We lived in Michigan one winter during World War II, and I watched as the
parks department flooded some outdoor areas to make ice skating rinks. With
temperatures in the teens and colder, the ice froze to a smooth surface, and
people enjoyed skating there for two months or more. That was OK for Michigan,
so why not Missouri? Our teenagers, Walt and Nancy, helped as we began to
level a strip of ground to make a skating rink on our farm. Chub thought we
were out of our minds. We promised to put the lawn back in condition after the
ice skating weather was over.
We chose a fairly level area near the swimming pool so we could use the same
water supply. We used the tractor with its road grader blade to start leveling
and then did a lot of spade and shovel work to make the strip about 24 feet
long and 12 feet wide. Before really cold weather arrived, we lined the hole
with heavy black plastic wide enough to cover the dirt borders of the rink.
Then we waited for cold weather, dreaming of the hours of fun we’d have on our
Missouri is not Michigan! We sprayed water, and ice formed in the lowest
places. We added more water. What froze during the week thawed before the
weekends, and before we knew it the winter was over. But the fun of skating on
the rink didn’t match the fun of making it and imagining how much fun it would
We recalled the philosophy of author J.B. Nash: “It’s more enjoyable to
travel hopefully than to arrive.” He was right. We never had the rink
completely covered with skating ice, but we had fun anticipating. And we did
put the lawn back in shape in the spring.
One of our students at Christian College was an accomplished figure skater,
and she yearned to skate for her roommates and other friends. They were eager
to see her perform and to have some lessons. Students from Northern states
were also eager to get on the tennis court rink. There was no rink in central
Missouri at that time.
I got permission to spray one area of the college tennis courts, and the
grounds crew saw me doing that and took over the job. They wanted to enjoy the
show, too. The ice formed in one small area near the court gate, and the
figure skater had one good spin there, much to the delight of the men who had
spent hours out in the cold spraying the area.
Alas! The ice was thin at the edges, and it was obvious that skate blades
would have damaged the blacktop surface of the tennis court. The ice that
froze during the week thawed before the weekends, and too soon the winter was
When Columbia built a park on the south side of Again Street, it included a
tennis court equipped with a hydrant and side boards and was maintained as an
outdoor skating rink during winter cold spells. I once took about 25 students
there for an hour of skating. After a few years, Old Man Winter won that
battle, too, and the Again Street rink was unused and forgotten.
I’ll admit that all three of those skating rinks were failures, but I defend
the efforts with a quotation: “The person who doesn’t make mistakes doesn’t
make much of anything.”