February, the little short month that has the president’s birthday’s holiday in it. George Washington, William H. Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan all had February birthdays. Now that history lesson is over, and on to the next history lesson. February, still cold, still short days, what to do in February?
For the 1960’s generation, sleigh riding and ice skating, of course. For me personally, I lived on Red Hill Road and had one of the best sleigh riding hills around but being an only child and no one my age in walking distance to help make a track, I actually don’t remember sleighing down that hill. But in Fulks Run there were several “hot spots” for community sleigh riding.
I have heard stories about the Genoa Road track. This was on the first steep hill when you drive onto Genoa Road. The downside to this track was it was on a state-maintained gravel road and a person had to be careful or they would pick up so much speed you could shoot off over a steep bank, or hit a steep bank on the other side of the road, that is, if you didn’t hit an oak tree! And if you were blessed enough to make it to the bottom, then you had a strenuous, long walk back to the top of that hill.
Another very popular track was also on a paved state-maintained road, but you were on a high hill, and you could see for a mile if a car would be coming. This track was located on Third Hill Road, and the starting point was in front of the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church. Yes, down that hill past Turner Run Road you would go, and fires would light the way.
Now also a popular hill was “Grandma Ritchie’s Hill”. This was the hill across from the driveway of Custer’s Junk Yard behind the white house. You see Grandma Ritchie owned that house and field, and her grandchildren invited all their friends for the big night. Seemed like most events happened at night. I suppose it added a little more danger, and the others could not tell if you wiped out at the bottom. Also, there was a big bonfire to light up the starting area and to warm by. From the top of that hill was a good incline which made that a fast course. And of course, the youth would gather and burn rubber tires in addition to the bonfire to illuminate the track. They would be arrested now if they tried that, air pollution you know.
Another spot was at Richard Cooper’s home. Preparing the tracks and making ready the fires, and knowing Richard, all were welcome and treated wonderfully. Now another very popular sleigh ride spot at an individual’s was Jim Custer’s home down what is now Opie Lane, which could also be accessed by the Holler Road. And if you knew Jim and Polly Custer, like Richard’s, the hospitality was hard to beat. Before the event Jim even went up on the hill and cut the trees to make a steeper longer ride, and then made a track that would assure good speed. He would also cut wood and make bonfires to light the rider’s way.
Also a person had donated a hood off of an old pick-up truck. Down that hill they would fly and at a certain point that truck hood would hit a patch of solid ice that would send it into a spin like a top. And on one occasion thank the Lord for a big tree or the three, yes, three riders may have gone into the creek! And then to top off a perfect night of sleigh riding Polly would heat a huge pot of water to make hot chocolate for all.
And lastly, another popular spot was Garnett Turner’s front yard. The way I understand, he would go out and make a path and THEN WATER IT DOWN to make a track of solid ice. From the starting point in front of Garnett’s home, the rider could at times travel all the way to the bottom of the hill ACROSS Hopkins Gap Road and end up in, at that time, Davey Fawley’s yard!
I’m also sure the youth of Bergton and Criders had their hot spots for sleigh riding.
Now for ice skating, I know of the pond below the bridge at Garnett’s store, and down the Hollow Rd was a nice sized pond that the Genoa youth would use. I guess one of the more popular was the skating spot behind the Body Shop on 259.
They would make a fire on the ice with wood, and as the story goes, the ice was so clear you could look into the water and see the fish swimming around. And it was a large area you could use for skating.
Sadly, the days of the community ice skating and sleigh riding are long gone, most likely never to return. The days of texting, video games, and computers have replaced these events.
For many, I hope this brings back fond memories, for those that were fortunate enough to be raised in a small rural community, where everyone knew everybody, no one was a stranger or treated as such. For those that participated in these types of fun outings, I’m sure even today you can remember a certain thing that happened that still brings a smile. And some night when you drive by the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, stop and listen, you might, just might hear a long time ago echo of a young person yelling, GET OUT OF THE WAY BUD, GET OUT OF THE WAY!
Until Next Time
Believe It Or Not