"the refrigerator with the cylindrical motor on top"
This would almost certainly have been a GEC 'Monitor-Top' refrigerator. Introduced in 1927, it was the first widely available domestic refrigerator. The top assembly contained the compressor which emitted a lot of heat and was therefore designed to stand away from the cold cabinet section. The units originally sold for $300 and many utility companies allowed customers to meet the payment by adding $10 a month to their bills.