Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sample Stories: Sliding Around in the Snow

Due to the number of questions about Share a Pair of Stories, we are sharing one group early.  We hope that you will enjoy reading the stories below which are recollections shared among a group of friends.

If you would like to submit recollections of your own, please feel free to do so!  You can email your stories to or mail them with a signed submission form to Share a Pair of Stories; c/o Plum Borough Community Library; 445 Center New Texas Road; Pittsburgh, PA 15239.

Sliding Around in the Snow: Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act

Nancy, 79

Winter with snow and ice is not something I enjoy. During childhood, however, snow and ice meant fun—the fun of playing in the snow—catching snowflakes on my tongue—sledding on the street behind our house—making snow sundaes—and sliding on an improvised cardboard sled.

Tumbling into the house as we arrived home from school, Dave and I were still giggling and animated from our adventure on the way home from school.

Coming into the entry where we sat taking off our outer wraps, Mom asked, “What are you two so excited about? And why are your coats and leggings so wet?”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Mom’s really upset with us. What should I tell her?”

Her reaction to our enthusiasm and the sodden state of our outer wear, which I had ignored until now, had me thinking of what to tell her to avoid certain punishment.

Stating the truth—sort of—I said “We fell on the icy sidewalk by the butcher shop as we were walking home from school.”

To our relief, Mom accepted my semi-falsehood. We were not in trouble, although Mom was obviously upset about the drenched state of our only winter wear.

The next morning as we donned our outerwear before we left for school, Mom admonished us to keep our outfits dry. Knowing we would be in trouble if we came home wet again, we promised Mom to do our best to stay dry.

We did well coming home for lunch—no incidents of “falling on the ice.” However, as we started home at the end of the school day, temptation, in the form of a flattened cardboard box, overwhelmed us.

“Dave, we can sit on this cardboard and slide down the hill without getting our snowsuits wet,” I told my brother with enthusiasm. 

In his 6-year old wisdom, he agreed with me.

We came to the hill which, to our delight, was still icy. Putting the cardboard down and sitting on it, I launched myself down the hill. I trudged back up so Dave could take a turn. We did a few slides before the cardboard began to disintegrate. Animated and happy with our icy adventure, we walked the final two blocks to home.

Sliding Around in the Snow: Sunday Afternoon Snow

Sunday Afternoon Snow

Patricia, 77

On a lazy Sunday afternoon in the winter, after a really good snow, my sister Judy and I dressed in what seemed like a zillion layers of clothes and went out to explore the beautiful shimmering world, jumping in drifts and sliding down the clay bank in the side yard.  Alma would sometimes escape her boring surroundings and join us.  

One Sunday I recall we went in the side yard between the rectory and the school.  We made a really big circle in the snow with a path through the middle.  Alma taught us the game "Run, Fox, Run."  The object was to catch the fox.  We took turns being the fox. What fun we had.

Sliding Around in the Snow: Snowy Memories

Snowy Memories

Carol, 69

When I was a young girl in the 1950s, life was lived at a much different pace than it is now.  In those slower times, when it snowed in the winter, the town of Oakmont placed wooden horses at the top of Maryland Avenue on the edge of Eighth Street and at the upper side of the intersection on Fifth Street.  All of the cross roads and alleys in these blocks had horses placed at their entrances to Maryland Avenue, and the folks who lived on that street in those three blocks had to park their cars on the side streets and walk into their homes.  When this happened, this portion of the road was officially blocked off, and we had a car-free, worry-free playground.

It took a lot to make me leave the books I loved and go out and play, but this impromptu, snow-covered park had a magical power over me, and I would drag my wooden sled over to this play land.  I was usually by myself, and I would trudge up to the top of the hill and place my sled on the slight flat spot where it would teeter as I lined it up for my ride down the slope.  I would scoot back and forth to try to get the sled to edge past that flat spot and convince the sled runners to quit hanging over that little ledge with nothing but air under them and finally drop forward to meet the snow and start their run.  Then I would fly down the street, sail over the two humps in the middle that made my stomach do flip flops, hit the bottom section that was somewhere between hill and level and finally swoosh down to the cinders placed at the upper side of the intersection on Fifth Street.  When I hit those cinders, the sled tried to maintain its forward momentum, and the steel runners of my American Flyer would throw out sparks and the grinding of metal sounded until the cinders finally grabbed hold of that steel and brought me to a halt.

Once when I was stopped in the cinders and sitting there gathering together after my ride (my father said I must have been daydreaming – but then he always accused me of that), a sled with two “big kids” came rolling in fast and slammed hard into the back of my sled.  I flew up and off and onto the street bed.  I landed on my face and was dragged through the cinders, unwittingly scooping up sharp pieces of burnt coal into my nose and across my skin as I traveled facedown through the ashy debris.  I am not clear on what happened next, but I remember a nameless teenage boy picked me up in his arms and carried me to my home which was two doors over.  He deposited me at the front door with my mother, but try as I might I don’t remember her reaction or what she said.  I don’t think I was scared; but I do know that Dr. Hagan was hastily called and met us at his office in the Henke Building, where he used tweezers and other instruments to pick the dirt painfully out of my bloodied face.  He and I sat face-to-face as I bravely sat gripping the sides of my seat for what seemed a long, long time while he worked patiently and slowly, as Dr. Hagan was wont to do.  I was around 10 when this accident happened, and I still carry cinder scars in my nose.

