Looking forward to the Winter Olympics? Ever think of Riverside as a haven for winter sports? Well many years ago it was.
Swan Pond was the setting for a few years of a ski jump competition. A family in Riverside were very into ski jumping and did all the arrangements. Their name may have been Moulis; if anybody remembers let me know.
Anyhow a large ski jump ramp was erected at Swan Pond and the event took place. Participants tended to be members of ski clubs with possibly a few locals. If needed, snow was brought in. The Norge Ski Club, a ski club in the Chicago area that is sending some members to this year’s Winter Olympics, participated in the Riverside events.
Swan Pond also had a toboggan run, which was located at Barrypoint and Fairbank roads. Sledding also has always been a popular activity at Swan Pond. Sleds were of all varieties, from conventional Flexible Flyers to homemade.
Along came cross-country skiing and Riverside was the perfect place, with skiers traversing the snow all around the river banks, past the Scout Cabin, Indian Gardens, the library and back to town.
If you didn’t have your own skis, they were available for rental at Rich Grove’s store, now Flur, on the corner of Riverside Road and Quincy Street. In the spring and summer Grove’s store was a bicycle shop; he covered all seasons. Grove’s father was one of the original owners of the OG Cab company in town. The Grove name is also associated with the fire department, that’s another column.
Ice skating was confined to the Des Plaines River near Forest Avenue, with the ice checked an ad approved for use by then-Recreation Director Bill Earl. Husband Joe says they skated in the creek at the corner of 26th Street and First Avenue.
A parent, Mrs. Parker, would teach the kids. She was former professional skater in ice shows. Today, thanks to the Big Chill Crew, the rink at Big Ball Park is great.
As for me, if there was some ice in the back yard, I took a few twirls there or at my friend Bonnie Baltis Hutchison’s house. They would flood a small part of the yard and we did our thing.
However, I always did enjoy a good snowball fight, but I don’t think it is an Olympic sport, at least not yet. These days, I am content to watch the pros from the warmth of my home and indulge in whatever drink I choose to keep me warm.