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Once You’ve Learned How …

Once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget.

And once you’ve learned how to ice skate you’ll never forget either, thank goodness!

(Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos. I knew better than to try skating while using my good camera, so my phone did the job instead.)

When I was in my teens I spent many Saturday nights skating at Cedarena. This unique outdoor arena has been a beloved fixture in the hamlet of Cedar Grove (near Markham, Ontario) since 1927. It’s nestled in a cozy valley, sheltered on thee sides by cedar-covered hills, and on the fourth side the Little Rouge River provides plenty of water for flooding the natural ice surface.

July 2012

Despite all my happy memories of the place, I haven’t been back in twenty-odd years. Haven’t skated in that long either. I always have good intentions, of course, but the winters just seem to slip by.

Since becoming a friend of Cedarena on Facebook, I get regular updates, so when Rink Manager Gary posted that this might be the last weekend of skating, I decided to grab my skates and go!

July 2012-19

But it was unthinkable to go alone. I decided that grandkids Maggie (7) and Noah (nearly 6) should be introduced to the magic.

I tried to tell the kids about Cedarena, but it was obvious I hadn’t explained very well, because when we pulled into the parking lot — a well-lit field filled with vehicles — Maggie exclaimed, “Ohhhh, there are other people here too! This is going to be way funner than I thought!”

July 2012-16

We followed the winding path down the steep slope to the old wooden building which is warmed by a wood stove and lined with low wooden benches for changing into skates. My heart thrilled to find that it hadn’t changed a bit.

July 2012-10

The narrow benches on the outside, just wide enough to perch on for a quick rest, were exactly the same, as were the two steps down to the ice. The old-fashioned music playing over the speakers, and lights strung above the surface, created the same ambiance. Soft flakes falling from the dark sky made the place beautiful.

July 2012-1

There was one thing I hadn’t counted on though. I’ve always skated with figure skates but this time I wore my daughter’s hockey skates. Oops! With a tipsy seven year old hanging on my hand I pushed off, trying to use the absent toe pick, and I nearly landed both of us on the ice. I had to learn to skate like a boy in a big hurry!  Pop and Noah skated together and we all had a whale of a time.

July 2012-3

The temperature was a perfect 7C (44F) — just cold enough to put colour in noses and cheeks, but warm enough to stay outside for a long time. We laughed together when they fell, and cheered when they didn’t. When Maggie got her confidence up we left the safe spot in the middle of the ice and skated around the perimeter with everyone else. At one point she gave a loud shriek when we came up behind a slower skater. “They should put brakes on these things!” she yelled.

Of course, we had to have hot chocolate …

July 2012-12

… and then they begged for more skating, so we did, but it was obvious they were fading, despite their protests to the contrary. Two exhausted kids slumped on the benches while we changed, and then we gathered our things up and left. But not before taking one final picture.

The building hasn't changed -- 2 x 4s covered with siding, the same wooden benches and the alcove jutting out with its own little bench. The wood stove didn't use to be protected by chains. We all knew enough to stay away from hot stoves back then ... The building hasn’t changed — 2 x 4s covered with siding, the same wooden benches and the alcove jutting out with its own little bench. The wood stove didn’t use to be protected by chains. We all knew enough to stay away from hot stoves back then …

By 9:30 p.m. we walked back up the long hill to the car and both kids were in awe of being up at that late hour.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole entire life!” Maggie said.

“That was super-amazing-million-billion fun,” Noah added.

They were both starving, so we called ahead and asked Daddy to get PB & J sandwiches and big glasses of milk ready for a bedtime snack. Five minutes later they were both fast asleep.

I’m so glad the kids had fun. So did Pop and I. And do you know something? It was the most super-amazing-million-billion fun I’ve ever had in my whole life.

The magic of Cedarena lives on.


Phyllis writes words: words for stories, and words for books. Phyllis writes words for blogs too.

9 thoughts on “Once You’ve Learned How …

  1. I was not a good skater .
    We used to go to a place in Scarborough, which I think was called Little Switzerland in the 1950’s . I think the last time we went there I left my skates behind and I didn’t realize until a few year later when we planned to go again , that I must have done that and I never missed them in all that time!
    It sounds like you have made a wonderful memory for your grand-kids with the evening you spent with them last night. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    ¸.•*””*•.¸☆`*HAVE A NICE DAY “(✿◠‿◠) ƸӜƷ·.¸¸.·´¯

  2. Thanks Phyllis for sharing your wonderful experiences. I know Cedararena well and you have rekindled some wonderful memories while sharing yours. Love your stories!

  3. What a lovely way to spend an evening. We used to flood the dead end near my house and turn it into a rink (in the days before rampant lawsuits). We practically lived in skates. We had to stop when the subdivision built up and the lots were no longer vacant. It’s the setting for many happy memories, however, all these years later.

  4. Hey Phyllis:  Hope you are well.  This brought back so many memories.  We used to take the kids skating there all the time when they were young.  A lot of our “city” relatives used to come out for a skating party there.  I always thought it was the most beautiful, tranquil place.  I believe Lorene and Casey took Mitch there skating before he could skate, I’ll have to ask her. Oh you made me laugh about the wood stove now that is chained off so the kids won’t touch it.  I’m glad the grand kids had fun there.  Thanks for bring back so many fun memories for me.


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