A few nights ago, I turned on the local news to watch the weather forecast. Hearing rumors about snow coming, I wanted to put my finger on the pulse and get the (hopefully) unexaggerated story. If you live in the northeast, you learn to quickly to dismiss most accounts of a “huge snow storm coming” until you have the local weatherman’s prediction. It is easy to get people up in arms these days about the weather. A few inches of snow coming? The lines at the supermarket become unbearable. People flock to stores to stock up as if we will be alone in our houses for days with no means to obtain provisions. Generally speaking, there seems to be more concern about the weather than there ever was when I was a young person growing up in Glens Falls. Affirming this theory was the news broadcast of widespread school closings the night BEFORE the storm hit. This occurrence of preemptive school closings is unprecedented (as far as I know) for what was going to be less than a foot of snow.
This mild hysteria got me reflecting on snow days in Glens Falls. Most parents today greatly exaggerate their childhood challenges of walking miles to school every day, over hills, in any kind of weather, without shoes (just kidding). For those who grew up in my hometown, this depiction is not that far from the truth. We did (and students still do) have to walk to school and back home everyday. There are no daily buses for the city school district. As students, we walked to elementary school, junior high, and high school. Without the concern for getting buses safely to and from schools, snow days were scarce. I can remember mornings of becoming really angry because every school district surrounding Glens Falls was closed, yet we had to schlep to school. My sister and I would lie in bed with the clock radio tuned into WWSC waiting and hoping to hear that we had a snow day. On the rare occasion that our school was closed, it meant there was a lot of snow, and we were incredibly excited!
Some of the greatest memories that I have of my hometown revolved around snow days and a hearty snowfall. Today, with a foot or so of fresh snow on the ground, I set off to explore my favorite winter spot in Glens Falls—Crandall Park. Engulfed in sunlight and sparkling, crystallized snowflakes blowing through the trees, the park looked as beautiful as I remembered it. The snow was piled deep and the city had plowed all the roads through the park, so I was able to take in all the sites.
Spotting the pond, I stopped my car and got out. Although the ice was frozen solid, the city had not yet plowed off the snow to make way for skating. In fact, I don’t know if the city clears the ice anymore at all, but when I was younger, this park was my very favorite place to be in the winter because I could skate all day.
In my youth, I had a ritual for getting ready to go over to Crandall Park. First came warming my skates on the forced hot air vent in our home on Flandreaux Avenue. The hot air blower was prime real estate in our house, and you had to fight for your moment on the big vent in the living room. Once I was successful in securing my turf and the chill was taken off my skates, I’d tie on a new pair of homemade yarn pom-poms. This little craft project of making pom-poms was executed by wrapping one long piece of yarn around my mother’s pack of cigarettes, over and over again. Once the winding was significantly adequate, I would tie the yarn together on one side of the pack, and then cut the opposite side of the yarn bunch to free the cigarette pack and form the pom-pom. The final step was securing it to the laces of my skates. Usually by the time I got home hours later, the entire thing had unraveled and I didn’t mind. It meant that I got to make another for the next trip to the rink.
Skating for me was a time of daydreaming and quiet. Sometimes, I went alone. Sometimes, I went with friends. Sometimes, I went to watch the boys in my class play hockey in the rink near the YMCA. The feeling that is captured in the recesses of my memories is one of peace and self-worth. I liked to skate, and I was good at it. (In fact it was the only athletic activity at which I excelled.) Overcoming fears of falling by challenging myself to skate backwards or conquer the long, steep icy ramp that led from the clubhouse to the big rink helped to create confidence that I may not have had otherwise. If there was a chance to go skating at night under the lights, it was pure magic.
Today, I watched as a couple of determined citizens cleared a patch of ice on the small pond and skated around shooting a hockey puck back and forth. The foot of fresh snow could not stop these skaters from having some fun. Hearing the sounds of skates and laughter brought a wonderful and nostalgic sensation to my heart and mind.
I wandered over to the clubhouse to visit the large rink from my past that was created by flooding the baseball playing field on Glen Street. Much to my disappointment, the rink was not there. The clubhouse, which looks nicely restored, stood on the hill alone—no kids running in and out and no icy hill to navigate before entering the large rink. My heart sunk. I could not help but think that this is a big loss to the city. Having free outdoor activity accessible to all is vital to retaining families at every socioeconomic level. Crandall Park certainly provides free family benefits in the summer months and provides beautifully maintained walking and skiing trails in the winter but the elimination of the rink leaves a hole in this recreational treasure.
I have no idea when the City of Glens Falls decided to stop providing the residents with a skating rink or when it stopped plowing off the pond, but it is sad. As I stood there in the park, there was also a part of me that felt slightly responsible for being so out-of-touch with something that meant so much to me. Perhaps my generation, many of whom have left our hometown, took the value of the skating rink with them when they migrated. I wondered if there are people who miss skating and want the rink back, like me?
Looking over the field and thinking about my childhood spent skating at the park, I took another moment to find the beauty in this place without my past and without an agenda. I realized that the park (with or without the rink and skating pond) is still a truly magnificent place to explore. I hope that someday, there will be children on skates gliding, twirling, and falling across the pond and the rink again. As Glens Falls continues to recover and prosper, perhaps the resources and demand for winter skating will emerge and materialize. The park is waiting. Can you hear it calling?