As I write this, it is winter here in Maine. Yesterday, I went ice skating and remembered so fondly many skating experiences in my life—especially my young life.
Here is a story of a day spend on the ice from a half century ago. For more stories about my high school years, click here.
One morning, when the sun promised to be bright and the sky clear, as we sat down to breakfast at refectory tables, on a day that seemed to be a day just like every other day in January, Father Guy would announce, “Aujourd’hui, c’est un congé de glace [Today, we are having an ice holiday].”
An ice holiday! A day liberated of classes. A day off to play.
In the First Form, we were taken by surprise. We had not known this was coming. It would be a day out on Silver Lake, Father Guy continued. The nuns would prepare sandwiches and thermos bottles of hot chocolate—he very carefully did not say “of hot Penobscot [River] water” but we knew what he meant.
After breakfast, we went to the locker room to change into our play clothes. Then, in a long line, the boys—130 or so of us by then—walked through the gate and down North Street with skates dangling off our hockey sticks that rested on our shoulders.
It was about a mile to the lake. (We thought nothing of walking a mile before beginning a day of exercise!) The lake was next to the road and, once there, we threw our hockey sticks and skates down and hastily slipped into our skates. Soon, we were racing across the ice. The land around the lake rose only slightly so there were no towering hills around us. The line of vision was extended, and it was a pleasure to skate farther and farther out. After what seemed a long time, we arrived at the center of the lake and could see the pointed pines at the distance all around us. There seemed nothing to be done but to continue to the other end of the lake—since it was there to be reached!
All over the lake, we could see bands of boys skating. In the morning, we did not play hockey. That was for the afternoon. In the morning, we crossed the lake. When the sun had risen high in the sky, it was time to return for lunch. Tired, already, we still had the whole lake to cross again. At one point, we began to see the station wagon that had brought our lunch, the lunch the nuns had readied. The station wagon was parked on the road at the edge of the lake.
Once back, we devoured our sandwiches and gulped our hot Penobscot water and talked with each other about what we had done in the morning.
In the afternoon, some boys played hockey; while others did some free skating. Father Guy would organize games: three-legged races, regular speed races, backwards races. Sometimes, we wandered off to skate by ourselves, but few ventured out to cross the lake again.
Then, at least an hour before dusk—that is, 3 o-clock, it was time to head back. Somewhat less energetically, we sat on the ice and removed the skates we had been wearing since that morning.
Exhausted, but exhilarated, we walked the mile back to the school.