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Matamoras Minute: Winter fun

Shown here are Mabel Eddy and Arlye Stahl Miracle engaging in a snowball fight on the grounds of the old Matamoras School on Broadway. (Photo provided by Carol Gay)

Winter officially arrives this coming Tuesday. It was a thrilling time over one hundred years ago despite the fact that no one had central heating. But no matter there was ice skating, sleigh riding, sled riding, ice fishing, oyster suppers, fudge and popcorn ball making, and hot chocolate to warm any bones suffering from the cold.

At the mouth of Mill Creek about one mile up State Route 7 was a favorite spot for skaters of all ages. And generally, with the river flow unpredictable, Barbara’s Run would overflow into the fields on the border of the northeast side of town. When that area froze solid all enthusiasts of ice skating flocked to the site. And predictably along the edges of such attractions would be built the huge, high bonfires to warm the chill of the season and to be the site of hotdog roasting and marshmallow roasting.

The construction contractor Dana Lisk once skated onto thin ice at the Barbara’s Run area and broke through. Since these overflow areas contained water about waist deep he was not in danger of drowning but by the time he got home from the wind-blown field his clothing had frozen to his body.

An odd method of catching fish swimming about under the ice was discovered by “Sky” Adamson. He and his friends would locate fish and then by hitting the ice harshly with a rock they could stun the prey. Breaking through the ice they then collected their catch.

An evening sleigh ride with the moonlight reflecting on the snow was an enjoyable event whatever the ages of the participants. The air would be crisp and cold and sleigh bells on their long leather straps jingled in the dark. Everyone was packed tightly in their seats bundled up heavily against the cutting air as the sleigh made its way down the road. Bricks were heated at home to then be wrapped in cloth and placed on the floor of the sleigh so that your feet might prop up against the warmth of the surface.

Often a sleigh ride would have a destination at some home where a hot oyster supper might be waiting for the merry party. The warm milk of the soup was a welcomed internal source of heat. Two destinations were particularly noted for their hospitality. That would be the Bill Pool residence and the home of Wilsie and Roxy Lippencott. Both lived outside of Matamoras on the road to the hamlet of Brownsville.

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.

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