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Welcome to the Paleofuture blog, where we explore past visions of the future. From flying cars and jetpacks to utopias and dystopias.

A good old fashioned ice melting contest


January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

This morning I found these photos of two people participating in what the USC Libraries describes as an "ice melting contest." Wondering what the hell an ice melting contest was, I did a little digging.

Apparently in January of 1952 four cities in the American Southwest squared off to determine who had the most sunshine. The cities of Carlsbad, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; El Paso, Texas and Los Angeles, California all agreed to put out a one-ton block of ice. Whichever city's ice melted first was to be declared the winner.

Well, as you can see from these photos, Los Angeles was hit with rain. And though the rain seemed to do the trick in helping to melt the ice, it disqualified Los Angeles from the contest.

January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

The woman in the photo is French actress Corinne Calvet, who was in a string of films in the 1950s like What Price Glory? and The Far Country

The man on the right is A. K. Showalter, a meteorologist who according to his obituary in the L.A. Times, "apologized in verse" for inaccurate weather forecasts. A July 5, 1953 story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune quoted Showalter as saying that Los Angeles was the worst city in the country to be a weatherman. "The less weather you have, the more likely it is to affect people," he said.

January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

According to the January 17, 1952 issue of the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso was the eventual winner of the ice melting contest when its ice melted in 36 hours, 41 minutes and 52 seconds, beating Carlsbad by 5 hours and 12 minutes.

The funny twist to all of this is that cities in the Southeast wanted in on the action, but were told to stick it where the sun was not, in fact, shining. Apparently Galveston and Corpus Christi in Texas, as well as St. Petersburg, New Smyrna Beach and Sebring in Florida wanted to participate.

But Frank Kindel, the manager of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce who came up with the ice melting stunt said that those cities couldn't play because they weren't in the Southwest. Kindel said that the cities were "swampy jungle towns" and was quoted as saying "we were testing sunshine, not steam heat from swamps."

This, as you can imagine, didn't go over well in the Southeast. The excerpt below is from the January 17, 1952 El Paso Herald-Post.

C.E. McCleland, editor of the Galveston News, was shocked when he heard his town classified as a "swampy, jungle town" by Mr. Kindel.

Mr. McClelland challenged Mr. Kindel to a duel with ice tongs at 50 paces.

"Let's make it ice picks," Mr. Kindel said.

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