River to Skate Away On

Becky at 5 with new skates
Becky at 5 Years with New Skates

Like most children growing up in Northern Michigan in the Fifties and Sixties, I learned to ice skate. I wasn’t talented, since my ankles were rather weak, but I enjoyed the activity. The holiday season transports me back through the years to the ice ponds of my youth. The current temperatures here in Texas have even stayed low enough to help the temporary rink at the corner stay frozen, and I enjoy watching the skaters from my second-floor perch.

In childhood, we often skated to music at the large ice rink in a neighboring town. Memories of frozen toes and the song “Sugar Shack” surface when I think of those years. Before the climate started to change (and before we knew it would turn into a crisis), a winter recreational area called Silver Valley, in the Huron National Forest situated near my hometown, offered toboggan runs, skiing, and frozen ponds for skaters. Being a cautious child, skating was the only thing I wanted to try, and I remember the rinks being much too crowded for my taste.

Log Warming Shelter at Silver Valley

Even closer to home, we had several other options. My clearest recollection is the time my dad shoveled the snow off a large area of ice on the creek behind our house. My mother was prone to worry, so the creek was a place she often warned her children to avoid during the other seasons, for fear we would slip into the water. With that same fear in the back of my mind, the idea of skating on that frozen version still seemed scary to me. I imagined the snapping turtles, snakes and minnows underneath the crust just waiting for me to fall through. My brother and sister agreed to try nature’s ice, along with a group of neighbor kids. Who was I to chicken out, so I finally agreed and followed my father toward the creek.

The surface was a bit bumpy, but I was just hitting my stride when I heard Dad yelp in surprise. My worst fear had come true, and he’d fallen through the ice! With a pounding heart I skated his direction, near the bank. As it turned out, his one leg had gone through just to the knee. He said it was a mushy spot in the ice caused by some trickling water entering the creek. Not sure if it was from a natural spring or some type of city pipe. That was all I needed, and I hung up my skates for the day!

One year, my dad made an ice rink right in our back yard. Just as he would come home from work in the warm seasons and turn on the hose to water the flowers, that winter, my father often got out the hose to add more water to form a new layer on our rink. That was also a little bumpy, I remember, but it was fun to skate in our yard and quite a novelty to share with our neighbors. I asked him about that, years later, and he admitted it was a lot of extra work, but he knew we liked it, and he hated to give it up once he got started.

1961 – Big Sister, Terri, and Becky  Skating in Yard

I couldn’t possibly write about ice skating without including one of my favorite songs, “River,” by Joni Mitchell. Sad but lovely.

64 thoughts on “River to Skate Away On

  1. Lovely skate down memory lane. You had a wonderful father. I’m so happy you provided the link to Jono Mitchel’s River because that song had just started to glide around my brain. I learned to skate on a cranberry bog on Cape Cod. I learned that frozen reservoirs were much smoother than the bogs which had bits of bush and cranberries trapped on the surface. I was never a good skater either–my ankles were fine but my coordination is still klutzy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Pat, and I’m happy that you like this song, too! Yes, my dad WAS special, but he was at work most of the time like many fathers from that era. I suppose that’s why the times he DID spend with us stick out even more in my mind. Now that’s a story…ice skating on a cranberry bog on Cape Cod! It was fun even if we weren’t very good skaters, right?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great story/memory. Your dad sounds great. We used to skate at the park and it was also lumpy and had twigs and stones on it. I was also not a truly good ice skater, not ot mention the fact that I was always freezing. Roller skating was my thing. Your story reminds me of so many fun times. Thank you for that. I’m with your mom. I’d be afraid of my kids skating on a river. I love the song, it’s one of my favorites.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. We had a couple of ponds in Bellevue Nebraska. Music — not pop music but classical music coming out of a record player. As I read through all the Boomer memories appearing these days on WP I get a deeper understanding of the gulf between us and the younger generation. Also beautiful song. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My dad said when he was a kid, it got cold enough here for ponds to freeze over and for people to go skating. Can’t imagine that ever happening now.

    Anyway, lovely memories in your story. Thanks for showing us the photos – I love to see images of the past.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy you liked this, Liz! Yes, my parents were both very good people. As far as parenting, my dad and mom were definitely a team, since he was gone at work much of the time. My mother was the one who kept the household running smoothly, which I suppose is rather typical of the time period.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a lovely post, Becky! Your memories of skating as a child took me back to my own childhood, where the only skating we did was at one of those rinks with the music playing that you mentioned. But I especially liked the first picture of you standing proudly with your new skates, in front of a Christmas tree decorated with tinsel!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ll join the others in saying your lovely post jogged old memories for me too. I sucked at ice skating but wished I could have done it. (I love watching skating on TV; it combines athleticism and artistry and impresses me to no end.) The images you create of the “skating rinks” you used are very strong and I relate to your cautious/fearful child -self. Lastly, I must say that although I’m a bit younger than you, I too sported that hair-do seen in your first photo – why, of why, did they do that to us?!😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Becky, you brought back so many childhood memories of skating. My Dad, like yours, loved to skate and successfully infused at least one of us (me) with his enjoyment. He was a great coach on our Saturday morning ventures up to Bear Mountain in New York. And the perfect video with a song of Joni’s that I love. All perfect. Thank you so much! Jeanne

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember skating on a little frozen pond in Prince George, British Columbia in the ’60s. And on an outdoor rink near a school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the ’80s. But the best thing your post reminded me of was a dream I had once of skating up a frozen river, just like in Joni Mitchell’s song. Thanks for your memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your shelter looks very much like the one at our skating rink in Iowa. It was at a local park: very large, and very well-maintained. It was close enough that I could walk, and many nights — especially with full moons — I’d walk down there and spend an hour or two on the ice. It’s among my favorite memories now.

    I do have one Houston ice-skating story. There was a terrible, days-long freeze in 1983. The pipes at my apartment complex burst, and the concrete courtyards around the swimming pools became covered with inches-thick ice. I still had my ice skates at the time. I brought them down, and did some skating. It was the oddest experience possible, but it certainly was memorable. Thanks for your wonderful story, that brought it all back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How pleasant in Iowa, to have a park with a skating rink so close by! Your Houston story is amazing, and I can’t even imagine that much cold weather here in Texas. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your memories!


    1. Cynthia, so happy to hear this brought back memories for you, too! Interesting tidbit about Carrie Fisher and the song. I think that it speaks to many people, which is what a good song, book or story often does!


  10. a lovely piece of writing. I enjoyed this. My daughter used to be an ice skater and through the competitions she took part in, we travelled to Boston twice, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and cities on the east coast of Australia. IT was a wonderful time. She still skated now from time to time as a senior. We’re all getting older 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post, Becky! When I started pond skating, my gutsier best friend had to push me on a chair. (I later became a competitive figure skater, lol.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s