The cold weather and light snow, as well as the coming holiday, remind me that in 5th grade I received my first pair of ice skates. As per usual my brother Mick received a pair as well. Mick got a pair of black figure skates and I got a pair of hockey skates. It's my guess that my parents had no idea of the difference between the two and that my father thought hockey skates might be more manly and make me feel more grown up. Or not.
In any case sometime in early Jan of 1963 my Aunt Gert (I believe this was the case though I could be wrong) took Mick and I to Parker's Lake to ice skate. Parker's Lake was the premier ice skating location in Wenonah. It had a dock for changing your shoes to skates and an island with a fire going all day and all night long. You walked the length of S. Clinton Ave and then down a long dirt road till you came to the lake. If it was frozen of course you just walked across to the dock. Above the dock, up a steep hill, was Dewey and Edna Parker's house. It was the childhood home of my friends Suzy, Danny, and Billy. Behind it Dewey ran his West Jersey Biological Supply business (the rat farm). But we could care less. For us all that mattered was the lake.
There were other lake's to skate on in Wenonah. At the end of Jefferson by the Wenonah lake was Davidson's lake, perfect size for ice hockey, and upstream from Parker's Lake was a much larger lake, Langston's. We didn't much go there till we were in our teens.Over in Sinnott Tract there was Sinnott's lake. We'd skate on any one of these lakes but during my youth everyone in town went to Parker's.
It's gone now. A hurricane in the 80's wiped out the dam and NJ DEP restrictions made it too costly to rebuild the dam so no more lake, no more skating.
In any case that cold January day my Aunt Gert dragged me and Mick and our brandy new skates down to the lake. This is probably going to come as a shock but I sucked at ice skating. Over the years I've attained a measure of competency so I don't look like a complete klutz but that afternoon was disaster piled upon disaster. Most of which were caused by the fact that no one with me, including Gert, knew how to skate on hockey skates. Everyone had figure skates. All over the ice people were executing twirls and figure eights, and tearing up clouds of ice with their toes. But hockey skates have no teeth on the tips of the skates. You stop on hockey skates like you do on ski's. Sideways. With edges. But no one knew that, least of all me.
So once again I was hurtling around on a new Christmas gift with no way of stopping. Except to fall face forward. I grew colder and colder. Mick got better and better. The day dragged forever. The young girls in my class skated around me like I was a lump of coal skittering across the ice.
I'd like to give you some epiphany here. Say that I at last mastered skating that day and executed a gorgeous turn and stop. But I didn't. I hurtled into the dock, banged my knees, cursed what little curses I knew and tore the skates from my feet. I'd be back the next day, and the next, and I sucked just as much.
There were some benefits to this little bit of torture but they bore no fruit till I was in my late teens. In the meantime I looked like the rough tough cream puff at a time when I wanted to glide like a god.