This week, the news channels are all reporting on the many cities that are banning (and as a result, criminalizing) sledding within their boundaries. In an effort to reduce their municipalities’ liability for sledding injuries and in a continuation of the growth of government Nannyism*, sledding is now prohibited in many cities and violators subjected to fines for enjoying a clean, outside, fun activity that people have enjoyed as long as history has been recorded and snow has fallen. In fact, so popular is sledding worldwide that ludge sledding and bobsledding are two of the most popular winter Olympic sports.
When we were growing up, every kid (and many adults) had sleds and eagerly awaited the first snow so that they could bundle up and enjoy an afternoon of racing down snow packed, hilly streets or on the hills in the local parks. Literally hundreds of kids and adults would trek to a local hill, build a fire and enjoy the excitement of speeding down a hill with no more protective gear that snow jackets, ski hats and mittens. Many of us even abandoned our hats to enjoy the feel of the wind racing through our hair as we negotiated a particularly steep or fast hill.
In Norristown, where we grew up, there were numerous long hilly streets that were commandeered by sledders every time there was a substantial snowfall. The Oak Street hill was a few blocks from where Frank grew up and provided a ½ mile plus, steep, long and fast downhill run. Because it was so slippery, most cars avoided using it in snowy weather giving the sledders almost free access to the street. Pat had a shorter but equally steep and slippery sledding hill which she used as often as possible on the street next to her grandfather’s home.
Sure it was dangerous. Most days, visibility was a problem since we sledded in the twilight after school or at night by streetlights and bonfires. Day or night, sleds overturned throwing their riders to the frozen earth or roadways. Other sleds driven by less skilled riders crashed into snow drifts at fairly high speeds tossing their riders into the air where frequently they landed in or on the other side of a drift. The “showoffs” in the crowd who liked to prove their prowess by standing up on the fast-moving sleds or riding them like a slalom skier were most often the casualties of sledding accidents. And yes, each winter there were indeed several serious injuries as sleds collided with moving or parked cars. However, despite the risks, the exhilaration and the danger of the sled rides were all part of the fun.
And finally, after an evening of sledding, there was nothing like being tired, cold, frozen to the bone with ice cycles hanging from your clothes and going home to sit by a warm stove or radiator while you enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate before a well-earned, long night’s sleep.
Thank God, We (can still) Remember when sledding was fun, a part of growing up and certainly not a criminal activity.
Pat & Frank Fleming
* Nannyism – “When government does whatever they can to ban everything that they feel COULD cause harm such as school yard games like dodge ball because it can be to violent or tag because it can hurt feelings of other children.”
Source = The Urban Dictionary