lights and water as the sewage part of the plant was located where the current city sewer plant is. Also seen in the picture is part of the structure for the water tower which stored drinking water for the town. The water was also stored in a ground level concrete tank. The lights were taken over by Central Power and Light and so the extra space in the working on the front of the pictured building. The building has a stucco front and was tin on the other three sides. The building housed the pumps for moving the water and a large engine generator which generated electricity.
The water tower had a USGS elevation marker on the base of one of the legs stating the elevation of its location. This marker was removed by the George West ISD after the purchased the property. In the late 1930’s a blue light was placed on the railing around the lower edge of the water tank on the tower and was turned on when the Longhorns won a game. This practice was discontinued in the 1940’s. The water tower was taken down after the utilities were sold and it was no longer needed.
The utilities were sold to the City of George West and the ice plant used the large generator and other motors. The large generator was converted to circulate the ammonia used to freeze the water for the “ice plant” and the ice vault which was built adjacent to the utilities building. The generator and other motors moved the water used to create the ice in large metal rectangular cans. A cooling tower built for cooling the water for making the ice was located behind the plant. It had cedar slat sides which prevented the water running over the pipes from going in all directions. The large ice cans were filled with the cooled water from the cooling tower and placed in the brine water that was cooled by the ammonia in the pipes running through the large tank. Once frozen, the ice was removed from the large vat by an overhead hoist to be dumped and moved into the freezer. Once inside the freezer, the large rectangular block of ice was put onto a track which moved it through a scoring machine which cut into to the ice making it easy to break the ice into 8 large blocks which could be more easily handled. This scoring process created “snow” which was a favorite of the kids especially during summer when you could have snowball fights. The football players and others use to go sit on the dock and eat snow on hot afternoons.
The ice was first used to ice down rail cars containing produce from the valley and the local area before it was shipped north. It was also sold to the trucks moving produce from the valley and the local area to northern markets to keep the produce fresh since at this time there were no refrigerated trailers. The ice was put into the trucks in block form or it was blown in by a conveyor after being crushed so that it covered all the produce in the trailers. Once refrigerated trailers began being used, many still had ice added to help cool the produce especially in the summer until the refrigeration unit could maintain the necessary temperature for the journey to market. Smaller ice plants were located from the valley to the north at intervals where more ice would be needed to replace what was melting in the trailers. These plants did not make the ice but would store ice from one of the plants located in the area.
The ice plant was closed between 1965 or 1966 due to the increase in refrigerated trailers being used to haul fresh produce which resulted in ice no longer being needed. School kids missed the snow and cold drinks that were found at the ice house. The building was then used to house the saws and machinery for wood working and construction. Walter, Sr. went into the construction business building houses. James (Jimmy) became a plumber and electrician and housed his business in the same structure.
The property was later sold to the George West ISD. The district removed the buildings and replaced it with the parking lot for the new administration building.