The first time I went ice skating was at a shopping center. We didn’t yet call these malls, and it was outdoor in a new development called Lloyd Center. Its big draw was covered areas so you could “shop in the rain,” a real incentive in very green(and rainy) Portland, Oregon. For a small amount I could rent a pair of skates and work my way tentatively around the rink, mainly holding onto the rail as are many others doing in the postcard above. As you can tell from the crowd watching from above, ice skating was a novel sight for most and quite compelling, especially the stunts of the expert skaters. I never advanced beyond the rail gripping stage at Lloyd Center.
Arriving in Massachusetts as a college student I learned that people actually ice skated on frozen ponds. This amazed me so much that I promptly bought my own pair of ice skates and went with a friend to try them out. As you can imagine, the experience at the shopping center had in no way prepared me for outdoor skating. Most terrifying, there was no railing to grip! I fell a few times and abandoned my dream of becoming “Hans Brinker’s” sister on ice.
But remembering these experiences took me back to another snowy day with my pals Dude and Skipper. There was a shallow pond in Skipper’s yard that had frozen over. A small hill lay to its side. The ice looked tempting, so we all got in a red wagon and rolled it down the hill onto the pond. We were sure it would be fun to sit in the wagon on the ice. Once we hit the pond the ice broke, we fell in and our parents rushed to haul out three disgruntled six year olds. Despite our imagination, this was not a vast lake, but only about a six inch deep pond, so no real safety issues were a concern of the adults. I suspect they would have forbidden the stunt, but they were indoors and we were outdoors.
Our parents had often warned us about our behavior by saying we were “skating on thin ice.” They were from Winnipeg, Manitoba and Buffalo, New York, so the saying meant something to them. Until that afternoon, the metaphor made little sense. Now it most certainly did.