Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ye Olde Skating Pond

How many of us have returned to our childhood haunts in hope of finding the exact same replica of a warm memory we have been feeding off and nourishing for many years ? To answer my own question I can honestly say that it just happened to me ..... after 62 years almost to the day !
It was the winter of 1949-1950 and Old Santa Thornes Hardware had just brought me a brand spanking new pair of CCM skates making me one proud Pokioker ..... and rearin' to go! The weather was somewhat akin to what we've been experiencing this year ..... no snow before Christmas followed by a sudden cold snap after New Year's Day. I still remember hiking out to the Twin Ponds almost every day to check the thickness of the ice ... walking out a wee bit from the shoreline and hearing the ice crack and echo .... then high-tailing it back to safety should I have any doubts. After four or five days of freezing temperatures  Ken Cross came down with us kids ..... ventured gingerly out towards the middle of the pond ... stomping as he walked long .... then made the rounds of the edges ..... and finally declared the Lower Pond safe for skating. At that moment ... whether to thank Ken or simply to express our joy ... in unison we let out a big "Hurray!" and stormed the pond ..... hockey sticks in hand ...... simply struttin' our stuff as best we could and happy to enjoy the moment. The ice surface was snowfree, quite transparent and as smooth as the proverbial baby's rump ...... exactly the way we found it yesterday ... January 4th , 2012 when Rebekah snapped the above picture. 
Standing there reminiscing times gone by it all came back. In my mind's eye I could picture Tommy McDonald and myself placing our boots as goalposts at either end  while Harry Cross , Ray Earle and the McCoy boys laid old planks or branches to mark the spots at the far end ( see arrows ) where the ice was thinner .... even open water ... since water slowly flowed , trickled or seeped in from the Upper Pond on the far right and exited through the disharge on far left. These barricades also prevented the precious pucks from sliding into the open holes and sinking out of sight forever ! Should this happen , then it was down to Fred J. Watts or Thorne's Hardware to buy another one ... if we could muster up the moolah.There was no Wal-Mart .... nor Canadian Tire back then and pucks were hard to come by .... and so was money !

The Lower Pond played a vibrant role in our wee community's life back then ..... especially between Christmas and March 15th .... we'd even play hockey by the light of the moon ... or on almost any given night as the puck was black and the backgr√≥und setting was white. Now and then even a few adults would don their skates and show us kids a thing or two. I still have vivid memories of Jack Stevens piloting his wife , Kathleen , aound the rink ..... or the older girls ... Kathrine Johnston , Joan Earle , Roseena , Geraldine and cousin  Joy Estey carving out "eights" like Barbara Ann Scott. And then there were the younger girls who skated freely in our midst as we boys chased the puck around ...a couple of them even tending net once in a while ..... Margey Cross , Charlotte Johnston , Verna and Doreen Earle , Helen and Eilen Estey as well as Barb and Ardith Campbell ..... maybe Marie and Roberta Evans too ? Maybe hindsight smooths out the rough edges and embellishes the whole picture but I can't remember any squabbles between us hockey players and those who came there simply to skate. Whatever the reason or motivation might be we learned how to share very early in life back then...... a lesson for which I shall be forever grateful !


  1. Another wonderful story from the past. I also learned to skate and swim in that pond. My dad would always check the ice thickness for us and swimming was mom's job with the lot of us. We had so much fun growing up on the hill, I really do miss those times!!!
    Lynn Hamilton

  2. I still remember the smooth flat rock that we used as our diving platform....standing there getting the courage to jump into the cold water. It was a great place to grow up!

    Kathy Ruttan

  3. Thank you , Lynn... and it's great to see "younguns" like you and sister , Kathy , follow in our footprints and appreciate what your Dad and I called " living the great life of Riley ".... being brought up in wilds of Pokiok with loving parents , great neighbours and natural surroundings second to none! I miss those times too .... and wish your Dad were still among us so that we might reminisce together..... God love him !

  4. In my day , Kathy , we found the pond water rather warm and the bottom was covered with eel grass ... although we did often take a quick dip while fishing for eels that Eldon Ferris had put there or catching what we called "pinfish"... minnows use as bait down at the Crick where we often angled for smelt or tomacod. Eldon had also dropped two big sturgeon in the Lower Pond ... and we loved watching them as they circled the pool and especially when they swam by your "diving platform" !
    Thanks for encouraging an old geezer in his walk down Memory Lane.

  5. I've enjoyed reading your blogs Gerry, seeing all of the pictures and the familiar names. I grew up at the end of Highland Road as well. I also learned to skate on the pond and remember swimming in it as well. Thanks for sharing your memories!!
    Hali Cross

  6. Hi Hali,
    What a pleasure it is for me to know that folks like yourself and brother , Ken ...? are actually finding and reading this logbook of my early youth in Pokiok ... yes , Ken , Minnie , Margie and Harry were part and parcel of everyday life back then ... we played together , would daily see one another going to and from school ... even though we went to different schools ... few people had cars during the 1940s so we'd see Ken passing in front of our house on his way to work and then trekking back up and out the road ... painter's cap stained with day's fallout! Both Minnie and Margie were the epitome of sweetness and kindness....... truly great memories , Hali
    I see from the newspapers that Harry has become quite a celebrity with his golden voice ... have met him once since my coming home three years ago .... and am looking forward to chatting with Margie some day soon. Please come back again , Hali , and , in the meantime , kindly pass on my very best and warm greetings to both of them.