Some of my favorite childhood winter memories involved the trips to Bemberg Hill for sledding. Although the memories are over 40 years old, they are still vivid and cherished. It seemed that there were bigger snows back in the late 60's and early 70's. Bemberg Hill was a significant slope that was located in the area that is now occupied by Cato's and Peebles near the Elizabethton High School. It was accessible from Washington Avenue and was a popular gathering spot in the winter. We would park along the side of the road or in peoples yards. Neighbors didn't seem to mind back then. I can still remember the smell of the car tires burning at the top of the hill that we would stand around to keep us warm. The black smoke could be seen from more than a mile away. (Something that the EPA would have a field day with now!)
People of all ages would congregate around the fire. It seemed like there was always an old car hood sitting near by. It was usually a hood from an old sedan, that when inverted, would make a great "group sled" . As many as 6 or 7 people would pile onto the up-side-down hood and a couple of others would push it to get it started sliding downward. I can still remember the sound of the metal rubbing against the snow as the hood accelerated down the hill. There was always a loud cheer when the sled reached full speed. Riding the hood would pack the snow and make it perfect for the old wooden sleds with the thin metal runners that would follow.
The rest of the day would be spent sledding on small individual sleds. Although there was an occasional metal saucer with red handles, there was no such thing as a snow board or skis or plastic sleds. Everyone had an old sled with a string attached to the steering handles so you could either sit or lay on it. If your sled broke or if you did not have one, people would offer to let you borrow theirs. There was never a harsh word, just laughter after a wipe-out, presuming everyone was okay.
The clothes were a little different then because we did not know what microfiber or nomex was. We would bundle up in what ever we had. If you were lucky you would have some wool socks and gloves that worked great at keeping you warm if you didn't get them wet.
The hill was so long that when watching from the top on a foggy day, you would almost disappear at the bottom. After the ride, each person would be responsible for the long trek back up the hill pulling their sled. But no one seemed to mind too much because it was such a great ride. And you always knew that at 12:00 Noon and 10:00 PM, you would get blasted by the "Bemberg Whistle" that was just across the street.
I am fortunate enough to have some old 8mm footage that was shot sometime around 1968. The footage was shot on a snowy day atop Bemberg Hill. Although the film had almost deteriorated beyond usefulness before I was able to save it to a more stable format, the memories that it brings back more than make up for the poor quality. Several of the people in the footage were my family and friends. We were even lucky enough to film one of the local trains as it passed by in the distance. Oddly enough, it was coupled to run in reverse while pulling the load.
Please enjoy the brief footage below and please let the website staff know if you have memories of Bemberg hill, or other videos or photos that we can add. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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