What kid doesn’t love ice skating?
Back in the 1950s our Rutland City neighborhood had a couple of swampy areas that froze over. After a snowstorm the kids would get shovels and turn them into skating rinks. The ice was never very smooth but it served the intended purpose.
Neighborhood skating got a whole lot better when Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich created a large skating rink on the extra lot next to their home. They even lighted it for nighttime skating and all of the kids were welcome to use it, provided they were home on time.
Our neighborhood had at least 20 kids so the Goodrich rink was a busy place. For the most part our skating there was injury-free except when a boy’s skate connected with my friend’s eyebrow area. I walked her home with a trail of blood along the way! Stitches were required but she was right back out there the next day.
Not too far from our home is Piedmont Pond. The property owners made it known that it was off limits for skating, but since when did that stop a kid? In eighth grade, four of us decided to meet at the part of the pond farthest away from the owners’ houses. We hoped they wouldn’t be looking out the window. We had only skated for a few minutes when the ice started to start break up. Fortunately the water wasn’t deep and we pulled out the boy who fell in. By then all of us were wet and the skating was over!
When I was younger, most families had just one car and our fathers usually took it to work. That meant most mothers didn’t have any way to bring kids to a public rink after school. I am sure that is why we were so creative with our ponds and swampy areas. I remember many happy days at the “pollywog” near my cousin’s house on Engrem Avenue. It was filled with kids just like the places around my house.
When weekends rolled around our parents could bring us to the public rink. For many years, Rotary Rink on North Street was the only option offered by the City of Rutland Recreation Department. I was introduced to public skating there. The ice was smooth as glass. We were required to skate in one direction and a voice came over the loudspeaker if you tried to do otherwise. If anyone got too rough you also heard “the voice” warning the offender to cut it out! An unusual feature of Rotary was the fact that you skated right up to the door of the basement. Once inside there were benches to sit on as you warmed up. There was often an older couple at Rotary who skated around arm in arm in perfect “sync.” Even the young people watched in admiration of their grace.
By the time I was a teenager there were two additional rinks in Rutland. One was the Meadow Street Rink that served the kids living in the southwest part of the city and White’s Rink, which was in the southeast section of Rutland. Because I lived closer to White’s, that was the meeting place for many of us in my teen years. It was always fun to go there and skate under the lights.
Skating was more of a recreational sport in my youth. Although hockey skates were worn by most of the boys, the sport itself was not as popular as it is today. The girls wore white figure skates, often with bells or pompoms. Skating backward was the goal of most of us, as well as making a figure 8.
A popular game on the rink was “crack the whip.” An “anchor skater” would link his or her arm with another skater, who would in turn do the same to another until there was a chain of skaters. The object was to pick up speed and when the anchor skater stopped, the rest of the skaters would get swung around into a curve, just as when a whip is cracked.
Could I skate backwards today? Probably! Could I do a figure 8? Not likely! Maybe I should lace up my skates (I still have them) and see just what skills remain. On second thought, maybe I should just enjoy looking back on that activity. Landing on the hard ice could cause major damage!