Wednesday, March 4, 2015


In my attic I have an old board that was used by my parents as a pack-board.  You can see slots where straps were attached or threaded through the board.

The cargo carried on this board was sometimes me, and later, my sister.  In the next image you can see how I (in snowsuit) was strapped securely to the board.

Click on the image to enlarge it. Note that I am smiling.
These photos do not reveal the shoulder straps which must be holding the pack-board to my parent's shoulders. My mother, left, and my father, right, were standing in our front yard (120 Nichols Street, Danvers) when these photos were taken. The next photo (same location) shows the pack-board and baby inside a knapsack carried by my father. Note that he was on skis. My sister and I were introduced to skiing at a very early age.

The next photo shows our whole family ready for a winter outing. My sister Jean was in the knapsack, and I was in a basket on the sled.  

Last week while cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks,  I observed young families carrying babies in a variety of special child-carriers, some carried on the back, some dragged on the snow.   I didn't see any home-made pack-boards in use, but there was a sturdy wooden pack frame on display in the ski lodge:
The pack-board in this display, seen February 2015 at Mt Van Hoevenberg, Lake Placid, NY, is oriented upside down, I think. Note the position of the shoulder straps. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Local skating

Last month I wrote about the joys of a small local ski hill. This month I'm writing about local skating, my memories of Danvers ponds where we skated as kids, and my current experiences skating outdoors in a local park where I now live.  See The joys of ice skating outdoors (posted online Jan 31).

A video of ice hockey at the Meadows was posted this weekend on the Danvers Herald (wicked local) website. I'm happy to see that outdoor skating is still a real option in Danvers. I gather from comments I've seen on Facebook that many people have skated at the Meadows for years, and have fond memories of their times there.

My memories are of other locations in Danvers: the small pond by our house in the Hathorne section of town, the Ice Pond on Ferncroft Road, and a frozen wetlands area beyond the old railroad line near Maple Street. (I think the latter may now be called the Laboa Swamp and/or College Pond, though I don't recall any name for it; my parents took me there because they liked the larger spaces for hockey games.)

For the first time in over 50 years, I have a brand new pair of ice skates. In December I rented skates at a local park, but they weren't feeling right. The discomfort around my ankles discouraged me from skating for very long. I also wanted to be free to skate outdoors even when the park rental office was closed. So I walked into a sporting goods store and asked about skates. The first store didn't sell skates, but I lucked out at the next store. They only had a few pairs, but one was appropriate for me. I was surprised to discover that recreational figure skates cost less than my typical walking shoes. I'd never actually bought skates before. About time! (My only previous new pair had been bought for me – "large enough to grow into" – by my parents, when I was young; those skates never quite fit correctly, though I did continue to use them for years. Then I moved to sunny CA and forgot about skating.)

I'm thrilled with a new skating opportunity in my current community. It isn't a rink, and it isn't a pond. It's a "skating path" created on flat ground, with refrigeration embedded below ground. Water is sprayed on the surface to create the ice we skate on.

Curves add character to the path, which is 300 feet long. Birch trees in the landscaping add interest. I love skating there.

Here are a few photos of the skating path, taken in December, both daytime and a night.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Liability concerns

I'm shaking my head over an Associated Press article in today's newspaper: "Liability concerns prompt some cities to limit sledding."  Some cities in Iowa and elsewhere have been closing sledding hills because of demands of insurance companies and fear of lawsuits.  Good grief!

Sledding was such a part of our life in Danvers.  Sledding, skating, and skiing.  All these winter activities carry risks, of course.  But to shut down a sledding or skiing hill seems the wrong approach. It would be better to post "Sled at your own risk" and "Ski at your own risk" signs, and let the fun continue.

I think there is a greater risk to our health (both physical and mental health) in prohibiting these activities. We'll create a society of stay-at-home, inactive people. It is healthy to go out in the cold and exercise, and to experience the thrills of near-misses, and to learn to get up from the inevitable spills and falls. Each one of us ought to accept responsibility for our own actions, and learn from our mistakes.

Those are my thoughts as I react to the newspaper article.  I'm biased, of course, because of wonderful childhood experiences on the frozen hills and ponds of Danvers, and my love for the Locust Lawn Ski Club (see my previous post), which ultimately was run out of business by the prohibitive cost of liability insurance.