Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morning in Prospect Park: The Wollman Skating Rink Opens for the Season

After watching this Thanksgiving's Turkey Trot in Prospect Park, we headed over to the Kate Wollman Skating Rink for the 10 a.m. opening for the 2009-2010 season.

On our way, we passed Abraham Lincoln's statue overlooking the rink before its opening.

At the lake just west of Wollman Rink, one duck was telling the other he should be thankful he's not a turkey.

Grateful also that they are not the middle layer in some cook's turducken, they both took a swim.

The worn World War I memorial to Brooklyn's fallen soldiers is between the lake and the rink.

We watched workers get the rink ready as a radio station played and the Zamboni readied the ice.

When we went around to the entrance, it was only open for restroom use by Turkey Trot runners.

This young skater was the first one on line.

We were one of the first entrants, at 10:01 a.m.

But this gray-haired man was the first one in the rink for the 2009-2010 season.

He was soon joined by a gray-haired woman.

They were really good skaters.

After a few people were skating, workers put down the mats by the entrances to the rink.

The first song played by the rink's sound system was Jimmy Durante's classic "As Time Goes By." Next up was Nat King Cole, "Bye Bye Blackbird," and Barbra Streisand "Memories."

The only time we ever actually skated at Wollman Rink was over 45 years ago, when we were in class 8SPE2 in J.H.S. 285 (Meyer Levin in East Flatbush). On a Saturday morning we went there with a group of boys and girls in our class.

We met at Billy Sherman's house on East 55th Street between Avenue K and L, and his mom Naomi was smart enough to look at us and say, "Richie, you're not dressed warm enough!" and give us one of Billy's sweaters. We always liked Billy's parents; his father Arnold Sherman ran the Sherman funeral parlor on Coney Island Avenue that was founded by Billy's great-grandfather (and now run by Bill's younger brother Joseph - Joey when we were little kids and all had to have names ending in -y or -ie).

It was February 1964, and Rosemary Benevento brought a transistor radio tuned into WMCA or WABC; either way, the station seemed to alternate playing "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Steve Kahn (from 8SPE1, whose class took French while the rest of us took Spanish) came over from across the street; we'd break our front two teeth horsing around in his basement a few weeks later.

Unlike our schoolmates, we couldn't skate for shoot. Like this girl today, we mostly clung to the sides of the rink, unable to balance ourselves and getting by only with a little help from our friends.

We remember other Saturday mornings from that winter of 1964 more fondly: Eugene Lefkowitz's bar mitzvah somewhere on Eastern Parkway, going to the matinee of My Fair Lady at the Loew's Kings, etc.

But we love watching skaters. The last time we were at a skating rink was in Phoenix a couple of years ago, when we went to pick up Kirin, then about 8 and already a great skater like her mom Satnam, who wrote us today that she
used to skate [at Wollman Rink] ALL the time from the time I was 10 and able to travel by myself (with friends) using the Church Ave bus to the Flatbush Ave bus and getting off at Parkside Ave. Then eventually after we moved to Flatbush Ave it was a straight shot up on the bus.

Satnam still is a good skater. She told us how she got started young in Brooklyn in the 1950s, when she lived across the street from our Grandpa Nat and Grandma Sylvia Ginsberg:
I learned how to skate on a patch of ice in my backyard on Snyder Ave. Then the playground near Utica Ave and Beverly Rd? near the library... Used to freeze over the ball field and we could all skate for free.

We were always the least coordinated of our friends. Most of the kids today skated very well, although the rink's hard-working and observant workers kept telling them (who are used to wearing unlaced sneakers) that they needed to tighten their skates.

Like the show we old-timers watched back in the day, father knows best.

(Actually, by 1964 the guys we hung out with paid more attention to the man from UNCLE.)

Inside again, on our way out of the rink, we watched this park ranger take a pic of a couple of Turkey Trotters who'd finished the race and got their medals.

We're grateful that we got to spend Thanksgiving morning at Prospect Park and see the runners at the Turkey Trot and the skaters of the Wollman Rink.

And there's a new, improved skating rink coming at Lakeside.

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