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U3A Writing: Coolgardie Safe

Jam tins filled with water kept the ants away...

Beryl Sampson recalls the Coolgardie safe, an early device used for keeping food cool in hot weather.

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The Coolgardie safe was invented by miners in the town of Coolgardie in Western Australia. It came before ice chests and refrigerators and was an efficient method of keeping food cool in the hot weather.

It consisted of a wooden frame on four legs, approx. 4 ft. 6 inches high and it sat about 2 ft. off the ground.

The legs stood in jam tins filled with water so that the ants couldn't climb up them.

It had one shelf of slats in the centre and a floor. The 3 sides and the door were covered with hessian and a galvanized iron tray dropped into the top of the frame and overlapped the sides. This was filled with water. Flannel cloths were lain over the sides to keep the hessian wet. A gutter at the bottom collected waste water which ran into a bucket.

As the breeze blew onto the sides and the water evaporated, it cooled the inside of the safe.

My husband, Richard, grew up in the country in Eaglehawk, Victoria, and as a young boy in the Thirties he remembers having to fill the tray with water every day and scrub it clean once a week to remove the slime.

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