April 25, 2019

Remembering the Fun of Mid-century Snow Games in Richmond Hill

A Sears advertisement for snow saucers and toboggans. - Courtesy of RHHS

A Sears advertisement for snow saucers and toboggans. – Courtesy of RHHS

Originally published in the Richmond Hill Liberal (January 2019)
by Andrea Kulesh, President

You don’t have to go back too far in time to see playing outside in wintertime has changed considerably.

As a child from the 1950s, I have wonderful memories of playing in the snow. Sounds of snow crunching and the scuffing of snow pants rubbing together remind me of the fun we made for ourselves — even catching snowflakes on our tongues and eating snow was a thrill. Winter was exciting — imagination reigned and any game was possible. Winter seemed endless — snow on tap for our pleasure. To me — everything was covered in it — telephone poles on Yonge Street — piled half way up after the plows went by and the wires dipping heavily with ice.

Snow transformed outside into a huge playground. That meant building forts, tunnels, and sledding!

Looking north near Westwood Lane and Charles Howitt Public School in Richmond Hill in the mid-1950s. - Norman Derry photo

Looking north near Westwood Lane and Charles Howitt Public School in Richmond Hill in the mid-1950s. – Norman Derry photo

Neighbours flooded their backyards for skating. We’d lace up our skates and glide around for hours, shinny, figure eights and lots of races! Ours had a hill — that only the brave would take on!

We’d venture out in the cold, dressed in snowsuits with scarves tied tightly around our hoods, stranger-danger nor traffic was as big a worry at that time. Nowadays — safety is a key concern for children and most would not be allowed to wander around a neighbourhood.

Tunnelling into drifts, we created our own secret caves. Making snow angels was wonderful and with good packing snow, we could build forts and have snowball fights. Opposing sides, with each army waging battle — snowballs as ammunition. There was always a spoil sport, putting ice or stones in the snowballs so they became lethal weapons and the game would come to a very bad ending …

Bragging how big we could roll the snow, we built endless snowmen. Sledding was the best. Cardboard was great, or sliding down a slope head first, snow flying in our faces. At the farm, where Langstaff High School stands, there was a long hill. We slid on our metal “saucers” uncontrollably — especially if the bottoms were waxed! Wooden toboggans were heavy, but you could squeeze lots of friends on. There was screaming and laughing all the way down and a lot of arguing who was going to drag it back again.

On steep hills, it was particularly precarious especially on the homemade sled my father made with old wooden skis, as we hurtled down the slope at the Thornhill Golf Club and ended up sliding across the creek at the bottom … but wasn’t that the whole idea?

I guess, in retrospect, a little safety never hurts!

—Andrea Kulesh is president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society and has been a member since 2004. The society can be found at www.rhhs.ca.