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Harvesting ice from local lakes was hard, but steady work

In this January 17, 1962 photo from the Becker County Museum, ice harvesters use a piece of equipment known as the "one armed Johnny" to saw through the ice down to the water level and separate out a ribbon of ice to be floated along a man-made channel of open water down to the tramway.

Today, ice harvesting is considered a novelty; a frozen piece of Becker County history that has been revived to create palaces, thrones, and other sculptures made of ice to decorate the winter home of King Isbit during Detroit Lakes' annual Polar Fest celebration. But once upon a time, this frozen crop was one of the county's biggest exports. Thousands of blocks of ice, each weighing 300-400 pounds, were pulled from the frigid water and pushed over a tramway into railcars, then shipped westward via the Northern Pacific Railroad. 

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

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