It may be a little early to be thinking about ice skating, but I am.
I’ll blame it on Regatta Day. I didn’t get to lakeside this week but all the Regatta talk brought back memories of my childhood and walking to Quidi Vidi through Bannerman Park. It was a shortcut on the way to the races.
I used to spend a lot of time at the park in my younger days, given it was a two-minute walk from my house and it had all the amenities a lad could want in the 1960s and ’70s.
I can still hear the creaking swings. As kids, we would see who could swing the highest; as teens, we’d push our girlfriends ever so gently so that when the swings came back, the swings (and the girls) were eventually in our arms.
The merry-go-round was a thrill, especially if there were older kids to make that thing move really fast. We’d hang on for dear life, occasionally bolting into the sand and nicking our knees.
I used to love the monkey bars and playing king of the castle. The iron structure seemed so high back then.
The brick washrooms in the park left a lot to be desired, even at my young age, but the water fountain got plenty of use.
I love the Bannerman Park Foundation’s plans for the new skating track. In my day, we used to skate and play hockey in the softball diamond. We’d be on the ice in the darkness until our feet were so cold we couldn’t take it anymore.
In the summer, the same diamond was a hangout for watching the softball players. Once in a while, we’d find a broken bat or a misplaced jersey from one of the teams. We would chase after the foul balls that would bang the cars on Circular Road. Sometimes we’d keep them. More often, we’d lob them back over the fence to an appreciative player.
I can still smell the chlorine from the pool. I could barely swim but I’d jump from the diving boards or belly flop into the water from the high board. There used to be lineups to get in. My last memory of the pool was an after-hours, late-night visit when some friends went over the fence to skinny-dip. Brave me. I stayed outside to keep watch and yell when I thought security was coming.
The bandstand often reeked of urine, but it was still a great place to play Red Rover, or to shout for echoes. We’d crawl around it, hide behind it and marvel at its shape and structure.
I also remember the occasional parties in the park, when we’d go in one side of the guard house and out the other. There was ice cream and chips and we all went through as often as we wanted.
One of the things that attracted us after hours was the fountain that used to be next door at the Colonial Building. What a spectacular sight. It drew tourists and townsfolk, as the water was lit up by multicoloured lights.
The Bannerman Park Foundation is revitalizing the area and is well on its way to making Bannerman a special place for a new generation. I am excited by its plans and the dedication of those involved. The foundation is making tremendous progress and deserves our interest and support.
Memories don’t help pay for new infrastructure, but if a few words can stir someone else to remember a special event or activity, or jolt you to consider helping the Bannerman Park cause, so be it.
The revitalization will bring new challenges, such as parking and financially maintaining the new facilities. I am sure these things are being considered, but one thing is likely: if you build it, the people will come.
I’m looking forward to a cold winter night in the not-too-distant future, lacing up an old pair of skates from yesteryear, taking my wife by the arm, and making new memories as we glide along the ice-skating trail at Bannerman Park.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org