by Helen Nolden
The following article was written by Helen Rice Nolden for The Valley Star, Velva
January 10, 1996
Years ago, we used to go sledding on what we called the Tower Hill. Of course, when you were a wee child, it seemed as if it were indeed a big hill. The tower name came in because the water tower is up on the hill also. Using the word tower seems to add height to the whole thing.
When we had our Anamoose mass school reunion in 1991, Maxine Pfeifele Gadjo, her husband Ron, and I walked up the hill. I guess Maxine had told him about the huge hill we used to sled down when we were children. When we got to the top and looked down, Ron questioned our definition of a tower hill. Maybe, through the years, it had shrunk, because when I was a child, it was high!
During winter, the Tower Hill became a great gathering place for a number of children and several adults too. A lot of pictures have stuck in my mind over the years. I remember Otto Heringer with one of the largest sled I had ever seen, fly down that hill with all the fun of us kids.
The John Schmidt family lived in the house on the east side of the slope, which was torn down in the summer of ’95. The white building next to the water tower was called a pump house, and that was where the huge water pumps were. The water tower itself has a hole on the east side. It’s been there forever.
Some members of the Schmidt family took care of the pumps, keeping them oiled and greased and turning them off and on. In the winter, their son, Clemie, would let the pumps run a little longer, causing the tower to run over. It usually only lasted a short time, but it was long enough to get our hill really icy. With that ice coating, we could take a run, holding our sleds in front of us, then belly-flop on our sleds and fly down that hill, heading south. We would cross the street that goes east and west, which, at that time was highway 52. That didn’t deter us and, if all went well, we could actually get down to the corner where Ruth Helm, Melvin Peiler, Edgar Rath, and Pete Weningers lived. We called that the “big corner”.
If we made it down to the big corner, it was a long hike back up the hill, but we didn’t mind because we knew we had made it down to the big corner. There seemed to be some big satisfaction in that. I don’t remember who it was that came down that hill at full speed, just as a huge truck was heading west on highway 52. All of us on the hill watched with bated breath as the young sledder went right under the truck and kept heading south. The truck driver shook his fist at all of us.
Most of us, when we saw a truck or car coming down that street, would veer to the left, which had us hitting Schmidt’s pig-wire fence. I gathered a lot of bruises, split lips, and even a nosebleed now and then. But we thought a ride down our hill was worth it.
It was on this hill that my dog Buster would aggravate my friends to no end. He loved to ride down the hill on our backs. Some of the boys would try to throw him off by swerving their sleds, but Buster would swerve right along like a skier would do. He would steal the kids’ cap, scarves or mittens, run to the top of the hill and bury them before we could get there. Sometimes the kids were still looking for their belongings in the spring.
I remember some 20 or more kids being up on the hill. Some even brought toboggans. The kids that didn’t have sleds went down to the north of the hill where Martin Hublou had some old machinery. We’d find a piece of tin that we could bend into the shape of a sled. Anything we could sit on and sled would do, but sometimes the rough edges on these assorted sleds would bite and scratch. My mother always wondered what we did to our clothes because we’d always have these little nips and tears.
One of the most dangerous sleds was a huge scoop shovel. It wasn’t too bad for awhile, but one almost always lost control of the darn thing, and the handle would hit someone or something. When you did get it to stop, some older kid would grab the shovel handle and spin you around so you really didn’t know where you were at for awhile.
Even when I go for my walks, which eventually take me to the tower hill, I can still see that hill crawling with children, either speeding down or trudging up, anxious for that ride back down. When you reach my age, memories are good!