Sledding! That was a major winter occupation of kids when I was growing up in Jefferson Center. We lived on a big hill and the road in front of the house was paved – not dirt like the one by the Kradel home – but even so, it didn’t have much traffic. Great Belt Road went from one main road – Route 356 – to another main road – Hannahstown Road – but was not used often.
On Great Belt, about a half mile from our house there was a large, fairly steep hill that divided the road into the Jefferson Center half and the Route 356 half. On the 356 half, where we lived, there were only three farms and a couple of homes at the end by the highway.
One of the three farms belonged to the Kornrumpfs. They were an old couple who didn’t even own a car that I can recall. The farm in the middle was the farm of my Bachman grandparents which passed on to my Uncle Clarence and he lived there with his sister, Aunt Alma. And then the next farm was ours.
Between Grandpa’s farm and ours the road made a sharp bend. From the bend, the road went down a gentle hill, passed by our house, and then leveled out a bit by our drive. It continued to go down a steeper hill and then up a steeper hill. When the snow got packed on the road – there was no salt or sand in those days – we could start sledding at the bend and go down past the house and into the valley. The ride was fantastic and long. We didn’t worry about traffic since the Kornrumpfs didn’t drive and our aunt and uncle kept an eye out for us.
If the road wasn’t smooth enough, we would then go sledding on the hills around the house. The favorite was the hill on which our house was built. It was one of the highest in the neighborhood. If you climbed to the top, you could see for miles. The hill was a pasture because it was too steep to till. At the bottom it leveled out and ran into plowed fields. Nearly at the bottom there was a spring. The spring didn’t give much water but there was enough to spread out and make ice along the section that was nearly level. We could either go down this hill and avoid the ice or hit the ice and spin around. Either way, the trip was delightful.
Sometimes we varied the location of the rides and went sledding behind our barn. That ride was down a fairly long hill toward another spring. It was an easy ride compared to the hill by the house or the road, so once we felt grown-up or brave, we abandoned it.
We would sled until we were too cold to move our toes and fingers or until it got dark, which ever came first. When we came in we often had hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate was a production in those days. It was also the best drink ever! First we would put some milk on to heat. Our milk was rich and fresh because we had a cow until I was about 13. Then we mixed cocoa powder with sugar. We didn’t measure, we just knew how much to use. Then we’d add a bit of the warming milk to the sugar and cocoa mixture – not a good idea to toss the powder into the milk as it would never blend. After a paste of the cocoa, sugar and milk was made, we could blend that into the hot milk on the stove. Then came the best part of the hot chocolate! We always added evaporated milk. Grandma Keck always added evaporated milk when she made hot chocolate so I suspect Aunt Flossie did too. To this day, I have to have evaporated milk in my hot chocolate. Skip such frivolous things as whipped cream on the top, just add a slug of evaporated milk straight from the can.