Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sleigh riding fun

February 8, 2007

With the winter snows we've had lately, I was remembering the great places to go sleigh riding we had as kids here in Lansing in the late 1930s. The best one was Washington Hill. It started at the high spot on what is now East Mary Street right next to the Lost 80 Park. Back then it was much higher than it is now and was the favorite place for all. To get there we took a road that continued on from East Kay Street, down the hill and underneath the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge and on east to the top of the hill. It was not a good road and had very little traffic. At that time Mary Street (which had another name) stopped at what is now about 310 E. Mary, at the top of that hill.

Because we lived on Kansas Highway 7, my brothers and I took advantage of sleighing on the hill in front of our house. Back then there was no sanding or plowing or salt added to the streets, so all the snow became packed and slippery from the cars that were able to get through. Many cars had a problem getting up the hill from the Seven-Mile Creek Bridge, and we would help give them a push up the hill. My spiked shoes for baseball helped a lot.

Our kids used what we called Graham Hill, and it started at the very end of West Lois Street. Because it was - and still is - a dead end, there was no traffic to worry about.

In our teens, Jim Wilson pulled us in a large homemade bobsled with his car all around town east of the highway. This was always at night and we only had a few streetlights, but it was great fun. It was hooked to the back of his car with a long rope and the thrilling part was going around the corners, probably faster than was necessary.

The bobsled was developed in Switzerland in the late 19th century. The new sled got its name because racers thought the people bobbing back and forth would give them more speed. It did not work, but the name stuck. Also, they did not need to be pulled by cars because they had the natural steep hills.

A bobsled was first used at the Winter Olympics in France in 1924.

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