Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Walking on stilts proved fun in childhood

April 21, 2005

This is a picture of me in 1944 on a pair of stilts that I made in Manual Training Class. My little brother, Bill, is leaning against the pole.

Walking on stilts was great fun when I was a kid. When I was in grade school many kids walked on stilts, but the stilts were only about one-foot high. I kept adding extensions to mine until I was able to make this pair that was seven feet off the ground. I would walk up and down the front steps of the grade school, and that was a real challenge. The ballfield across the street from our house was a good place to practice. At one time I let Norman Wiehe drive his jeep through my wooden legs. I wouldn't let just anybody do that, but Norm was my buddy and I knew he would be careful.

When our two sons, David and Mike, and their friend Frances (Franny) Jauernig saw this picture, they decided they wanted to give it a try so they proceeded to built theirs and were determined to have them taller than mine. That made them almost 15 feet high, their feet being nine feet off the ground. To my knowledge they hold the record for the tallest stilts in Lansing at that time.

Things not to do on stilts that are over six feet high: Don't walk if the wind is blowing very strong. Don't walk in mud. Watch out for dogs tied up on chains. Bicycles can surprise you, so stay away from them. Most of all, watch out for electrical service lines. I walked all over town, and clotheslines at that time were a real problem too.

Stilts are used now to install drywall in houses. You also see them at circuses, parades and carnivals. I have never walked on the commercial aluminum stilts but would like to try sometime. I have dreams of beating our kids' record, to which my wife says, "Dream on."

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