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January 2011
A Sledding – We Used To Go!

Gee, I remember as a kid spending an entire day sledding. Is that a lost winter fun time for the youth of today?

For two days in the truck, driving over the recent snowy landscape that I know house children, there was nary a kid in sight playing in the snow, never mind any out there with sleds.

Back in the day, we’d get outside early, bundled up in snow suits and rubber galoshes with steel buckles that froze closed. When we got wet, we trudged home to change clothes, eat lunch and get right back out again.

We had a great system to dry our clothes: big cast iron, steam heat radiators. It was a no-fail set up. There were always dry clothes so we could hurry up and get back outside.

I grew up within walking distance of Branch Brook Park in North Newark, where there was the best possible sledding to be found. People drove there with carloads of kids to spend hours sledding.

There were slopes for all ages and degrees of sledding ability. We even built jumps by packing snow in an elevated fashion on the slopes so we could fly airborne. Wow, was that ever so cool! Great old Flexible Flyer sleds.

We sled in twos. Yes, two people on the sled at once, one laying on top of the other or two sitting in tandem with the rear sledder steering with his feet.

Have you ever hooked up several sleds and traveled down the slope like a train? If not, you've missed out on another fun sledding trick.

Of course, the most fun was crashing. By leaning so far to one side that the sled traveled on one runner, we knew a crash was inevitable. It was awesome piling up in the snow, with cold frosty snow in our faces, inching down our necks, filling up galoshes.

Ah, the life of a child back then: no cares, no worries, just fun!

We had an extreme slope that only the brave dared to sled. That's right, "Dead Man's Hill:" a name given to that treacherous slope where rumor had it that… well you know the story. A bit of folklore about this slope where only the bravest survived the quick and dangerous trip down. Steep, very steep, with trees and bushes to navigate around, past and, sometimes, through. The challenge was to make it down without piling up.

With each fast trip down there was the journey back up, with sled in tow. Undaunted, we trudged for hours on end. Back to the top for a quick thrill down with the wind in my face, snow flying from steel runners, the air filled with screams of delight as sled after sled swooped down the slopes with sledders of all shapes and ages.

Is that missing from our current childscape? Yes, a sledding we will go!

by Lance L. Casper

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