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May. 27, 2020 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
Skating on the Niagara River in 1969
When things were colder, back in about 1969, NOTLers actually skated on ice formed on the Niagara River. (Supplied)

What fun for NOTLers fifty years ago. During some winters, the stars would align, allowing Mother Nature to create skating rinks for local fun lovers. No Zamboni, no freon tubing, no blue line, no red line. No fees to pay, to coaches, no referees.

Just cold weather and water that was still enough to freeze.

The word would go out by telephone or over the fences, by the “bush telegraph,” and skaters would arrive to enjoy the winter. No one hour time slots, no helmets, no regulation equipment.

No hockey sweaters to identify the teams. Just an ever changing group of skaters, some with hockey sticks, some without. The games ended when it got dark, or when the street lights came on. Time for dinner.

Current Old Timer hockey player Tom Elltoft, a wannabe Wallbanger, found a picture of older brother Adam skating with his Dad, Dr. David Elltoft. Their pal Jordin Neumann was a regular, and local girls would lace and up their skates and join the boys.

The name of the game was fun. No Road Trips in minivans to Welland or Niagara Falls. Not even to Virgil or Queenston or St. Davids. When there was no good ice in backyards or parks, endless games of ball hockey were played on the streets.

Recently retired NOTL Firefighter Greg Warner remembers skating on the river, and on the natural ice rink in Queens Royal Park. His Dad Edward, the District Fire Chief, and a group of Volunteer Firefighters would create a rink using packed snow as boards, and flood the frozen, flat grass.

There were no trees in the area from the present day public washrooms to the sidewalk next to King Street.

These good people would string incandescent light bulbs between trees on the perimeter, to create their version of the Montreal Forum or Maple Leaf Gardens.

Life was simpler then. No hand held devices, no Googling factoids on computers.

Life was tough, but even then people realized how fortunate they were to live in Canada. In 1969.