Memories Of Verona Park Skating

By on December 19, 2016

Verona Park skating back in the day ...

Verona Park skating back in the day …

When we were little, at this time of year we would be looking forward to the advent of ice skating on Verona Lake. I don’t remember how we were notified when the ice was thick enough for skating – maybe we listened for a predetermined blast of the town firehorn, or we looked for a notice in the Verona-Cedar Grove Times. In any event, we were sure to have our skates at the ready for the big day. My friend David would have been in his basement periodically for weeks sharpening his skates. He carefully ground the blades by hand with an oilstone to get the sharpest edges possible. No stinkin’ professional skate sharpening for David: He would consider this blasphemy, the whole idea being barbaric and cruel.

When skating on the lake was eventually sanctioned, we would descend upon the boathouse en masse to begin our season on ice. The main room of the boathouse, with its sawdust on the floor, had a snack bar serving coffee and hot chocolate, along with some type of eating matter – we paid little attention to this feature since we were there simply to skate. I don’t remember how or where we stashed our shoes, but once our skates were on, it was out the door, down the ramp and onto the ice.

Most of our skating was done at night: Our daytime hours were filled with school or sledding or making snowmen, or other requisite things to be done in the snow. In the darkness of night the spectacle of skaters on the lake was surreal. The only lighting of any kind was provided by a couple of floodlights on the boathouse, and in order to even identify another skater, you had to position yourself somewhere near the boathouse, more or less under the lights. Familiar, and unfamiliar faces would appear briefly within the illuminated area and then recede back into the darkness.

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The outer limits of our skating realm were determined by the area cleared of snow by the Parks Commission, the boundary being established to keep us from venturing too near the dam where the water was deeper and the ice was thinner. Skating on the fringes away from the boathouse produced a strange sensation – no sound could be heard from the other distant skaters, as the space was wide open and there was nothing around us to create an echo. It was vewy, vewy quiet. To skate near the perimeter and look back over the distance at the other skaters, we would see an array of ghostly ashen shadow figures gliding aimlessly in all directions, which tended to produce a kind of mesmerizing effect. Anyway, after a couple hours of this sub-freezing folly, we had finally had enough. We were happy to leave the ice, change into our shoes in the boathouse and begin the long walk home until the next time. In those days, we would walk anywhere and everywhere within the town of Verona.

...and way, way back in the day.

…and way, way back in the day.

One special January night – we were probably in junior high – David and I had the unique experience of ice skating on the sidewalks. We had just had a freezing rain and everything was made slick with a coating of ice. It was after supper when I responded to our doorbell and looked out to see David ice skating back and forth on our front sidewalk – “Put your skates on and come on out.” And I did. David lived at the bottom of Personette Avenue and I lived at the top: he had skated all the way up the street from his house. The two of us skated back down the sidewalk all the way past his house to Grove Avenue.

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The sidewalks in our part of town consisted of standard 4×4 ft square concrete slabs laid end to end. The older maple trees lining our street had developed roots which underpinned the sidewalk here and there and threw some of the slabs out of kilter. This made our glide down the hill a bit challenging, but we made it all the way with the help of the dim illumination from the street lights. With no friction to slow us down, our speed would build up to where we had to occasionally veer off the sidewalk onto a neighbor’s lawn for a bit, then get back on again and continue down the hill.

We tiptoed our way across Grove Avenue, turned left and skated all the way to F.N. Brown School, tiptoeing across each street along the way. After a few circuits of the school’s vast sidewalk, we then made our way back to Personnette. Fortunately for us the ice maintained its integrity throughout our adventure. I left David off at his house and skated back up the street to home. I don’t remember the difficulties I encountered skating uphill, but I seem to have made it OK. This had to be a once in a lifetime experience.

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  1. Maureen Murray

    December 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Many happy memories of skirting at the park. Forming whips and drinking hot chocolate to warm up in the boathouse. I heard it’s no longer allowed. How sad that kids in town can no longer experience all the fun we had.

  2. Virginia Citrano

    December 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Not entirely so, Maureen. The County doesn’t bring the skates over from South Mountain Arena any more, so everybody has to have their own skates, and not everybody does. The biggest problem is that, between warmer winters and the de-icing salts that wash into the lake from Lakeside Avenue and the Brookdale side of town, the lake doesn’t freeze the way it used to. The County says we need 7 straight days of below-freezing temps. Then there is clearing the ice of snow when there’s snow. Back in the day, skaters and non-skating parents used to bring the shovels to do it. The County has a mini-Zamboni, but we don’t always get it when we need it. The lake froze under snow last year, but before the Zamboni could arrive, we had an ice storm that turned the lake into a choppy mess. So here’s to better luck for this year.

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