Winter Sports

By Phyllis H. Beebe



Young folks have been going by here on their way to the skating rink the past few days. I used to love ice skating when I was a girl. The men would clear snow off the mill pond and children would skate during the day. In the evening it would be young people and adults who came to enjoy this winter sport. There were no shoe-skates then, just wooden or iron runners strapped to one's shoes.

It was lovely gliding over the ice arm and arm with your beau, the laughter of friends and neighbors ringing around you. I liked to slip off by myself sometimes to look up at the stars through softly falling snow. It seemed so peaceful and beautiful.

A bonfire was lit to warm frosted fingers and toes. You could sit on a log and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee or cocoa while thawing out a bit. There was a comraderie then that made one's heart glow warmly tho the air was chill.

Sledding was another great sport. There was a grand hill in town, impassable for horses and wagons in winter. which became a sliding place. When snowfall began sleds were brought out and repainted or the runners smoothed and polished. The hill was steep so a path was kept covered with ashes while the sledding lasted. When the snow was deep enough to begin sliding, a log was rolled down the hill to pack down a good base. Gradually as the days wore on the slides came to resemble the fabled glass hill on which a princess sat.

Little folks only went part way up and kept well out of the way of the big boys slides. Occasionally a child would be taken down the whole way by a big brother or a boy trying to impress an older sister. OH, what a thrill that was!

More than once when Jos and I lived on the farm the snow piled up so high you couldn't see over the top of it along the path to the barn. The children used to bring their sleds in the house and slide from their bedroom windows down the shed roof and right on down the snow drifts in the back yard. They thought that was great fun.

Once when Ma and I were visiting Aunt Ange and Uncle Al at the cheese factory, there was a big snow. Rachael didn't have a sled so we each took one of Aunt Ange's dish pans to slide down the creek bank onto the ice. That Christmas we each got a red sled. They had bouquets of flowers painted on them and the runners were 10 or 12 inches high and curved up at the front in a fancy scroll.

There were other warmer amusements in winter, too. A taffy pull or popcorn party could be a Sunday School class or just a group of friends affair. How delicious the house would smell from the boiling molasses and how it would echo with laughter as the cooled taffy was scooped up from buttered platters and pulled into long coiled ropes or popcorn balls didn't cling together for someone. There are hands that can't make popcorn balls, you know. The syrup coated kernels just stubborning cling to fingers no matter how well buttered instead of clumping neatly into a ball. It takes a certain strength and sly twist of the hands to form a firm ball. Of course eating the warm coated corn off your hands is fun, too, in spite of your friends teasing your ineptness.

A small girl could creep down stairs in her nighgown to be wrapped in a shawl and regailed with bits of delicious taffy or warm popcorn. While tucked up in a corner of the sofa she could enjoy the chatter and singing that usually followed untill she fell asleep. In the morning, sticky of mouth and hand, she'd wake up in her own bed with no recollection of getting there.

Occasionally the school house would be opened in the evening for a Singing School. Led by an itenant singing teacher or just someone with a good voice and a tuning fork, everyone who liked to sing would gather to practice singing in parts or rounds or just plain singing. Other times folks would gather for a sleigh ride nested in straw and wrapped in buffalo or bear skin robes. Singing old favorite songs produced puffs of steam with each word and the ride usually ended at someone's home where hot drinks, cake or cookies were waiting.

There were all day Ladies Aide meetings or quilting bees which brought new playmates (no baby sitters in those days) and interesting foods. There were also spelling bees, not my favorite sport, where adults and children vied against each other. Maybe not what you'd consider a sport today but these activities filled our quiet days many decades ago.