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Kerosene (paraffin) refrigerators are very efficient. These days, if there is no electricity available then Calor gas is generally used as an alternative but during and just after World War II there was no Calor gas available, so kerosene was used. Kerosene was the universal fuel in country Australia. During the depression of the 1930's people became very inventive with empty kerosene tins; each tin held four gallons and was rectangular in shape with a handle at the top. Chests of drawers made of kerosene tins now sell for a fortune in the antique/collectables market.
Kerosene was used to fuel stoves, refrigerators, irons, space heaters and bathheaters. These bathheaters were a great advance in the old chip bathheaters which delivered a trickle of hot water which very rapidly went from luke warm to cold. The trick was to keep feeding chips into the heater as one showered which rather defeated the purpose since you either put out the fire with the now wettened wood or allowed the warm water to run away while you tried to encourage the heater to greater efforts. I do not recall ever having a hot bath when staying with my grandparents but even after electricity was installed my grandfather clung stubbornly to his old chip heater.
Because the kerosene refrigerator was so efficient the butter was rendered too hard to use and so it was kept in a contraption called a Coolgardie Safe. Coolgardie is a town in the goldfields area of Western Australia. Many people moved from South Australia, where I grew up, to the goldfields in search of an easy fortune at the diggings. It was not an easy life there as it was a very hot, dry area with uncertain rainfall and about 600 miles from the nearest city. Until a water pipeline was laid from the west coast to the goldfields panning for gold was done by a system of sieves called dry-blowing.
To keep the foodstuffs from going off in the heat the Coolgardie Safe was developed on the principle of evaporative cooling. The safe which my grandparents used was a cylindrical mesh contraption with a well for water at the top and a gutter around the base. Canvas was stretched from top to bottom and the water dampened the canvas. Subsequent cooling in the interior kept the butter at a good spreadable consistency.
Occasionally the refrigerator would get over-enthusiastic and things outside of the freezer box would start to freeze as well so that the milk had to be thawed before it could be used and the meat became difficult to cut up. When things became too hard to manage my grandmother would announce that the fridge would have to be upended. This was an activity which involved any able-bodied people who could be persuaded to lend a hand.
First of all the fridge had to be emptied of its contents and the flame turned off. Next, the accumulation of ice had to be melted away - an activity known as de-frosting, which, owing to the clever fridges which we have now is becoming an obsolete rite only performed in secret to the beer fridge in the shed. Once the fridge had been de-iced the whole family would be summoned and the it would be carefully turned upside down and left to stand on its head. It remained in that position until all the coolant had gurgled through whatever coolants gurgle through , after which the process had to be reversed and the fridge stood back onto its legs again.
As an entertaining interlude for a small child upending the refrigerator was a delightful activity. One of the few things which I regret about the introduction of modern appliances it the limited scope which they produce for such bizarre pastimes.