But that didn’t stop me from going back to that hill as soon as I could.  After each trip down, I would make the long trek back up dragging my sled by its rope.  Rope was easy to come by, as there were clotheslines in most backyards in those days, and our yard was no different.  When I needed a new length on my sled, I would take a butcher knife out, fold that rope double, and haggle the blade back and forth to cut a hunk off the roll of clothesline that usually hung on the hook attached to the garage.  It would take me a long time, because I wasn’t very strong, and I didn’t know what I was doing.  I would tie the new rope to the holes in the ends of the steering bar and make big sloppy knots underneath to hold it, and off I would go on my next solitary, snowy adventure.  I can remember watching my 12-year old brother put a new rope on his sled, and he did it so well and quickly and his knots were much better than mine, but I didn’t ask him for help.  I don’t know why, but I think we were that kind of a family.  Maybe I was that kind of a kid.

I didn’t wear a helmet or knee pads; I didn’t worry about cutting myself with the knife; and there was no concern about child molesters stealing me.  Most of my play time was totally unsupervised, and I had no organized play dates.

There were no girls my age in our neighborhood, and my brother didn’t ask me to go sled riding with him - and that may be because boys rode sleds hard.  My brother and his friends would go up to the top of the hill, hold their sleds up parallel to their bodies and then throw the sled down onto the street while at the same time dropping down on those wooden slats in a well-timed belly flop, and begin their rides like they were in a snow-covered rodeo.  They went even faster if they sandpapered or waxed their runners before they hit the slopes.  

I was more timid and sedate, and that is surprising since I was growing up in an almost all-boy neighborhood.  At the top of the hill, there was always the decision as to whether I would lie down on my stomach or sit up to speed down the hill.  If I chose to sit up, I had to steer with my feet, and if I lay down, I had to steer with my hands.  I mostly preferred sitting up, as I would rather lead with my feet than my face, a preference that became even stronger after my run-in with the cinders.  Besides, if I went down the hill sitting up on the sled, when I wasn’t hanging on to the wooden frame at the sides or pulling back on the rope to keep my balance, I liked to drop at least one mittened hand down to the street and drag it through the snow.  My father was right; I did daydream. 

Sliding Around in the Snow: Sledding


Elizabeth, 36

It must have been a snow day in 1982 or 1983 because there were no dads at home, no little brothers playing with us, and our mothers (mine and my neighborhood friends') seemed inclined to ignore us completely, which was typical of those days that school was unexpectedly cancelled and they had plenty of other things do do for that day for which they did not really want the help of little hands.  

We lived on a hill, and our block of Surfside Drive was a short one--just three houses faced the street between the corners of Catskill and Rainier.  We had a house on a lot that started out flat at the corner of Surfside and Catskill. Our side yard was ideal for playing soccer, whiffle ball and volley ball.  Then the yard began to roll downward, like a ship listing to starboard.  It took a drastic tilt at my neighbor's house and continued to plunge down past the third and last house facing Surfside before finally dumping out into the backyard of the first house facing Rainier at the end of the block.

My sister and I had our orange plastic sled out, the same one my kids use now, and were pathetically sledding in our own backyard.  You know it's bad when one kid has to get out of the sled and pull it down the hill to get it going.  So we were thrilled when our next door neighbor appeared.

"Wanna sled?" we asked.  He had a great hill in his yard but no sled, so he was pretty happy to have us bring our sled over to his yard.  The three of us piled in the orange sled.  He was the smallest, so he sat at the front. My sister, the second smallest, took the middle, and I sat at the back.  We whooshed down his hill a few times pretty happily, but then we looked next door at our other neighbor's house.  Her hill went down about six more feet than his did.  We gazed on it with envy until she came out.

"Let's sled!" we suggested before she'd even closed the door behind her.

"Okay," she said, and we did one run down her longer hill.  As we pulled the sled back up, though, my neighbor gazed at the final hill of the block.  It ran from the side of her backyard into the backyard of the house facing Rainier.  It was at least twenty-feet longer than her hill with a steeper grade and, best of all, a terraced garden at the bottom.

"If we went down that hill, it would be like going off a ski jump," she suggested.

We didn't need to be asked twice.  We piled into the sled at the top of the hill and zoomed down.

I'm not even sure what happened.  We may have flipped on the ground, in the air, or just have been tossed out when the sled hit the railroad ties that created the terrace.  In any case, we all ended up rolling on the ground at the bottom of the hill.  The neighbor boy thought he had broken a bone--he always thought he had a broken bone.  My elbows hurt, and my sister was crying just a little.  Only the girl in the third house wanted to go again.

We didn't sled down that hill again that year, but we tested it again from time to time in the future.

Sliding Around in the Snow: Sledding with Daddy

Sledding with Daddy

BJ, 8, and AJ, 6

Going sledding with Daddy was awesome.  We went by ourselves with Daddy to the soccer field by the castle playground (Larry Mills Park in Plum).  We took the sled to the top of the hill by the back soccer field.  We sat different ways.  One time we all sat together.  Daddy was in front.  AJ was scared so he sat in the middle.  AJ always sits in the middle when we go together.  We went really fast all the way down the hill and a little more.  We tried to turn at the playground, but the sled flipped over and we all fell out.  Then we turned around and took turns dragging the sled back up the hill.  When AJ went by himself, he laid down in the sled because he was too scared to look.  It seemed slower when he laid down—not scary or anything.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Write Offs Planned!

Having trouble getting started on your story or finding a partner? 

We will be having three Write Offs at the Plum Borough Community Library to help you.  Come on out with your partner--your mom, dad, child, grandparent, or friend--or come by yourself.  We'll find a place, topic, and group just right for you.

Write Off Dates:
  • Thursday, October 25, 2012, 6:00-8:00 PM
  • Friday, November 2, 2012, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
  • Thursday, November 8, 2012, 6:00-8:00 PM
All Write Offs will be held at the Plum Borough Community Library, 455 Center New Texas Road (see below for map).  Please call 412-798-7323 or come in to register.  There is no limit on numbers, but we'd like to have enough copies for everyone.  Thanks!

Map of Plum Borough Community Library:

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