PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Memory of Skating at Prospect Park

Posted by ppna on February 11, 2008

Here is another excerpt from a series my brothers’ wrote about growing up in Ypsilanti and the things they remembered.  It seems like this is the first winter in a long time that it would have been practical to set up ice-skating.

Skating at Prospect Park
…as recalled by Eric Anschuetz  (mid 70s)

 Prospect Park served as both the playground for Adams Elementary School and also as a large public park for the east side of Ypsilanti.  In addition to swing sets and jungle gyms, the park had a baseball field and a couple tennis courts.  The tennis courts were in pretty bad shape and they did not always have the tennis nets installed.  In fact, during the school year, the tennis courts served as the “field” for their kickball games.  There was a large classmate named Ricky Ware who kicked a “home run” over the fence every time he came up to the plate.  Once, Eric even managed to kick a home run, which was pretty incredible considering his small size and low weight.

 In the winter time, the two adjacent tennis courts were flooded with water and served as the community ice skating rink.  Neither Robert nor Eric were very good at ice skating.  They suffered from weak ankles and poor fitting figure skates.  Nonetheless, they enjoyed walking down to the ice rink often in the winter to skate.  Their main memory of those days was how cold it was.  They usually walked to the park (about ¾ of a mile) carrying their ice skates.  More often than not, it was so cold, and their feet were so numb, that they ended up walking home with their skates still on their tired feet.  They would take off their skates at home and warm up their feet by putting them close to (or on) the radiator.   

To make the skates interesting, a grown up supervisor would organize games to be played on the ice.  One that they did the most was a group game of tag, called “Pom Pom Pullaway.”  The best skater was usually chosen to start in the middle of the ice all alone, with all of the other skaters lined up along one fence of the tennis court.  More often than not, there were enough skaters to form a solid line across both tennis courts.  At the whistle, all of the skaters tried to skate to the opposite end, while the fast skater tried to tag as many people as possible.  Each of the tagged skaters then went to the middle to help the other skater tag people as the rest of the group skated back the other way.  Usually, the best skater knew the other fast skaters and tried to tag them first to get as much help as possible.  This meant that Robert and Eric would last several rounds before being tagged.  Their sister, Arlea, was actually a much better skater at the time than Robert and Eric.  She actually did some rudimentary figures and spins.  One of their friends, Joe Kellersohn, lived right across from the park and must have gone skating a lot because he was a very good skater.  The older kids often would play ice hockey in another frozen area in the outfield of the baseball field.

There was actually one other place where the twins skated as young children.  It was in the woods behind their neighbor’s house on Forest where Aunt Kitty and Uncle Frank lived.  There was a natural bog back there that eventually dried up but served as a summertime breeding ground for frogs and a wintertime skating rink.  As “proof” of the theory of global warming, the winters sure seemed much colder back then compared to recent years.  From their recollection, the rink was flooded with water sometime in December and remained frozen through at least February.  They’re not sure if they have ever flooded those tennis courts once since they graduated from elementary school.  It doesn’t even seem possible to have it iced over for that period of time any more.  Once, during that time period, Michigan set a record for having 90 straight days of temperatures that were below 32 degrees.  The Anschuetz family also used their enclosed back porch, off the kitchen, as a freezer room and kept ice cream and other frozen foods out there (Dad’s favorite was Jumbo brand vanilla with an elephant on the container).

 _______________________

The park was flooded many times after they graduated from elementary school.   I remember when I was in elementary school at Adams they formalized the hockey rink and instead of just flooding the outfield they built ‘boards’ all the way around the rink.   I also remember that they used front loaders to clear snow off of the rinks and when they did this they created huge mounds of snow where the kids played ‘King of the Mountain’ at recess.

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One Response to “Memory of Skating at Prospect Park”

  1. Susan said

    When I was young in the 1960’s, we all went up to the park to skate on the ice. Lot’s of families came and we all had great fun. I was one of those kids who never really was able to learn the art of skating but that did not stop me from just sliding around in my boots. They used to had a barrel that was lit with fire so you could run over & warm up some. i’m the youngest of six kids and we all would go and have hours of fun.
    This was at a time when families really used the park & kids could also go it alone and not ever have any trouble.

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