“Freezing temperatures here will guarantee the necessary chilling ingredients for an appropriate dedication of the new Central Plaza skating rink Thursday,” an article in The Canton Repository said early in December 1963.
It was 335,190 square feet of winter wonderland.
That was the amount of natural ice on four lagoons in Canton parks — Cook, Monument, Stadium and Westbrook — that was being cleared about this time of year in 1964 so the slick surface could be used for public skating.
Monument was the largest of the lagoons, at 165 feet in width and 840 feet in length. Cook Park was the smallest at 120 feet by 450 feet.
And a new 60-foot-by-80-foot city rink at Central Plaza had just been opened in December 1963, offering another venue for skating.
Winter, indeed, was a season to be enjoyed 50 years ago.
"Freezing temperatures here will guarantee the necessary chilling ingredients for an appropriate dedication of the new Central Plaza skating rink Thursday," an article in The Canton Repository said early in December 1963.
"Participating in the dedication of the new downtown skating rink," the article continued, "will be members of the 'Holiday on Ice' cast, which will be appearing in Memorial Auditorium Thursday through Sunday."
A Columbus family — Johnny and Pat Williams and their children Debbie, 10, and Robbie, 6 — was a last-minute part of that cast. Members of the Williams family had auditioned in Canton and were added to the ice show in time to perform for the rink dedication.
Others who performed when the Canton rink was opened were Tommy Allen and Juanita Percelly, while other "Holiday on Ice" skaters staged a skating clinic at the new rink on the following weekend.
That rink is gone from Central Plaza now, replaced by snow-covered lunch tables. But even five decades ago, ponds were more popular among area skaters than plazas.
ICE IN PARKS
"Nature provides the frozen surface for this area's No. 1 winter sport, but does not produce ice in perfect condition for skater's capers," wrote Mary Peebles in a Repository story published under the headlines "Ice Manicured for Skaters" and "City's 4 Pampered Ponds Provide Prodigious Sport."
A smooth and safe surface on park lagoons required manpower and machinery, Peebles wrote. The work of city employees in the parks was supervised by Canton Recreation Department director Myron Robinson in 1964.
"As the ice freezes, crews under the supervision of Clarence Rich, maintenance superintendent, use a small tractor, a rotary broom and a snow blower," Peebles wrote in 1963. "Thicker ice can support a large jeep, with a scraper attached."
The average depth of the four lagoons is about 3 feet, the article noted, so water in them freezes quickly. Still, the ice had to be at least 4 inches thick before the Recreation Department equipment could be used to clear the surface. Times when the ice wasn't thick enough to support such vehicles are memorable to skaters of that day. Skating was delayed, they said, if Rich's tractor fell into the water.
COMFORT AND SAFETY
Fires were kept blazing at the lagoons so skaters could warm themselves. Signs were posted when city workers felt the ice was unsafe.
There also was a popular safety jingle, credited to the American Red Cross, that Peebles said in her article was a popular rule-of-thumb regarding ice thickness.
"One inch, keep off!
"Two inches, one skater may;
"Three inches, small groups;
"Four inches, okay."
Canton Joint Recreation District, which now supervises skating — which, today. is allowed only on Monument Park's lagoon — has its own way of letting people know that skating is safe.
The "rec department" posts signs at Monument Park saying the ice is ready for winter recreation enthusiasts.
It also illuminates a green light. Skaters should look for the light, then go.
Reach Gary at 330-580-8303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @gbrownREP