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Story ID:1542
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Syracuse, DeWitt, Conesville New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

Asked for stories about winter games we played when in school as children, I recalled that when and where I went to school, we did not play any games as a part of the school or that the schoolteacherís suggested to us. It was all school studies as usual.

After school is an entirely different matter. After school we boys had the inevitable snow ball fights. Sometimes we built snow forts and snowmen and there was the occasional unsuccessful attempt to build some real snow sculpture other than a snowman.

In those days, I lived on a farm a half of a mile outside the city limits and attended school in the city two miles away. Delivery trucks were slow on the side streets. Traffic was light and the milkman delivered milk to houses in glass bottles, placing them in a small-insulated box usually on the front porch. Many of the delivery vehicles used for this purpose were a horse and wagon. We boys were always playing ice hockey in the street when there was snow. They did not spread salt on the streets to melt the snow and ice in those days. Someone always had a hockey puck. We chose up sides and squared off. A few had hockey sticks cast off by older brothers. Most of us just used broom handles or any other kind of stick we could find. A goal line would be drawn on each end and away we went. It was great fun.

One day we were playing road hockey as we called it, and a step van delivering some type of consumer goods came along. The truck slowed to a crawl and a bunch of us ran up behind the truck and grabbed a hold wherever we could and got into a squatting position. We often did this with the milk wagon and it was great fun to slide down the street in this fashion, being pulled by the vehicle at hand. This time there were more of us than there was space. There was not room for all of us and someone had to let go. No one wanted to. I was on the right end. My friend Jackie G. was to my left. Jackie told me to let go and I refused. He leaned over and sunk his teeth into the back of my shoulder and, you guessed it, I let go.

The following fall, Jackie G. and I played on opposite sides in a football game. I ended up with a broken nose and he with a broken arm in that game.

At home on the farm, we had a hill near the house. We used to have sleds and ran with the sleds and slammed them down, landing on the sleds. Having thus gained all the momentum we could we rode down the hill over and over again. We made a game out of it to see who could go the farthest distance with their sled.

I had an older cousin who was going into the navy. It was during World War II. He gave me his snowshoes and his skiís. Neither came with binders and I never was able to get the hang of it. My younger sister and I both tried to ice skate with some hand me down skates but never did much with that either.

I continued to have the snowshoes until we moved to the Catskill Mountains. I never did get binders for them. Hanging in the garage, mice got into the rawhide and ate large sections of the webbing. I brought them into the house and kept them in my bedroom in hopes I could get them repaired some day. They were lost in my senior year in high school when the house burned.

In my high school years, there was a group of us that borrowed a large bobsled frequently. One of the boys brought the borrowed bobsled in the back of his fatherís truck. The sled was towed up Bull Hill Road, a steep grade about two miles long, and all of us rode in the truck. At the starting point, the sled was turned around after being unhooked from the truck. Eight or ten of us got aboard the bobsled. The driver was equipped with a large steering wheel to steer with. The only brakes were the feet of the riders.

When all were aboard, the sled was given a push by the last three or four to get it started and then down that long hill we would go, in the middle of the road. The truck followed behind, clocking us sometimes at speeds over seventy miles per hour. It was great fun. This was repeated a number of times until it got to cold for us, or it was time to go home.

The year after I graduated from high school and was not around to participate, tragedy struck. Our bobsled run down Bull Hill ended in an intersection with the state highway known as 990V, in the hamlet of West Conesville. The kids using the sled were unable to stop in time. They flew out into the state highway in front of an oncoming car. A young girl about fourteen years old was forever after a paraplegic. She was totally helpless from her neck down for the rest of her life. The sled survived the crash but was destroyed by its owner. To my knowledge, no one ever again suggested sliding down Bull Hill on a bobsled.

The photo's are from the top, the starting place for the bobsled run. The next three are shots on the way down the run. Remember that in those days salt was not used on the roads and the snow packed down hard on the roadways. Only a thaw made them bare. The last photo is at the end of the run and the intersection where the tragedy occurred. They were unable to stop the sled in time.