Memories of the New Troy Snow Hill
Davyd Bronson of Three Oaks catches some air during a recent sledding excursion at the former New Troy Elementary School (now the New Troy Community Center).
By Deborah Rieth
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 2:18 PM EST
The school bus door slapped open and I marched my short second-grade legs up the steps. Mr. Boyd, the bus driver, chirped “Good morning!” and patiently waited as I tried to find a seat. There were not many options on this particular morning.
Since my house was near the end of the route, it was common to have at least two, most likely three, kids crowded into each seat. But today, every New Troy Elementary School student worth his weight in snow pants was carrying a large piece of cardboard. Today was the first day of sledding on the school snow hill, and without the advantage of fancy sleds, saucers and flyers, we all knew that cardboard was the ticket to fun.
It was 1965, and the bus was overflowing with miniature New Troy Trojans bouncing their way to school, dressed for outdoor adventure. Our mothers all had master’s degrees in layering, and we were mummified with extra sweaters, wool coats, scarves and hats. Rubber boots were zipped or buckled over well-worn shoes, which pinched little feet with heavy socks slipped inside plastic bread bags. It took skill to even attempt to bend at the waist to be seated, while carrying a reading book, lunchbox, and the almighty cardboard.
Being a relatively small kid, I squeezed onto the edge of the seat next to my friend, Shirley, who was holding her cardboard up against the back of the seat in front of her. I swung my knees forward and held my piece close to my side, parallel to the bus aisle. There. Just enough room for the next rider to pass through. Mr. Boyd found first gear on the aging yellow bomber and lurched us forward to the next stop. Shirley tried to strike up a conversation, thwarted by the fact that her mouth was full of scarf fuzz.
Safely unloaded at the school, we made our way into the classroom and joined our other classmates, who were busy peeling off layers of clothing and scribbling their names on their makeshift sleds. Mr. Payne, our custodian, would later slip a few extra pieces of cardboard inside the classroom door for the kids who had none.
The clock laboriously made its way to the lunch hour, when food was quickly swallowed, followed by a fury of dressing up to race outside! Within four nanoseconds we stood at the top of the snow hill, admiring the beautiful white slope. The big third-graders were the first to dive down. Rolling, sliding, tackling or running, the idea was to get it packed down for serious use. After a few minutes, several brave kids straddled their cardboard and set sail. There was just enough ice underneath to give them enviable speed
Having witnessed the first few successful runs, it was finally my turn. I sat down on my cardboard, felt a major shove from behind me, and had lift-off. It was fast, it was cold, and it was impossible not to scream. I was vaguely aware of other kids on both sides of me, doing the same thing. We all landed in a heap at the bottom and scrambled to get out of the way of the next heat. Bundled up and breathing heavy, we raced back up the hill to get in line again.
I do not recall any adult supervision. We had somehow all figured out how to run the show ourselves. There were a lot of kids on that hill, but there was no cutting in line and no fighting. The big bad upperclassmen reluctantly gave extra time for the little ones to get going, and would often lend a hand in dragging them back up the hill. We learned to be fast, careful, tolerant and efficient. Kids who dilly-dallied or spent too much time showing off were openly reprimanded by their schoolmates. It was only in this way that we could all get in the most runs possible before the bell rang, like a death knell, signaling the end of the party.
Throughout the winter, it did not matter how cold it was or how hard the wind came blasting up that hill, we were all out there. Our cotton and wool outerwear was barely up to the challenge of keeping us warm, and I doubt that my heavy snow pants became thoroughly dry before April. We all abided by a secret code of never admitting that we were ever sick, and it did seem that we were all quite hardy
The cardboard held up amazingly well, too, considering the abuse of weather and wear. Several times Mr. Payne would appear with a huge box, staples removed, and set it at the top of the hill. We would take turns piling in and being sent down into orbit. This was possibly the only time when it was more fun to watch than actually participate. Eventually the box fell apart, at which time it was reconfigured into a type of magic carpet.
And yes, there were injuries. After first determining whether the person was legitimately hurt or just faking, a group of strong boys would hoist the casualty up in their arms and whisk him into the school for attention. But there were no wounds serious enough to keep anyone off the hill, even when it turned to a sheet of ice. Then, the glide was spectacular and with a pretty new piece of cardboard, you could ride halfway out to the football field.
When the inevitable periodic melts came, Mr. Payne gathered up the frayed cardboard debris and set it aflame on the other side of the playground. Sometimes heavy snow would reappear, sometimes not. When we knew it was gone for good, we complained for maybe a day, and then quickly shifted into the activities of a new season.