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Ice skating was a favorite past time for Montgomery residents

By Staff | Jan 10, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED This unmarked photo shows many people ice skating in downtown Montgomery. The location is most likely the WPA swimming pool which was completed in 1937. The pool was 150x154 feet, and welcomed swimmers in the summer and ice skaters in the winter.  After the pool was closed it was filled in and converted to the current Little League field by the carnival grounds.  (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Area Historical Society)

MONTGOMERY – Ice skating was once a very popular activity in Montgomery. Although Montgomery never had an indoor rink, the town had lots of outdoor spots that were used for the sport. In December of 1938 the Montgomery Mirror reported that some popular local places to go ice skating in town included Thomas’ Dam, the swimming pool, Black Hole Creek, and the Montgomery Water Company dam.

According to historical records the community pool was built by the Works Progress Administration and opened in 1937. The June 10, 1937 issue of “The Montgomery Mirror” reported that the pool was 154 x 150 feet (longer than half a football field and almost as wide), and had a graduated bottom that began at 6 inches and went to 8 feet. The pool was eventually closed and filled in, and by the 1950s had been converted into the current Little League field between the river and the carnival grounds.

The tennis court in the park was flooded and used as a skating rink in the early 1960s through the mid-1960s. Cynthia Bryan of Montgomery said the venue was used for ice skating more than it was for tennis, and the rink was especially cold because it was so close to the river. She said that she and a friend once skated for three or four hours, and then took off their skates and changed into boots for the walk home. They cried the whole way home because their feet hurt so badly from the cold, but laughed as she remembers that they went right back the next day to skate again. Bryan said, “Some elaborate measures were taken to enhance the skating experience such as lights for night skating, music, and hot chocolate was served.”

In the 1970s a Jaycees group had formed in town, and according to Skip Livingston of Montgomery their first project was establishing an outdoor ice skating rink for the community. They chose a field just outside of Montgomery by Route 54 and Brouse Road.

The ice skating rink was established sometime around the winter of 1975-1976 according to Glenda Heasley of Montgomery, who has vivid memories of skating there with her siblings. She recalled that it was something fun to do. “The rink was big, and it was always supervised by friendly volunteers who kept us warm by serving free hot chocolate.”

According to former Jaycees member Ray Laforme, the field was owned at that time by the McQuay family who allowed the organization to use it. The field naturally flooded and iced over, so members of the Jaycees would go out and shovel the snow off and welcome the community to enjoy ice skating and free refreshments. The rink was enjoyed by kids, teenagers, and adults. “There was always a bonfire to warm up by if we got too cold,” he said. Because the Jaycees were an organization for younger adults, they all held regular work schedules during the week so the rink was a weekend activity. Because Pennsylvania weather can be unpredictable, the times of the season the rink was useable varied from year to year.

Livingston said that he and fellow Jaycees built a portable, collapsible building that was held together with a series of pegs that had a roof that could be secured to the top once the walls were set in place. They would set it up for the season and would use it as a small kitchen run with generators in order to give away snacks and hot beverages. He also noted that they intentionally bought all of the groceries in Montgomery to keep the money in town.

Carol Morgan of Muncy was one of the Jaycees who volunteered to chaperone the rink and gave away cups of hot cocoa and doughnuts to the skaters. She fondly recalls, “The kids had a wonderful time, and the field was an ideal location because no one had to worry about anyone falling through the ice and drowning.” Laforme commented, “We probably enjoyed doing it as much they did skating.”

The skating rink continued to operate for a few more years into the late 1970s and early 1980s.