Time to sharpen those blades and tighten those laces, because it is ice skating time. For those of you who have been waiting for the winter cold to come upon us and freeze the skating ponds, your time is here. For the rest of us who have been enjoying the mild winter, oh well.
With thanks to the Big Chill Crew volunteers and the Riverside Recreation Department, the ice rink that had been dormant for a few weeks at Big Ball Park is now filled and ready to accept skaters.
This rink has been enjoyed for a number of years now through the volunteer efforts of residents. However, the luxury of a rink was not always available to locals, so makeshift rinks popped up, many in yards flooded by the homeowner.
Growing up, our backyard, being low, sometimes gave us more of an ice pond rather than a rink, just enough to skate around a few times, get cold and come in for hot chocolate.
There also was skating on the river, if you dared. The river was tested near the bridge on Forest Avenue by the Recreation Department — which was actually Bill Earl and a few young helpers.
North Riversiders had a few more options. The site at 8th Avenue and 24th Street, where Christ Presbyterian Church is now located, was flooded for skating. Also, you could go south on 6th Avenue until you came to Salt Creek which, if all went well, was frozen. Some would even skate at First Avenue and 26th Street on the southeast corner, where a small patch of ice would form on the Des Plaines River.
If you were lucky, you learned to skate with Mrs. Pfau, a former professional ice skater who lived in North Riverside and if you were lucky to be friends with her children, you learned to figure skate.
Mrs. Pfau had skated with the professional touring ice shows, which included and starred three-time Olympic skating champion Sonia Henie. The male star of the ice shows was Michael Kirby, who eventually built an indoor ice rink in Oak Park, the only one of its kind in the area.
Ice skating rinks are far more prevalent, and skating on rivers is very much discouraged these days. But you can get your skating fix while the weather stays cold over at the Big Ball Park.
For me, I will be content to just watch ice skating in any form on my TV as I sip a cup of hot chocolate in my nice warm house.