By Jolene Hawkins
Looking back into the past when the cold winds blew and snow fell, and we were in deep winter, what did our forefathers and families do for fun?
Well, of course, there was always sleighing — that was a popular event. It could be a sleigh for one to a toboggan that several people could ride on that would rush down a hill covered in snow.
Or even better, a carriage with bells on the horses so you would hear the jingling with a buffalo or wolf robe over your lap. Now, where would you get a good lap robe for the cold sleigh rides? Most blacksmith shops would carry them and the dry good stores. I am sure there were always and always will be snowball fights.
Now, once the ice got two inches thick on the ponds and waterway, it would hold the weight of a man. Ice skating was very popular, as folks would glide around gracefully on the ice in twos and in large groups. Games were played and parties were had where kids would come on the ice and everyone seemed to have fun. Ice skates could be homemade or purchased at several stores in the area.
While fun was had, tragedies happened as well. In 1848, a young man fell through the ice and drowned before anyone could get to him.
Now, the ice is thick, but not everyone likes to skate, so ice fishing was also popular. Holes cut into the ice and sometimes a little shed was nearby to help block the wind and keep you warmer while you fished for that trophy fish.
From the 1800s through the early 1900s, ice was harvested off waterways and stored in an icehouse. You must keep in mind factors like water quality and aeration. Ponds were often avoided because the water didn’t move enough to provide aeration and formed what was called “pond ice,” murky ice with holes in it that was of poor quality for cooling purposes. So you looked for shallow, slow-moving water, which would form solid, clear ice.
The blocks of ice were cut by a large handsaw and would be anywhere from eight to 12 inches thick, usually, they were cut in blocks of two to six feet long. You would want them to be kept in uniformed sizes, as they were easier to stack and store. After they had been cut, they would be taken into an icehouse and stored.
The icehouse had straw and sawdust between the boards and the wall for better insulation. A large block of ice, when it is stored with other large blocks of ice will keep for a long time. In 1856, a system was patented on an ice box that had a place for the ice on the top of it and the air would then circulate around it, thus the beginnings of our modern day refrigerators.
Now let’s look into the sweet side of winter, and by that I mean Jack Wax and more! Well, we have the snow, and for those of us that would rather stay inside and sit by the fire, we can have fun too.
So how do you make Jake Wax? Put one cup of real maple syrup or honey in a pan and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer to 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, cook until “soft ball” stage, which means a spoonful or less of syrup dropped into a cup of cold water forms a softball.
While the syrup is simmering, take a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and fill it with clean snow, packed down well. When the syrup has reached the softball stage, slowly pour the hot syrup in ribbons onto the packed snow. You can also have popsicles sticks laying in the snow and pour the syrup over the top to them making it a maple candy stick!
What? There is still more snow falling and drifting outside? Well, why not make snow ice cream! It is so easy and ttastes so good. I learned how to make this once I moved up here 30 years ago.
Run outside and grab about six to eight cups of clean snow. Pour about a half can of condensed milk over the snow and stir, surprisingly it does not melt the snow but freezes and you will get a thick mixture. To this, you add a little vanilla.
Now is where the fun begins: get inventive. You can add your favorite coffee creamer, mint, chocolate is always good and whatever your taste is for that day — a little rum even. Stir and enjoy. Any leftovers, store in a container in the freezer. What a fun thing to do with kids or grandkids.
Still want something to do during the cold winter? Come down to the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and visit with us at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville. Too cold to get out, well then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 592-0094. Have fun and learn more of the past with us!