HodgePodge by Charlie Hodge – Frozen Fun
By Charlie Hodge.
I love snow. I’ve always relished its magic ability to paint our landscape, and the coziness it inspires while warmly tucked inside playing observer.
As a child I rushed outdoors to frolic in frozen fun. A lack of finances dictated I never saw a ski hill unless for tobogganing, however my siblings and I never lacked for plenty of other winter fun including creating snow forts, snow ball battles, and construction of snowmen or ice sculptures. Our fun was only restricted by a lack of imagination or daylight. (More often than not the daylight ran out long before the imagination.)
My memory bank is stuffed with fond frosty recollections. The past two weeks of winter gone wild triggers a few.
I spent every woken moment as a youth with a hockey stick in my hand. I was a true rink rat as a minor hockey player or referee and practically lived in the old Memorial Arena.
I often flash back to when my family rented Maude Roxby’s house on Abbott Street – which for a young lad was a dream like setting. The large old home seemed like a castle with tucked away storage areas and a secret closet. In winter I was simply a hop, step, and few jumps away from a small but protected skating rink tucked into the shoreline. Neighbour kids such as Jim and Bobby Bowers, Ken Franz and others would spend every moment possible chasing pucks and each other around on the bumpy nature-glazed rink.
When the game was done, I’d trundle back through the snow in my skates to the house only to be lovingly greeted by Mom with hot chocolate in hand and a warm fire glowing in the living room.
In later years after moving homes my hockey heroics (or so I imagined) were relocated to the snow covered asphalt of Water Street and Knox Crescent where Danny Thiessen, Rob Gable, Ken Carter, Rick Bain, Rod Cooney, Doug Bromley, Rich Rumley, Rob Jeffries, and older kids such as Daryl Wilkinson and Phil Campbell would religiously gather and chase a tennis ball around like a pack of coyotes after a rabbit. We ran amuck and emulated our NHL heroes such as Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita or Roger Crozier from early morning until as late in the evening as we could before parents leaned out the doors and heralded our return.
As a young teen I was extremely lucky to be the only kid I know who ever had keys to the arena. For three seasons I was stick boy and then trainer for the Kelowna Buckaroos junior A hockey team. Twice a week after team practice Buckaroo statistician and best friend Danny Thiessen and I would put on the blades and spend hours on the ice.
Buck practices were always late at night ending at 11pm or midnight and were the last ice users scheduled. In those days’ arena staff were an easy-going bunch so they turned their eyes as Danny and I (and on occasion other Buckaroos) would skate around the rink until early morning. Often only one dim light lit the ice, but Danny and I could care less. No two kids could have had it better than we did.
While that memory remains well etched in my brain it was another skating scenario with Danny that tops my winter memory bank. It was the freezing cold winter of 1968-69 when Dan and I skated across Okanagan Lake. There have been very few times in recorded weather history that the large lake actually froze. That year, a few spots were solid all the way while other areas had small or significant water gaps.
That particular day Danny and I skated out onto the lake, hockey sticks in hand, with no intention to cross the lake but only to see how far the ice actually went. Eventually however we decided to see if we could actually skate across to visit a dear old pioneer lady near Bear Creek. Mrs. Kitson was like a grandmother to the two of us.
Half way across we came to a very narrow stretch where there was actually water showing between frozen areas. Like an idiot I decided to leap across the opening. Though part of my legs fell into the water I luckily scrambled with use of my hockey stick onto solid ice on the other side. Danny, despite his trepidation, made a much more successful jump and we eventually and quickly completed our journey.
After serving us some warm tea Mrs. Kitson called Dad to retrieve us since our skates were frozen solid and we had no shoes to walk home. Only later did the true stupidity of our foolish adventure sink in. I recall that my reality check was helped by father’s belt application soon after arriving home.
Danny and I still shake our heads in disbelief when recalling the adventure.