The Retiree: February 19, 2014


While watching the Olympics, I was reminded of just how close to being Olympians we were in our younger days on Grandma's hill on Fourth Street in North Minneapolis. We could have been great. Considering our activities on the Camden skating rink in Webber Park, we could have done well in the skating events, too.
I remember almost perfecting the Triple Lutz while getting tangled in my hockey stick at the unlighted rink at Perkins Hill on 34th. I did perfect the Donny R Kazonga there when Bruce stuck his stick in my skates when I was driving for a goal at five below zero in the dark. Donny mostly skated on his ankles, as I recall. That was the night my overshoes froze solid.
Then there was the downhill run with Johnny B at Farview Park on Lyndale Avenue. Johnny won because he used his mother's paraffin to wax his skis. Admittedly, we didn't go 80 miles an hour there, because there wasn't room. Lyndale got in the way. I would have won the race if the hill had been iced like the run the Sixth Street Gang made on Grandma's alley. Nobody dared use the gang's run, except for Ronny, and I didn't even find out he belonged to the gang until I was in my 60s. Now that's what I call a secret gang.
Going down the Fourth Street side at Grandma's on our Flexible Flyer wannabes, once we made it over the furrows put up by city plows, we would scrape to a stop. City trucks dumped cinders on Fourth Street for traction. That possibly saved a few lives, although there weren't many cars that would try to go up or down that hill in the snow. Without the cinders, we certainly would have been candidates for the Olympic luge run. Grandpa insisted on shoveling his sidewalk, so even when we made that turn off the hill, we'd come to a sudden halt. I don't think the Olympics would allow bellyflopping, either. They probably never heard of it.
As for snowboarding, the closest Wife and I got to it was when we found some cardboard boxes on a steep hill by Lake Harriet. The park board had put bags of leaves around the trees to prevent dingbats and newlyweds such as we were from killing themselves. It was scary enough to cure us of ever doing that again. Snowboarding doesn't belong in the Olympics. Olympic organizers had to make up all kinds of new-fangled words to describe the twists and turns they take, and find ways to score whatever they do. It's ridiculously dangerous, and anyone older than 12 has no business even trying snowboarding.
Obviously we didn't have mountains in North Minneapolis. If we'd had them, none of us would have grown out of childhood. It was bad enough having ice. Especially for Donny R.
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