Friday, February 8, 2013
The radio forecasters were droning on this morning about when and how much. I changed from the weather reports and sat in traffic listening to Corelli on XM...there was a sudden flood of memories of weekend days as a kid in the mid 70's waiting for the snow so we could do some serious sledding.
Sledding took place about 500 yards from my house on the hill at Ashbridge park. This was an old dairy farm from the early 1800's that had been purchased by the township and made into a very nice municipal space. In the center of the grounds was a fairly steep and long hill in the middle of what had been a pasture.
My brothers, myself, and other guys from the neighborhood would drag the Flexible Flyers from our respective the basements. A serious application of steel wool would have the metal runners gleaming. We would then pilfer candle stubs from the candlesticks in the dining room in order to wax the runners.A few drops of 3-in-1 Oil on the metal bars that acted as the steering mechanism would loosen the action from the dust and rust acquired over the off months.
Next we had to gear up for the cold. This was the mid 70's and we had no Goretex boots or nylon ski pants. You wore Hanes thermal long johns under your Levi's and pulled on about 6 pairs of socks. Next, one grabbed the bread bags my mom saved and pulled them over the 6 pair straight- jacketed feet to supposedly keep out the wet. Little did we know then that the bread bag or newspaper bag really just made your feet sweat and hence made your feet even more cold. Over the bagged feet would go the front zip rubber boots with about a micron of rubberized cotton insulation. This rig was like something from a freezing fox-hole in Bastogne but we were sure we were properly shod for several hours of sledding.Up top was a sweatshirt over a long sleeve Tee and maybe a hand me down "Mighty Mac" or a "P" coat for the cool older guys. Pilled up and holey wool gloves with faux leather palms passed for hand warming.
A fresh piece of brown string thru the holes on the cross piece of the sled to pull the vehicle and we were down the drive way and off to "The Park." The best times were when the snow was on a weekend and we could go night sledding. We would hit the hill and there would be 20 or 30 kids screaming and laughing, gliding down or walking back up. The candle nubs used on the runners would now be lit behind little snow packed wind-breaks and some of the older guys would be sneaking a smoke. The gloves were useless after 3 runs and your feet were freezing after 5 or 6. But you stayed out. You were 10 or 11 and the cold was scoffed at and you did not want your older brothers and their buddies to call you a candy ass if you packed it in early. We would sled in trains with our thinly gloved hands holding the metal curved back runner of the sled in front.....and wipe each other out and stack 3 on a sled or mount the Flyer backwards or sitting...we would yell at the kids who walked up the middle of the hill instead of the sides. Finally, after your Levi's were soaked thru and your feet were freezing and your hands were numb, you pulled your sled home. On a few occasions...like a weekend night snow, my Mom would greet us with home made ginger bread with lemon sauce and hot chocolate. The wet gear was piled in the basement and the sleds were against the house. You went to bed hoping it would be cold tomorrow so the sledding would be good again.