Memories of skating Saturdays

 In Opinion

It’s Saturday! It’s January! There’s free skating at the rink! Time to make our way to Creemore’s rink on Elizabeth Street East.

Riding into town in a horse drawn sleigh was young Dorothy Timmons (now Shropshire). She was among many other school-age country children converging at the rink with a few dozen village children. You could put on your skates in the girls’ dressing room, or the boys’, or go upstairs to the balcony where there was more room. The interesting advantage to the dressing room were the cracks in the wall between the boys’ and girls’ room. Possibly, you could see something interesting on the other side. Also you could check out the little room that held the pit toilet. There, inscribed on the wall, was the information about who loved whom. Or you might like to memorize this little verse: Do you twinkle as you tinkle?

Then, skates on, tight or loose, wobbling on your ankles or striding like a hockey player, you stepped on the ice. You hoped you wouldn’t fall and go sprawling across the ice. And you were off. Round and round the rink you went getting better all the time. You had the makings of a strong smooth skater. At half time you had a rest while teenage boys pushed scrapers over the ice to collect the snow on the surface. If you got tired there were benches at the end where you could rest or make new friends.

It was time to go home. Like Dorothy you climbed in the sleigh for the trip home or if you lived in town you walked there. A warm house and supper waited and a quiet evening listening to Foster Hewitt broadcast the NHL hockey game.

While you were at home that evening, the rink opened again. If you were a teenager or as old as your parents, you arrived at the rink ready for an evening of pleasure. Skating was an art form learned through much practice. Skaters seldom skated alone but with a partner. Dorothy’s parents were among the beautiful polished skaters.

Dr. John Graham who now lives in southern California but grew up in Creemore describes the scene at the Elizabeth Street rink.

“The ice skating was magical, captivating and fluid when combined with the music of the Strauss waltz filling the enclosed space. Creemore did not have much ballet in the 1930s, WW II or the late 1940s, but ice skating approached the strength and beauty of dance. When Mr. Josiah Kolb took your entry coin and started playing a recording, Creemore displayed artistry and happiness in a beautiful moment of grace. I will never forget Mr. Ivan Alexander, who owned and operated the variety store on the south-west corner of Mill and Caroline, across from the Sovereign Hotel, and had the ability and persuasion to skate with every capable skater. I will never forget Ms. Mildred Walker, who worked with the telephone company, and was a frequent skating partner of Ivan’s. They were tall and slender, capturing the attention of skaters and audience, when they rounded the end of the

ice, and came sailing by in beautiful synchrony. The beauty of the music and the mesmerizing movements of skating were enchanting to the eyes and ears.”

At 10 p.m. the playing of God Save the King ended the evening. What a host of memories that old rink made for the people who entered it.

Thank you to Dorothy Shropshire and Dr. John Graham for bringing those times to life.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long- time contributor to The Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

(Photo: The old Creemore arena, built in 1928. Opened on Jan. 19, 1929.)

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