Glancing Back: In Short Supply

July 24, 2001
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Serving Overseas, Not Servicing at Home

World War II created a shortage of refrigerator servicemen throughout the country. The National Refrigeration War Council met in Washington, DC, to formulate specific remedies for the breakdown of commercial and domestic refrigeration systems, and to present the facts on the service crisis to government representatives who might be able to put these remedies into action.

The food shortage was anticipated to get worse the longer the war continued, and the average American diet consisted at that time of approximately 60% perishable foods, so the necessity of keeping food from spoiling before and after it was brought home from the grocery store was essential.

In 1943, there were 2 million commercial refrigeration units used for preparing and preserving food, and 20 million domestic mechanical refrigerators. Neither type of unit would be made until the war’s end, so none of these units could be replaced with new ones. In order to keep them running, servicemen were needed to repair and maintain the units.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 28,000 service engineers, according to the council, and by the time the council met in 1943, there were 8,900 service engineers.

In a related article, even using an icebox didn’t help the shortage. “The only drivers we can get as replacements are either very young or very old,” one ice company official said. “They won’t or can’t carry ice above the first floor, and if the customer doesn’t have her money or coupon ready, they just don’t bother to call back.”


Casting About For Castings

In an article penned by Frank J. Versagi for the July 23, 1973 News, it was reported that several air conditioner manufacturers underwent shortages of 4- and 5-ton hermetic compressors. One or two also reported problems getting 3.5-ton compressors.

Unitary a/c producers told The News that they started to feel the pinch in early June. Most of the a/c manufacturers that spoke with The News described the situation as an inconvenience rather than a calamity, but there were a few cases where school installations were involved that were supposed to be finished by September 1.

Copeland and Tecumseh conceded that “Stuff which should be moving out of here right now won’t be made and shipped until September.”

Ken Goldman, then director of advertising for Tecumseh, said, “Even a little increase in demand, coupled with the squeeze caused by the casting supply problem, would have the effect of creating a shortage, and we have been hit with an unusually high demand for 4’s and 5’s.”

Matt Diggs, Copeland’s vice president of marketing at the time, said the gray iron casting shortage is “nationwide, even worldwide. Among the things happening is that the automobile companies are buying up all the gray iron for disc brakes, I believe.”

Publication date: 07/23/2001

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