Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Skating on Thick Ice

Every winter, all the neighbourhood kids would wait impatiently for the news that the ice of Lily Lake was thick enough to skate on. Once that news came, we had hours and hours of free fun and outdoor exercise for weeks on end.
We often went skating after school when the rink was virtually empty. Lots of room for flying along, cracking the whip and practicing spins and fancy stops. We spun and flew until it was dark and time to go home, reluctantly, for supper.

(Wordsworth, in The Prelude, Book First, evokes the cold, the sounds, and the motion of skating far better than I can. Sir Ian McKellen reads the skating epidsode.)

On sunny Sunday afternoons, what seemed like hundreds filled the rink with laughter and the ring of steel skates. Toddlers, teens, couples, whole families went round and round to the tinny sound of the Skater's Waltz, played from the pavilion.

Waldteufel, Emile - Skater's Waltz .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

I was always fascinated by the couples, skating  rhythmically side to side, with arms linked, laughed fondly at the toddlers walking in their first skates, and avoided the boys who flashed past nearly knocking us down.

When I was a teenager, evening skating parties were popular. On a Saturday night, the music was more contemporary and our outfits probably more important than our skating. After the skating, we would go to a house party, always with hot chocolate and something warm to eat, maybe chili or chowder. And though I'm sure there was the odd beer or whiskey flask around, they really were simpler, less complicated times.

Flying exhilaration, strenuous exercise, laughter, rosy cheeks and hot chocolate all form an important part of my winter memories from home.

Lily Lake is in the Rockwood Park in the midst of Saint John, New Brunswick, and most fortunately, was a ten-minute walk from my childhood home.


lifeshighway said...

I have never had to pleasure of ice skating in the open air. It was a favorite pass time when I was in high school as there was an indoor ice rink in a neighboring town. At that time, skating was very uncommon in the South.

ChrisJ said...


If you ever get the opportunity, take it. It's completely different from indoor skating.

ONE of THE GUYS said...

We had a pond like this growing up. Well that's what we called it. It was more an indentation in the ground that the fire dept would flood every winter. But it was great! Safe! And we would spend every afternoon skating, playing tag games, hockey. So much fun. So many great memories!
I'm sad for my kids because they just don't have that. And they probably won't be the best skaters because rink time is expensive around here.

ChrisJ said...


Yes, it was really special. Indoor skating is fun, too, but just not the same.

Ciss B said...

Your post told things much like I did during the winters as a child and teen. I loved skating! I have to admit there were only a few times I remember skating on a small lake near us. Michigan can have hard winters - but we also have had many warm ones as well so the city fathers built a skating center where our hockey team (at the time), the Zephyrs (IHL)could call home and there we skated every Saturday all winter during open skating. I even remember that waltz being played when it was time for the couple skate at the end of our 2-3 hours on the ice.

I found the poem and the Skater's Waltz set the tone for your article and I really enjoyed reading it! Thanks for the memories all three evoked for me tonight. I had forgotten how much fun it was to skate.

ChrisJ said...


I think the memory-evoking posts are becoming my favourites. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.


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ChrisJ said...


Thank you for your kind words. I hope you visit again.