Nice Ice, Snow Aglow

Credit: Guideposts
Credit: Guideposts


Prickly winter air . . . crunchy, crusty snow . . . Flexible Flyer sleds . . . wet mittens . . . white leather ice skates.


Vintage skates now in the recycling bin!
Vintage skates just before they were tossed into the recycling bin!

All my memories of winter time in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, are good ones. Cold, soggy socks warmed up and dried out on the heat register in Grandma Longenecker’s kitchen. Frozen lips thawed by hot chocolate with fat little marshmallows bobbing up and down.

Yes, there was snow and there was ice, sometimes both the same weekend. On snowy days and nights when traffic was at a stand-still, two Longenecker Flexible Flyer sleds zipped down the curve of the long hill between our house and Grandma’s. (There were more children than sleds, so we had to take turns.) Alongside the woods, there was another, shorter hill with a steeper grade for a faster thrill.


The ice was nice on Heisey’s pond. The Heiseys, Jap and Winnie, owned the limestone quarry on the edge of Rheems, and Winnie Heisey’s  pond was filled with skaters, including me, especially on Sunday afternoons. Some skaters waltzed around the perimeter of the pond. Some played crack the whip with most landing on their behinds as the tail of skaters at the end of the line flew off in other directions. Some wobbly beginners skated slowly. The expert ones skated forward and backwards. Since it required wiggling the behind just so, I could never master this move.


Just now, can you hear the melody line of The Skater’s Waltz by Emil Waldteufel? His name would fit right in with the listings in a Lancaster County, PA phone book, but Waldteufel was not actually German, but an Alsatian Frenchman inspired by ice-skaters venturing onto the frozen Seine River in Paris. News to me!

In the orchestral piece, composer Waldteufel captures the mood of serene skaters with graceful rising and falling lines but then interjects exuberance with bouncy notes and even some sleigh bells.

The piano doesn’t do the waltz justice, but it should bring back a memory or two!

Tell us your winter memories. Do they involve sledding? Ice skating? Something else?

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14 thoughts on “Nice Ice, Snow Aglow

  1. Marian – I love the word picture you painted:

    “Frozen lips thawed by hot chocolate with fat little marshmallows bobbing up and down.”

    A wonderful example of “show, don’t tell.” Rather than simply telling us it’s cold, you showed it to us. The hallmark of an excellent writer!

    We moved to the U.S. just before I turned five. Up until that time I remember only three types of weather in the Highlands:

    1. It’s about to rain
    2. It’s raining
    3. It just stopped raining

    Make it a shiny penny kind of weekend!


    1. I wonder if I could detect the slightest brrrogue accent in your speech from your early years in the Scottish Highlands. Ha!

      Yes, I try to make every day a “shiny penny” kind of day, wise words from a wise woman!


      1. Marian – My dad (who’s still living) has a brogue (bróg) and my mother had a beautiful lilt. They both rolled their R’s (especially after D and T words), and dropped the G in words ending with that letter (especially ending with “ing”). You wouldn’t hear it in the sound of my voice, but you might guess it from some of the words I use 🙂


        1. Pennsylvanians, especially in Lancaster County, have a lilting lingo too. I hear it on the phone when I call businesses up there, and Cliff says when I come back home the lilt remains with me for a while.

          I like your detailed description of the Scottish brogue. Are you familiar with the British drama “Monarch of the Glen?” You’ll hear strong accented language there, which varies among the social classes.


    1. You could probably find some on the mountains of northwestern Georgia, Susan. Because of the cold, those are sports with a special, crisp effect, just the opposite of, say, lounging in a hot tub.


  2. When I was a teenager, we skated on Blue Lake not far from our home in Lancaster County. I was brave enough a few times to line up for crack-the-whip. The thrill of cold, crisp air and the pull of the “whip” came back to me immediately with your description! We did not have enough sleds either, but we simply piled one on top of another to sail down the long downhill road adjacent to our farm.


  3. I forgot about piling one on on top of another to “sail down” the hill. Thanks for bringing back the fond memory. Now, I guess, it would be safer for both of us to get our thrills from making snow angels!


  4. Well winter will be here sooner than some would like. The geese are flocking already and other are already red and yellow leaves in the trees.

    We did a lot of skating on the pond, or if we were in town, at one of the skating rinks. Sometimes I would sleep over on a Friday night at a friend’s house. Marlene…She lived down the block from a grade school and we would put our skates on with the skate guards and totter our way over there. The rink had a big pile of snow surrounding it…at the opening sat the warming hut with its wood burning pot belly stove. They had lights strung up for night skating, which was pretty much always except Saturday. But it wasn’t as fun to skate the rinks in daylight for some reason.

    Everything got so wet…mittens, snow pants, coat, skate socks were wool not the nylon of nowadays. And there was my dress of course sticking out between all those layers. That’d be soggy too. We dried everything on the big cast iron radiators when we got home. Sometimes we had hot chocolate, but more likely it was a cup of soup from the kettle on the back of the big black cookstove, and as we got older , hot coffee and milk.

    Our pond used to be a source of ice for the family ice houses. I think I have more of a collective memory of that activity rather than actual personal memory. Our houses were all electrified by then but some of the older community still cut ice and hauled it away. You can Google the Wisconsin historical society and they have a nice collection of pictures of ice harvesting .


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