Skating on Thin Ice
The winter of ’62 was fridged to say the least. We had several inches of snow on the ground already and I woke up Saturday morning to another 12 inches. Several of us had planned to go ice skating that evening at Leavings Lake, a small park on the south side of Rockford. We had really hyped it up in hopes that the girls would be interested. There was a rather large stone cabana on the north shore with a huge pot belly stove in the middle. The park district always made sure there was plenty of cordwood stacked up on the west side. There was also two outlets to use for devices for warming up hotdogs or hamburgers (or more importantly a record player and a 100 watt amplifier with two 50 watt three-way speakers).
Concerned that last night’s snow would put a damper on our ability to convince the girls we could skate on the snow covered ice, Gayle and I decided to not leave it to chance. Dad had an old Willy’s Jeep with a snow plow on the front, so we decided that was the ticket. The tires didn’t have much tread left, but with the two of us in it, we figured we would have sufficient traction. We drove Dad’s jeep to the lake and eased our way onto the snow covered ice. I lowered the plow and began to clear a path. It was working just as we had planned when we heard a loud bang followed by what sounded like an echo. We looked at each other as the jeep coasted to a stop. We both jumped out and ran for the shore. There was a ski rope in the back of the jeep and I grabbed it on my way by. Dad always kept it tied to the jumper, but when I got to the shore all I had was a coiled rope in my hand.
We did Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who had to take the rope back out and secure it to the jeep. Gayle lost and he had to do it. Just as he finished, a second loud crack could be heard. Seconds later, Gayle was back on shore and we pulled as hard as we could, but the jeep wouldn’t budge. I had forgotten to put it in neutral when I had jumped out. This time I ran out there and remedied my error.
We managed to pull the jeep back and decided we could finish the job with shovels. We worked our butts off shoveling a ten by twelve area and gave up. Maybe there would only be a few girls anyway.
We picked up our dates and skates and headed for the lake at six o’clock. We had told the girls of our harrowing experience and how hard we had worked. When we got there, over 30 people were skating and a huge area had been cleared off. A large tractor with a plow, much heaver than the jeep, was parked on the side. The girls were very impressed with our effort and when I inquired about the weight of the tractor, the operator said, “Oh this ice is over a foot thick; it would hold a semi-truck.” Gayle and I just looked at each other and put our skates on.