Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BINGHAM SLEIGH RIDING by CREEDON


“TRACK! TRACK!”
Sleigh Riding
By John J. Creedon
Grace & LaVere Jones, Grant HickmanMargaret Cole
            With the first snow of the season here, memories of other winters and the fun we had in Bingham during the long winter comes to mind.
            Sleigh riding was a sport indulged in by almost everyone, young or old and the track was the highway.  In those bygone days, before automobiles were very popular, the highway was nearly deserted after sundown and the sleigh riders had the right-of-way.
            The favorite hill was Finn Hill in Carr Fork and that was where most of the crowd would be at night after night.  The hill was pretty steep and comparatively short, so that many trips could be made in one night.
            For a real ride, though, you went to Highland Boy Flat and what a wild ride it was from there to the junction of Carr Fork and Main.  Sometimes when the track was right, we made a trip from Highland Boy Flat to Frogtown without a stop and just slow up at the Bingham Merc. before emerging onto Main Street.  Such a ride would take up the best part of an evening, but it didn’t seem so far to drag a sled up the hills for about a two minute ride.         
            What a thrill it was to be among a happy bunch of children, laughing and shouting and pulling their sleds up the hill, with the moonlight glistening on the frozen street.  The sound of sleigh runners squealing on the frosty roadway and the shrill yel of “track” as the riders came thundering down the steep grade broke the stillness of the night.
            I wonder what speed we got up after a fast track?  It seemed that we went with the speed of wind and the sharp cut of the breeze on your face brought a glow to the cheeks and tears to the eyes.  How invigorating it was to inhale the crisp clean air and enter into the spirit of a daredevil in rushing down the mountainside.  Those are memories that time cannot erase, but alas they are gone forever.  The highway belongs to the automobile now and it would be foolhardy to even attempt such a feat today.        
            The roads were never plowed in those days and the snow and ice just accumulated.  From nearly November till May, we seldom saw the road without its coating of snow and ice.
            For a real thrill on the hill, there was nothing like a bobsled ride.  We would take a two by twelve plank twelve or fourteen feet long and fasten a small sled at each end of the plank.  The sled in the rear would be stationary, while the one at the front would have a center pin connecting it to the plank and it would be movable so the sled could be steered.  There were slats placed at intervals for the riders to place their feet on and at the rear there were two brakes, one on either side, fastened to the plank and operated by the brakeman, seated at the extreme end of the sled. Guiding this sled was a job that called for skill and nerve, to avoid tipping over and obstacles that might be encountered on the way down the hill.  The brakeman could help in the job os steering by the skillful way he manipulated the brakes.  The bobsled could seat six or eight people.  How we would speed down the slope with the gang hollering “track” and the snow and ice flying high from the brakes when they dug in.  Mike Quinn used to steer our sled and he was very skillful and careful as well.
            I remember one time we were turned in to the police for breaking the speed limit in Carr Fork on our bobsled.  I don’t recall what the speed limit was, but if there was one we broke it.
            Once in a while we would get a lift up the hill by someone in a wagon who would let us hook on the back.  This was a real treat, especially with the bobsled, for it was a heavy thing to pull up the steep grades.  King Cole, who lived in Highland Boy and had a red sport car would sometimes haul a whole load of us behind his powerful car.  He had a set of chains he made in the machine shop and when he couldn’t make the grade, the road was closed to anyone.
            We would often have a bonfire on Finn Hill and it was great sport to stand around the fire and tell stories and brag about how fast our sleds could go.  If you didn’t own a Flexible Flyer you were sadly outclassed when it came to speed and ease of steering.  It was the acme of the sleds and I am reminded of those carefree days many times in Christmas time when I see the same Flexible Flyer advertised.
            How many of my readers have put their tongue on a shiny sleigh runner to see how cold it was?  If you haven’t tried it–don”t!  It is a painful process getting disengaged believe me.

HAVE A SWEET!
By John J. Creedon
            One of the things that makes the holiday season so delightful, especially to the children, is the many good things to eat and at the top of the list comes candy.
            When I was a boy, a piece of candy was a real treat and to get a box of chocolates would be a special event.  Candy flourished in Bingham some years ago and I shall try to recall the ones to mind that were outstanding to me.
            At the top of the list would be the Royal Candy Stores.  Business was so good that there were two Royal stores and both were uptown.  Store No. 1 was at 465 Main, just below Society Hall, or BCO Hall now and Store No. 2 was at 498 Main, where the Pastime now stands.  Gus Drossos was the proprietor of No. 1 and Pete Pitcheos operated No. 2, Gus Pitcheos usually worked at No. 1, but he filled in at both stores.  The Royal made their own candy and it was there I first saw candy made and was fascinated by the skill of the chocolate dippers and how they marked the various kinds of chocolates for identification.
            The Royal was the meeting place for all young people of the town, and the genial proprietors catered to the young ones and made them welcome.  After basketball games or sleigh riding parties, it was natural to go to the Royal for refreshments.
            They had complete fountain service and what a fountain it was.  The top was marble and a huge mirror hung back of the fountain with the glasses and dishes stacked on shelves.  How that glassware would gleam.  They featured the three kinds of ice cream, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.  We never heard of the fancy flavors they have now.
            To this day I have never tasted chocolate topping to compare with Gus Drossos’ recipe, and those would fill the dish.  Remember the Pink Lady, Black and White Sundae and the Royal Special?  That special was a dish to satisfy anyone—three big scoops of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream and each one covered with a different topping and then covered with crushed nuts, whipped cream and a cherry atop each scoop.
            Another feature of the Royal was chili.  They had a recipe of their own and in the winter time it was a great favorite.  Maybe things we enjoy as children stay with us, but seems like chili today lacks something Gus put in it.  On the other side of the store was a showcase with trays of fresh chocolates and other types of candy.  They stocked penny candy for the little ones’ trade. There was a popcorn machine too so there was crisp fresh popcorn at all times.
            In Almer Berg’s furniture store next to the old Royal, is a musical instrument that once stood in the Royal and provided music for the patrons.  It was the marvel of its day, a mechanical orchestra, patterned somewhat after the player piano.  It had piano, violin and other string instruments combined and for a nickel you could have music with your ice cream or chili.
            On April Fool Day, the Royal would have special candy made.  The chocolate chips would be delicious chocolate covered corrugated cardboard.  Other chocolates would have garlic or red pepper inside.
            The Royal stores were an important part of our town and they supported all community activities 100 per cent.  I know a few married couples who either had their first date or meeting at the Royal and when the big day came, Gus provided them with a wedding gift from the store.
            Another confectionary store uptown was Cho Cho’s Chocolate Shop at 474 Main, next to the Masonic building.  They had several booths and a small dance floor and many private parties were held there.
            Nick Zacharias had a small store at 150 Main that featured candy and Pete Lotts had a store at about 307 Main, across from the Civic Center.  There was a candy store on the lower floor of the Canyon Hall, run by C.L. Countryman.  This store was also operated as Bebb’s Candy store and later by Tom Dafnis.  Tom later moved to 25 Carr Fork where he operated a store for many years.  This store was later known as the Carr Fork Grocery.
            There was a candy and notion store in the Garridice Building at 45 Carr Fork, but I cannot recal the proprietor’s name.
            Bingham had its sweet tooth evidently and if you counted all the stores that featured candy and ice cream, they would compare favorable with our reported 29 saloons.

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