Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

We lived in Michigan one winter during Wor...

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 skating rink.

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 be.

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 over.

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.”

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