Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

January 31, 1996, Page 32

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Good Old Days


Winter Fun for Kids


By Dee Zimmerman


“What did you do when you were kids, Grandpa and Grandma?  You didn’t have TV’s, VCR’s, Video games or snowmobiles, so what did you do in the winter?”  As grandparents, we have been asked similar questions by our grand-children.


Thinking back, we weren’t bored, we had fun and seemed to always find something to do at a time when lifestyles were different than today.


Some outdoor activities that we enjoyed as children are also past-times of our grandchildren such as sledding, ice skating and skiing, all great winter time activities for those of us who have lived in the upper Midwest, through the generations.


January 1876 – The Clark County Press


“Coasting on the sidewalk may be fun for the boys, but it’s hard on us grown-up people to be obliged to clear the track or climb an awning post every rod or two to let a train of them pass.  It’s no fun, either, to come so near turning a back-summersault that your head just catches the ground enough to spoil the performance and make stars appear to be thicker than boys and sleds ever were.  We hope the boys will find some other places besides Main Street in which to practice that art, and not compel those occupying premises on that line to strew ashes on the walks.”


State Street hill, that is on the east side of the old jail building, was a favorite starting point with the flyer sled and its riders who would go as far as O’Neill Creek on a run.  Others would go west on 5th Street, able to ride for a distance of four blocks.  Some tried negotiating the Hewett Street corner, north to O’Neill Creek.


Sharing memories, recently, with someone who had grown up on a farm located near the Black River, between Globe and Neillsville, was a reminder of fun as a kid in the 20’s and 30’s.


A winter with ample snow fall came to mind.  There were five of seven children in the family who attended a rural school, that year, located three and a half miles from the family farm.  Then, all rural schools seemed to have the same hours for classes, started at 9 a.m. and excused classes at 4 p.m.


Walking home, the same route each day was going a distance on the main road until a short cut could be made across a field to the side road that led past the farm.  The well traveled path through the snow saved some steps.  The side road had had some little knolls as the landscape made its gradual descent to the river land where it came to a dead end.


In December and January, darkness came early with sunlight fading soon after school dismissal.  The homeward bound youngsters were feeling tired and the little ones started complaining about the cold on the last mile of the journey.  Finally, there was one last hill to walk up before their destination was reached.  As they would crest the hill a most welcome sight laid below the hill.


Mom always had a lit kerosene lamp setting on a table by the window.  That beam of light represented warmth, comfort, the cooking aroma of an evening meal and once again being with mom, dad and other siblings as a family.  Everyone’s tiredness was forgotten by that pleasant view.


Arriving in the house, they took time to warm up, change clothes and do their assigned evening chores, some to be done before and after supper.  The girls helped mom as the boys went to the barn to assist dad in caring for the livestock and milking cows.


After the barn chores were done, the supper completed and kitchen was cleaned up, the kids were free to have some time for themselves before bedtime.  Looking outdoors on a moonlight night, the ice coated snow covered the landscape, enabling a view across the countryside and the river land below.  Such a scene enticed the youngsters to once again put on their outdoor clothing and enjoy some sledding on the little hills that sloped toward the river.


The Flyer sled with its narrow metal runners would cut through the snow, not being able to move.  So, it was time to improvise, come up with some other means for sledding.  Their mother had several cake pans in the kitchen cupboard; each kid took a cake pan with mom’s permission and was on their way up the hill.  The pans had shiny, flat surfaces and an edge around the sides, just enough to hang on to as they sat in the pan.  Once at the top of the hill, they would get positioned, each in a pan, then maneuver themselves off the hilltop – on the way for a “tummy tickling” ride as kid and cake pan became momentarily air borne with enough momentum to be carried up and over the next rises until reaching the bottom of the incline.  Keep in mind; those were the same youngsters who had walked seven miles to and from school, that day, proving how kids can quickly become re-charged when it’s time for some fun. 


The hardest part of sledding was walking back up to the top of the hill.  After four or five trips down the slope, kids with cake pans made their way back to the house.  The rosy cheeked group wiped off the pans and returned them to the kitchen cupboard.  Each was ready for a snack and a good night’s sleep.


Another sledding experience was had by sitting on one’s school lunch box that worked well on an icy hill, if you had a good sense of balance.


Borrowing dad’s grain scoop shovel to slide down the snow covered farm yard hill was fun.  The grain shovel was well cared for, never allowed to rust, used only for shoveling grain… and for sledding.  The handle was placed in front of the rider with feet propped up, one on each side of the handle and heels on the shovel’s edge – then off for a ride.  The rule was you could use the shovel if it was dried off and returned to its proper place in the granary or the privilege to use it again, would be lost.


Two girls who lived in the Town of York received a pair of skis for Christmas, one year.  They were excited with the gift and ready to learn how to use them.  A creek, with hills above its banks, seemed an ideal place to learn skiing.  Gathering fallen tree branches, they made a bon fire on the creek’s bank as a place to warm up.  Taking turns each learned how to use the skis, which had an inch wide single leather strap for binding.  Wanting to ride down the hill at the same time, they decided to each try riding on only one ski at a time.  A few trial runs and the one-ski art were mastered.


The farm field ponds were great for ice skating.  Many hours were spent in skating – the more the merrier.  The skating pond required care such as keeping the snow shoveled off.  Often dad or grandpa would help in grooming the ice.  Games of tag, racing and occasionally “crack-the-ship” that only experienced adult skaters might try.  Our parents warned us not to do crack-the-whip.


Circa 1910-1920, young skaters who learned to skate on lakes such as Lake Mendota in Madison were instructed to never step onto the ice covered lake unless they had a hockey stick on one hand.  They were taught how to use the hockey stick to save their life if one should accidentally break through the ice, before they learned to skate.  Placed properly across the open hole and ice edges, the skater had a means of pulling him or herself out of the icy waters if they fell in.  A skater was to follow the hockey stick rule, always.


Here in Neillsville, we now have Mt. Moldy with its excellent sledding area.  It also has a skating rink and warming house at the top of the hill, providing the kids with the opportunity to enjoy outdoor winter sports that’s been fun through the generations.


Winter does provide some tranquil scenes such as a waterfall surrounded by snow and frosted tree limbs.  This photo is believed to have been taken in Merrillan, circa 1970.


Ready, set – go…. A snowmobile race was held at the Clark County Fairground’s race track on March 5, 1970





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