Belly Woppin'

by Bill Newman

The guys called it "Belly Woppin'", the girls called it "Sleigh Riding" but no matter what it was called, we did it every night that there was snow on the ground.

The hills in most parts of Newark run from a high in the west to a low in the east. This worked out just fine as it allowed most neighborhoods to have at least one street good for "belly woppin'"

Following the evening meal most of the gang in our neighborhood gathered on Nye Ave and Walcott Terrace (the high point of the hill) to begin the night's festivities.

Some of the girls and the younger children had sleds with backs, this allowed several people at a time to ride the sled in a sitting position. Any male that rode down the hill while sitting was labeled "a sissy."

Boys would run with the sled held in front of them and then throw the sled forward and down and fall on it - hence the term "belly woppin".

From Walcott Terrace we were able to ride down without a stop through two intersections. How did we manage this feat without getting killed by cross traffic - easy. Adults that lived in the houses near the intersections would gather at the intersections armed with flashlights and in some cases whistles. The adults stopped traffic till there was a break in the sleigh riding. I can't recall anyone being hit at an intersection, they must have done a great job.

I wonder how the same situation would be handled today.


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