In the Winter we skated on the pond and had bonfires of old tires to keep us warm. Steve Hickel had an old railroad car on the bank of the pond, and he had a stove and a table and chairs and a cot in it and would sometimes (a rare privilege) let us in and make cocoa for us.
One year we had what is called “black ice,” or ice that is crystal clear and as smooth as glass and it is a thrill to skate on! The ice was two feet thick in the channel. I think this might have been the year we had a temperature of 45 below zero one morning.
I remember it distinctly because the oil stove in the living room went out and the school bus was late picking us up. We were freezing! When the bus finally came up the street it was making a rythmic thumping noise, which when we got on the bus we found out was the kids all stamping their feet to try and keep them warm. I was never so glad to go to school, where it was nice and warm, as it was that day.
About a week later we had snow on top of the ice and because it was so thick, my uncle, Bob Proctor, asked Mr. Charles (the boss at the Leatherboard Mill) if he would plow the snow off the pond with his tractor behind the church so we could continue skating, and he did.
The ice fishermen used to do all their fishing in the cove behind Mrs. Stow’s (now the Struthers house) so they wouldn’t mess up the ice where we skated behind the church and ice cream stand. Johnny (Esposito) Searles, a Harbor teenager, owned a pair of racing skates with the extra long blades and he used to pull us kids on sleds on the pond, really fast and then turn and let us go; it was quite a ride!
We also used to do the “whip” where we would all hold hands and with Johnny pulling us, we’d skate as fast as we could go and then he would turn and we’d all go sailing off on our own! Great, great fun!
Also when there was snow on the ice we would shovel out a big circle with pie shape lines across it for the Fox and Geese game.
When the ice wasn’t good for skating, but we had snow, we would go sliding on the hill that is now Harbor Lane. One of the great things was that all ages of kids from teens to toddlers all played together in our neighborhood! I wish kids did that today.
The steam train used to come through Townsend Harbor every day and the engineer would throw candy to children who lived along the tracks if we were out when they went by. We used to walk on the rails like a balance beam and put pennies on the tracks to be squashed by the train. And when we knew it was time for the train we would put our ear to the rail and you could hear the train coming; we were always watching for it at the same time, though.
Way up the tracks from our house, past Newcombes, there was a small abandoned marble quarry hidden behind evergreen trees that we used to play in. We called it “M.S.” for Mountain Secret. And near there was a spring near the side of the tracks that the train men stopped at to get drinks of water. Sometimes there were salamanders in it but the water was crystal clear, cold and delicious.