Childhood Fun: Urban Tobogganing

Urban Tobogganing


Early one morning, while getting ready for work, my wife and I were talking about kids and their behavior. I’m not sure exactly how we got to this topic, but the jist of the conversation was that my wife was a good kid growing up and I was a trouble maker. Because I had a tendency to get into trouble, my wife says that if our child is anything like me, we are going to have our hands full.

With a hurt look on my face, I asked that dumb question, who me? My wife let out an over-exaggerated laugh and went into telling me the things she has been told about my childhood. She focused on one childhood story in particular, which would be best described as Urban Tobogganing.

Growing up in Philadelphia, most of our games and activities were held on concrete. While there were some parks around, they simply were not convenient for spur of the moment pick-up games. We used to take advantage of the variety of parking lots in the area. We had designated lots for stick-ball, football, soccer, hockey, and so on and so forth.

Just like sports, our adventurous hi-jinks were normally held on some sort of paved surface. The one particular activity my wife was referencing took place at a local church. Just a few blocks away there was a Catholic School which took up the space of a city block. In addition to the School, there was a rectory, a church, an administration building, and a convent.

Among all of these building were a few parking lots that we used for various sports. The church featured a large second floor with stone steps at the front entrance. These steps were not only good for hanging out, but they made for some great Urban Tobogganing.

If you have ever been in a large city, you know that every neighborhood is spotted with corner bars and convenience stores. These corner stores allowed us to acquire these large plastic crates, which we used as make-shift toboggans. The particular crates were used by the Strohman Bread Company and accompanied practically every delivery made throughout the city.

Most drivers would drop off the bread in these crates and leave them at the store until the next delivery. While these crates sat awaiting pick-up, we would get our hands on one or two of them. Without any modification, we could put them to use immediately.

We would take our crates up to the church and climb the stone steps. Someone would sit in the crate and wedge themselves tightly in place and hold on. With a little push of a friend, we would go soaring down the stone steps. After a series of steps, you would hit a landing. If you were good, you could glide right across the landing and hit the second batch of steps without needing another push.

This was a year-round activity of ours and was the source of plenty of laughs. On occasion someone would become detached from their toboggan, but it generally only lead to a couple of bumps and bruises. As kids, we thought we were indestructible and would do practically anything without the fear of getting hurt.

It has been a log time since I’ve slid down those church steps in a plastic bread crate, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I wonder if the kids that live in my old neighborhood use the church steps like my generation used to?

Maybe my wife is right, if our kid takes after me, we are going to have our hands full!

Do you have any stupid childhood acvtivities
you wish to share?

2 comments On Childhood Fun: Urban Tobogganing

  • This reminded me of two of the dumbest things we used to do when we were kids and when I think about it today as an adult it blows my mind that no one was killed.

    My parents lived on a pretty steep street in a neighborhood in which most houses had a front driveway that curved around the front yard. We would start at the top of the hill on our stomachs on skateboards and go down the hill and through each driveway popping out into the street crossing into the driveway across the street completely blind to the traffic. We called it the Chinese downhill. Some of the houses did have some holes in the bushes where you might be able to get a quick glimpse through to the street but it was beyond stupid.

    The other thing we would do is when we would get a big snowfall. We would tie a rope to the back of someones car, jump on some snow skis and get dragged around the neighborhood. We ended up creating these large jumps right at the intersection where the snow plows left the snow. The car would speed up, we would let go and just launch through the air. It was so much fun and looking back on it today I now understand why the nosy neighbor told our parents what we were doing.

    It’s funny the things you do when you are a kid that you don’t believe are dangerous or stupid because they are just so damn fun.

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