ES Independent Column – George Head

Before the advent of mechanized refrigeration, ice was a luxury. The only ice that the earliest European settlers to this area had for home use was collected in the winter off creeks, ponds and rivers. A hard freeze meant quantities of ice could be cut and packed in sawdust in cellars or specially built ice houses. Sometimes ice stored this way would last through summer.

The first commercial ice plant in Carroll County was the one located near the train depot in Eureka Springs. Southwestern Electric employed an ice deliveryman who traveled around town in a horse drawn wagon delivering ice that was put into wooden iceboxes to keep food cold. Customers displayed cards that indicated the size of order they wanted. One long-time deliveryman was George Head.

I’ve heard about George Head from a variety people and have never heard an unkind word said against him. In a 1949 Chicago Tribune newspaper article about square dancing in the Ozarks, Marge Lyon said George Head was “the best liked guy in town.” The article continues that he directed Saturday night square dancing, while “teaching perspiring, panting tourists who don’t realize what they are getting into until they are midway of a set.”

For a variety of reasons, George Head was popular with the children of Eureka Springs. He taught them to square dance as Hedgehoppers in the annual Folk Festival for one. For another, he allowed kids following the ice wagon on a broiling hot summer day to grab ice chips. If none were available, George Head would stop and chip ice for the children.

George and Ruby Head raised their family on Elk Street in Eureka. Besides working for the electric company and delivering ice, George was a volunteer fireman for 38 years. When he became fire chief, I’m told he was the best one the town ever had. At the end of his life, George Head was the mayor of Eureka Springs. He died in 1971 and is buried in the city cemetery.