by Charles McGrath

Every area of our beautiful country has its pluses and minuses when it comes to weather. I personally think San Diego has the best climate in the continental United States; however, it's over 3,000 miles from my New Jersey. I know many people who moved to different parts of our country. It's funny with some of them even after forty years they still refer to Jersey as home. There is something about the changing of the seasons. While the Fall leads us into the coldest months of the year it also allows us to enjoy a unique warmth in December that is generated by Christmas and the Holiday Season.

What a wonderful time of the year it was for us as young children. What a privilege it was to have snow fall on the ground. Remember taking out your sled and the fun associated with it?

A phrase just came to my mind that I haven't heard in years " Belly Flop". Does anyone remember saying that? One would run with the sled on level snow and fall down on the sled " Belly Flop " to enjoy the forward motion of the ride. As a young boy I lived on Mead Street. Most of my friends and I took advantage of the elevation of Sandford Avenue. We would sleigh ride from Sandford Avenue down to Stuyvesant Avenue. The best streets were Silver, Lenox, Abinger and Commonwealth. Years later we would go to South Mountain Reservation and to sleigh ride. Cameron Field (from Ridgewood Avenue by the old oak tree down to the river) was also an excellent place. We would take our daughters there in the 1960-70's on a six foot toboggan. This hill was called "Floods Hill". I haven't heard that name in many years. Back in the late 1800's tobogganing was quite popular. In 1890 on Valley Street and Wheatland Avenue in West Orange (opposite the CVS Pharmacy) there was a big wooden chute 300' long. This chute was used for tobogganing. What a thrill it must have been.

How about our beloved South Orange Avenue. Was it ever used for sleigh or toboggan rides, especially from Grunnings "on the hill" to the Village? Yes it was. This was a very popular hill for toboggan rides in the early 1900's. Years back I worked with a person whose mother tobogganed it many times as a young girl. The speeds that they obtained on it were unbelievable. It was stopped around 1915 after a serious accident. If you remember driving a car down South Orange Avenue from the top of the hill you would see the railroad bridge at the bottom. You can imagine what an obstacle the center bridge abutment was at high speed on a toboggan (like threading the eye of a needle). A toboggan loaded with young people hit it at high speed and some were killed. After that tragedy tobogganing was no longer permitted.

While many of us on this site are no longer children we can still enjoy Winter. But we can leave the" Belly Flop " and the tobogganing to those who can still bounce.

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