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Fire department might be needed for this tobogganer

Joyce Walter reflects on a winter past-time
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

It was a bright, sunny, non-windy day recently when we travelled on the highway a short distance to give some life to a car battery that had languished in the frigid temperatures of a previous week.

We ventured as far as the pioneer museum, turned around and headed back to the city, checking out the scenery going and returning and admiring the snow still covering some of the hills.

“Wouldn’t this be a perfect day to go skating or tobogganing,” I said, with some longing, to Housemate.

He smirked, as I knew he would, and I immediately read his mind: “How would I get her up off the toboggan?” he asked himself as he grinned some more.

“How would she ever get down low enough to actually sit on the toboggan? And if she did make it down the hill safely, would she be able to walk back up or would I have to call the fire department for assistance?”

Of course, I couldn’t be angry at knowing what he was thinking when I, too, wondered the same things. 

But with wishful thinking, I merely said it would be a great day indeed if only we could turn back the clock and make those historic moments come true: both of us cuddled up on the toboggan, zooming down the hill and coming to a safe stop at the bottom. I didn’t say anything sarcastic about Housemate having the doubtful agility even years before to be able to push us to a sliding start and then hopping on without face-planting in the snow. I did laugh to myself at the thought but remained silent in amusement.

It was fortuitous that we had our nostalgic moment when we did, for soon the news hit the headlines that around Oshawa, the winter activity of tobogganing would be limited to only two parks because of safety concerns expressed by the city council. Indeed, they were worried that someone might sue if a toboggan ride ended in tears instead of laughter. One of the arguments for favouring only two parks was that harm-related obstacles like tree stumps and boulders could be removed from those hills. 

Oshawa wasn’t breaking new tracks: other cities in other provinces had previously latched restrictions onto the sport and did not back down despite outrage at having Big Brother/Sister ruining one of the games of winter. 

After two hours of debate at a Jan. 30 meeting, those councillors in Oshawa decided to let toboggans slide where they may, allowing parents and other responsible adults to be accountable for their own safety. And then turned their attention to more worthy civic matters.

As far as memory serves me, no one in my hometown ever tried to limit our access to the school hill as the best toboggan spot in the hamlet. There was only one obstacle at the top of the hill: a power pole in the direct path of a straight-away run. So toboggans were steered around it.

The only dangers of a two-fast ride could have been failure to stop in time for traffic on the road and then ending up in the steep ditch on the other side on the road.

That ditch was usually filled with plenty of deep snow so the landing was wet but soft. Smacking into the power pole was less of a good time. That only happened once when the steering person failed her job. She and her two passengers lay in the snow gasping for breath and unanimously agreed someone else would steer the toboggan on all future trips.

Even though our mishap was soon common knowledge, the local government did not produce a restrictive bylaw to ruin our winter fun.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows helped ease the pain in our backs and warmed our hearts.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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