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The coolest job in town

Medford Ice delivery driver Ben Anderson likes providing a valued local summer service

Ben Anderson expected to spend the summer of 2002 toiling at a local mill.

But a tip from a friend led to what might be the coolest summer job in town: driving a 26,000-pound truck for Medford Ice.

On days when the mercury pours over the 100-degree mark, Anderson and his fellow drivers are more welcome than Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

It's surprising how serious people take their ice, says the 20-year-old Anderson. People are really killers for ice.

A typical day finds Anderson arriving at 6 a.m., collecting about 8&

189; tons of crushed and block ice into bins then loading them on to trucks destined for 120 clients.

The mill job would've been graveyard, Anderson says. But this is exactly what I wanted, working 6 to 4 every day.

Anderson began in the bagging room, but his good driving record put him on the road when one of the company's four primary drivers quit.

I like that better, admits Anderson, who will enroll at Southern Oregon University this fall after attending Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, last year. And I got a raise because drivers have to do a lot more work.

He practiced driving a truck in the lot behind Medford Ice's Crater Lake Highway plant then rode along with another driver for several days before launching out on his own.

Basically you drive slower and watch out for things, Anderson says.

The tricky part is getting the ice off the truck on to loading docks or into stores.

Those bins can fall off (the lift gate) real easy, Anderson says. It would be really easy to screw up a lot of ice, so you have to be careful.

10 a.m., Anderson has made a half-dozen deliveries en route to Rogue River and Gold Hill. Some days he's through with the schedule by noon. But there are the inevitable telephone pages from retailers needing more ice for customers.

There are some small, out of the way places where no one goes, Anderson says. But they really want their ice.

It's said that Medford Ice & Cold Storage once ranged along the downtown railroad tracks from 10th Street to Barnett Road, supplying ice for refrigerated rail cars that transported the Rogue Valley's once diverse and burgeoning fruit crops to distant markets.

Naumes Inc., one of the world's premier pear growers, bought Medford Ice & Cold Storage in 1974, primarily for its storage capacity. A year later, Dick Westerberg, founded a family corporation and launched Medford Ice Service.

Naumes manufactured the ice, we processed and delivered it, says Medford Ice Vice President Dave Westerberg, who worked summers and weekends as a teenager and college student before moving up to run the company in recent years. We rented storage space for the finished product, got our own trucks and did deliveries.

1982, the business had grown to where it needed new equipment and a new location at 3005 Crater Lake Highway, formerly Universal Equipment, a John Deere dealer.

We needed to get away from taking a product designed for icing down railroad cars and getting into modern technology, Westerberg says. There were a lot of inherent costs as far as handling and packaging ice. I spent one whole winter with a friend from high school and an unemployed neighbor insulating and retrofitting to meet our needs.

In addition to its retail and wholesale outlets, Medford Ice supplies dry ice to medical labs and hospitals for maintaining specimens. Business also picks up before Christmas, when Bear Creek Corp. ships gift packs.

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Ben Anderson's job delivering ice might seem like the ultimate summer job, but he says stepping into the freezer each morning can literally be a pain. Click the photo to see a larger (31k) version. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli