Fifth of a series
“Fox and Geese” or “Crack the Whip” or “Pom-pom-pullaway“ or even a hockey game might break out. It was all impromptu as Spring Grove youngsters organized games on outdoor ice during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Nature provided ice skating locations in lower elevations with rivers, lakes and sloughs. Farm youth, after shoveling off snow, could skate on frozen ponds, if any were available However, in towns on higher ground, it took organization, labor and financing to provide winter skating.
In Spring Grove, the earliest skating rink may have been described by the newspaper during the winter of 1898-‘99. “Skating is all the rage with young and old in this burg now-a-days. Crowds may be seen every evening during the week heading for the brick yard west of town, which has been flooded and makes an elegant skating rink.” In November 1910, that local newspaper reported a meeting held about “the advisability of having a skating rink that winter.”
Shortly before the winter of 1920-’21, the newspaper announced that work had begun on the skating rink, which would soon be ready for “the merry skaters.” A smaller rink was planned for the “little folks.” Two months later, the rink was being “used to good advantage by the pupils… There is nothing like outdoor exercise for building up the body and preventing sickness. And we might add – there is nothing like exercise for developing rosy cheeks either.”
A year later in November 1921, several men campaigned to fund a skating rink. They each donated one dollar. Two months later the newspaper noted, ”The most popular place on the school grounds these days is the skating rink.”
In early 1923, Oscar Ellingson and Arthur Tweeten spent at least 10 days flooding a strip of land near the creamery, which the newspaper described as “a fairly good skating rink. A small admission price will be charged to help pay expenses.”
There was skating on the school grounds for decades. In November 1924, the local the American Legion post voted to prepare a large area at the school, “so the youngsters and grown-up folks, too, will be able to enjoy skating during (school) Christmas vacation. Mr. Schreiber and the Boy Scouts had charge of the construction of the rink.” The next winter (1925-’26), one Boy Scout project was to keep the snow cleared off the rink on the school grounds.
Audrey Atchison said just about every year there was an ice skating rink in Spring Grove when she was a youngster in the 1930s and 1940s. “We would go over and skate and then we would sit in the warming house and talk.”
Owen Hagen recalled his teenage years in the 1940s when “we” (indicating more than one boy) would skip school to go ice skating, or swimming. “We used to have ice skating behind the school before they built on.”
In the 1950s and ‘60s, the rink was a major evening attraction. It was lighted with a pole-mounted speaker playing recorded music. Hot chocolate was available in the white shed warming house where you could warm your mittens on the oil burner. Ordell Anderson was the attendant. Many youngsters had figure skates, but some boys had hockey skates with a larger blade.
Grade schoolers and high schoolers would participate, always skating in a counter clockwise direction until a self-organized activity would occur, such as Pom-pom-pullaway. The rectangular rink was large enough that when the older boys would organize a hockey game, the girls and younger boys still had skating space at one end.
The rink was also bustling during the school lunchtime recess. Most town kids had their own skates, unlike most farm youth, who were not in town for those evening sessions. The rural students were more likely to be better skiers than skaters.
In the 1970s-‘80s, the fire department was said to flood a neighborhood rink at the south end of 3rd Avenue SE. In that same era, there was skating where the Spring Grove Manor was built and later at Viking Memorial Park. The most recent location near the Fest Building fell victim to weather which made it difficult to provide good ice.
Sources: Renee Eiken and a few other former skaters, the 1997 booklet “Yesteryears of Spring Grove” and the early newspaper files of Georgia Rosendahl.
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