Already this winter we’ve had a couple of snows with more predicted for this weekend.
Yup. A White Christmas!!
I was reminded in a recent conversation about a sledding hill I always went to growing up near Kettering, Ohio. It was famously named Suicide Hill. This was a real sled eater. Approaching the climb there were barrel fires fed by broken wooden sleds sacrificed to Suicide Hill.
The hill was deceptive. Trees lined the descent so that any veering brought the sledder into contact with them. As a kid I was always bailing, letting gravity take the sled into it’s gentle good night, the tight fist of death. I cannot count how many sleds my brothers, sister, and I ruined.
The back of Suicide Hill was just as dangerous as the front—though perhaps not as many trees. A ride this direction was longer and not as fast, but full of moguls or bumps that sent me flying. The community golf course where the hill was located was the product of glacial moraines: imagine icy fingers digging into soft ground creating drumlins and ridges. I think the golf course was called Hills & Dales.
Just getting to the top of the hill required digging in the heels of my boots and hanging on to tree branches, a bit like climbing hand-over-hand. Sometimes I wondered if it would be better just to go on my hands and knees. Once at the top you’d have to catch your breath. Standing at the brink looking down—especially as a little kid abandoned by my older brothers and sister—it was steep. Somehow I don’t remember this stopping me though.
I Googled suicide hill kettering and right away something like 6 million results came up—a rush of nostalgia. From a forum (about another structure in the park—a boarded up tower—which I’ll write about later in another blog post):
Aug 13, 2009
It was there when we used to sled ride on "suicide hill" about 1955, and my father said that it was there when he was in high school and had a car, about 1937.
Mikey, Gatlinburg, TN
And this from 2009: Medics carry four off 'Suicide Hill' - WDTN.com
And this souvenir T-shirt:
And this article from 1996:
'SUICIDE HILL' CLAIMS FOUR SLEDDERS.(NEWS)
January 3, 1996 | CopyrightDAYTON, Ohio -- Four women broke their backs in sledding accidents last month on a golf course slope known as ''Suicide Hill.''
All four women were treated at Miami Valley Hospital's emergency room.
''It was strange, because they were practically carbon copies of each other,'' said Dr. Norman Schneiderman, medical director of the emergency and trauma center.
The women all hit the same bump on the slope at the 12th tee of Community Golf Course in suburban Kettering and went airborne. As they came down again onto their sleds, they suffered compression fractures to the lower back.
There is even a Suicide Hill Facebook page.
So often our memory plays tricks on us. Memories more times than not don’t synch with reality. The biggest, the highest, the whatever is usually brought down to earth when revisited. Here is one instance where the memory is not distorted or exaggerated by time.
Suicide Hill is one badass motha.