1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Doty’s Pond

Standard winter-wear in the 50s. Yes, those are old cloth diapers wrapped around our boots.

Standard winter-wear in the 50s. Yes, those are old cloth diapers wrapped around our boots.

I was amazed to find myself in the role of Hero, ta-da!. Even more amazing, my stint as hero occurred several more times in the future.

The Dotys generously let neighborhood kids ice skate on their pond. Our mittens (reinforced with thick work socks pulled up to our elbows) had to be pulled off to strap the double-bladed skates onto our rubber boots.

When a blanket of snow covered the ice, we teamed up to shovel intersecting paths for ice skate tag. Every few minutes, at least one of us stopped to tighten a loose skate or re-buckle a boot. The buckles went all the way down the front, like fireman boots. Speed-skating with heavy wool snow-pants and coats takes a lot of effort. The longer we skated the hotter we got. We slowly covered the snow banks with discarded scarves, hats, mittens, and sometimes winter coats.

Our dogs loved chasing us as we zoomed around the ice. One day, I skidded and fell, wedging our black lab, Wolfy’s, paw in my skate. He whimpered and cried. I was afraid to move my foot for fear of hurting him more. David ran to get Dad at our Great-Aunt Mary’s, on the opposite side of the pond. After freeing the trapped paw, Dad explained, “Most dogs instinctively bite and attack their source of pain. This is a good dog.”

Wolfy the Wonder Dog

Wolfy the Wonder Dog

“Wolfy didn’t even growl,” I added.

He was promoted to wonder-dog.

Aunt Mary told of long ago skating parties held on the pond. Bales of hay provided seating near a warming bonfire. Torches placed around the pond supplied lighting. Fiddles and violins filled the air with music. It sounded magical.

David and I had the pond to ourselves one afternoon, and the ice was completely clear of snow. The water never froze around a boxed-in pump on the roadside edge of the pond. While I practiced skating backward by gliding down a hump in the ice, David skated too close to the pump and broke through. He grabbed onto the pump box with thick mittens as his wool pants and coat absorbed the ice water. No time to run for help.

I crawled toward him on my belly and grabbed his outstretched mitten. The edge of the ice broke, sending a wave of water over the surface and making it slipperier. He pushed his feet against the wood frame surrounding the pump and I pulled his soggy wool-covered body to safety. Our wet mittens smelled as musty as our wet pants and coats.

Huddled together, we cried all the way home, thinking about David’s close call and worrying that we might get in trouble.

The Doty’s large pond is small now, but big on memories.

Lesson learned: Don’t skate on thin ice.


Now it’s your turn: What memories do you have of a neighborhood pond?


© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Terry Biery says:

    We have purchased. An old wood sign that has doty’s river inn and thought you might have information on the history of the sign it’s hand carved on two sides and appears to be 60 years old or so.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Terry, Doty’s pond was located in upstate NY. They didn’t have an inn, but who knows about any of their siblings. Sixty years ago, they would have been in their mid-twenties. They are now each gone, and their two children are in their fifties.

  2. In UK we don’t get that degree of cold that often makes ice safe to skate upon, though the last couple of winters have been an exception. I guess I’m a bit too old for it now, though.

    The farm where I spent a lot of my youth had a large pond guarded, in true Viking style, by a swan. He was an angsty old bird and for a while I was fairly terrified of him because (as Geoff the farmer delighted in reminding me) he could ‘break my leg with one stroke of his wing’. Well, eventually it had to happen – one wing beat, my leg…I waited for the snapping of bones…nothing. After that I treated him with some juvenile derision and he never came near me again. I think he was too ashamed.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, what is it with swans? Why on earth were they made to look so graceful and peaceful, only to act like harpies? Geese can be like that too.
      That farmer sounds like a couple of my uncles, Edward (also a farmer) and Mike L. They would each tell us kids a story like ‘the lethal wing’ and quietly chuckle to themselves.

      • I think it might be resentment – you know, having to paddle so hard under the surface and everybody thinking how beautifully laid back they are, so nobody appreciates it when they get tired or a little bit ratty? Yeah, farmers definitely have that sort of humor, don’t they? Maybe they get fed up with kids!

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        No, Fred, they get fed up with cows, ha ha!

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