Some friends and I were recently reminiscing on an activity which many of us enjoyed in the city of San Diego, where we all had the extreme pleasure of growing up. As we talked amongst each other it became apparent to me that we had different experiences of this same phenomenon, and so I determined that I would set down a short remembrance of my adventures with Ice Sliding.
Ice sliding could be done anywhere where there was a hill and grass. The idea was to enhance the effects of gravity and enjoy a downward ride. There were many solutions offered to the problem of increasing the effects of simply running downhill or rolling or whatever. Some of my more creative friends have made good use of a large piece of cardboard, and I have even seen one of my friends seated on a large toy “Tonka” truck. Whatever works. My friends in our neighborhood and I preferred ice, and I now propose to describe how the whole thing worked.
The first things that we needed to procure was ice and darkness. The preferred venue for our ice sliding was the Presidio Park in San Diego. Presidio Park, one of the most beautiful places on earth, sits on a bluff overlooking Mission Bay to the west and the mouth of Mission Valley to the north. As one would expect with a bluff, it is high and the land around it slopes quickly downward. Such was the case at Presidio Park. The grounds were impeccably kept and the grass thick, smooth and well watered. This made it perfect for ice sliding, but also made those responsible for maintaining it less than favorably disposed towards people who might damage it by repeatedly sliding down it on blocks of ice and then running back up in order to slide down once again. The solution to that minor inconvenience was to do our ice sliding at night when the unwanted attention of the maintenance crew had been diverted in the direction of dinner and sleep.
The bunch who would gather for this activity was a checkered one. I rarely use real names in my stories but I will use them in this one, in order to pay homage to the memory of my time with those esteemed folk. Donald and his brother Eugene were sure to be in on this, as were Terry, Max and Emilio. Mike might have been with us once or twice, but his mother worked hard to keep his nose clean. Charlie (Coco), a Hawaiian guy who lived with his older sister, might have been there. Charlie was crazy as a loon and dangerous as a snake. Geez how I loved hanging with that guy! Under it all he had a really good heart and was (usually) a lot of fun to be around. Dave might have been there too. Dave was nicknamed “Monk”, but not because of any proclivity to hanging out in monasteries. Dave made me give evolution another look. And then there were the girls: Linda and Deedee, Nancy, Zola, another Terry, Monica and Carla. Well, I could go on, but my memory of some of the others is fuzzy and I’ll let it go. Anyway, we were a bunch of kids who lived in the same neighborhood (East San Diego) and grew up together and were very much like a bunch of brothers and sisters. I loved them then and I love their memories now.
So the protocol was as follows: We would acquire two blocks of ice from an ice house up on El Cajon Blvd., one of 25 pounds and another of 10. We would take them to the park where we would position ourselves at the top of the hill. The rider would place the 25 pound block under his or her chest and hook their feet over the 10 pound block. Then, with friction a memory and gravity our friend, we would shove off and slide down the ice like torpedoes speeding into the side of a doomed ship.
No ride was guaranteed to be pleasant however. There was always the rock which some kid had left on the grass during a family picnic the afternoon before. Some of those left a nasty scar. And then there was the occasional salutation from somebody’s family dog; a pile of excitement and remembrance that would bring out gasps of outrage and roars of laughter, and a lot of paper towels. At night you could never tell what you were going to run into; it lent an additional richness to the adrenalin rush of flying down that hill like a shot out of a gun.
And then there was the dismount. At the bottom of the run the grass ended and all that remained was a stretch of dirt and rock and the occasional cactus, and finally a chain link fence established, apparently, to keep idiots like us from flying over the cliff and doing a face plant in the road which ran along the south edge of Mission Bay at the bottom of the bluff upon which rested Presidio Park. We would time ourselves and see who could roll off of the ice in a dismount as close to the edge of the grass as we could manage. Too soon and you bumped and tumbled, but ultimately stopped well short of the edge of the grass. For your effort you were labeled a weenie and the next person ponied up for a ride. If that person was too greedy for acclaim they would dismount too late and suffer the same bumps and tumbles, but this time in the dirt and rocks and cactus. Their macho was established, and that was not to be sneezed at, but their cool was still greatly in question. The masters would roll off, bump, tumble and slide, and come to a stop right at the grass’ edge, a neat trick if it could be accomplished.
We would slide until the ice melted, which was usually not long before most of us were supposed to be home for the night. I have a million great memories of being a kid in San Diego in the 50’s and 60’s, and ice sliding is one of my very favorite.