Remembering outdoor antics of winters past

GERALD PERRY

Winter always takes me back to the days of my youth.

One year I got a new sled for Christmas. There were no hills close by to go sledding.

We would have to go down to Vreeland Park at Quarry and there was a hill there, but it wasn’t very high in most places.

But the Huntington drain ran there through the park before they tubed it in and there was this steep hill next to Quarry Road where the drain used to run under. It was maybe 30 feet down. 

I didn’t want to take my new sled down that part of the hill, because it looked rather dangerous. But my friend, Jerry Stein, said he would do it and not to worry he would be careful.

I kept saying, “I don’t know, it’s pretty steep,” and Jerry kept insisting it would be okay. 

So Jerry sat down on my brand new sled with his feet on the steering bar. I gave him a shove and away he went, down the hill. Wow, that was something to see. 

What we didn’t reckon with was that it was so steep that there was not enough angle, so that when you got to the bottom the front of the sled hit and dug into the ground. 

Well, Jerry went flying over the front of the sled, flew about three feet in the air and about 10 feet forward. 

I went running down the hill to where Jerry was to see if he was hurt. It ended up he was okay, but my brand new sled was in pieces and all bent up. Jerry kept trying to bend everything back together, but it was a total wreck. 

I kept saying, “My dad’s gonna be so mad. My dad’s gonna kill me.” And Jerry said, “don’t tell him I was on it.” (some friend).  

I once went out tobogganing with my school chums, Tom McCartney, Jerry Stein and Adam Lees. We didn’t have a toboggan but Jerry said that he knew where to get one. So we went to a neighbors house and borrowed their (brand new) wooden toboggan and headed to Rouge Park where there was supposed to be a specially designed toboggan hill. 

When we got there, there was a long, long line of people waiting to get on this hill.

Sooo, Tom suggested that we go down the hills that he spotted on the way there. 

Needless to say there were no real good places to go down the hill because of all the trees, but Tom was so intent that he pointed out a spot where there was an opening in the trees and he wanted to go down that spot. 

Tom sat down on the (brand new) toboggan and said, “push me.” So, we did. 

Now if you have ever ridden on a Toboggan, you know there is no steering mechanism. That’s why they build special chutes with rails to keep them going straight. And did I mention there are no brakes, either? 

You probably guessed what happened next. Tom went down the hill real fast and couldn’t avoid a tree stump in the middle of the opening. Tom went flying and so did the toboggan. 

Again, I went running down the hill to see if Tom was okay. And, yes, he was all right, but the toboggan was in a million pieces. This time, Jerry Stein had to explain to the neighbor what happened. 

We never went sledding or tobogganing after that. 

Now back in the 1970s,1980s, when I was in charge of the landfill, we were deluged with requests from residents to build a sled hill on the completed hill next to Sibley Road. So one day, City Manager Harry Kollman called me and told me to open the gates and let the people sled down that small bunny hill. 

So to be safe, I bought a bunch of straw bales to be placed on the hill from bottom to top so that people going up the hill would not get run into by the people coming down the ill. 

Unfortunately, it rained and the straw bales froze solid. The first person to ruhn into a frozen bale broke his leg. 

Wouldn’t you know it, that first person was none other than City Manager Harry Kolhman

He was really mad at me for not replacing the frozen bales with fresh ones. 

I’m sure Harry would laugh if I reminded him of that now. 

God love him, wherever he is today. 

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