Now and Then

Now & Then: Moon Light and Merry Ice-Skating Parties 1905 to 1952

By Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

“Despite the success of their spring skates there were some ups and downs for the Star Manufacturing Company. In 1873, the patent on Forbes’ skates lapsed and Forbes himself was fired from Starr in 1878. Without the patent other companies began developing cheaper versions of Starr’s spring skate. One of the more blatant knock-offs came from Henry Boker Skates Company and their “Halifax Pattern Spring Skates” which appeared in the early 1900s. Department stores also cashed in by selling their own brand of skates – Eaton’s “Special Clamp” skate looked strikingly like the Starr Acme Club Spring Skate. Even though Starr regained the patent around 1878 they continued to face stiff competition, which only increased at the turn of the century.”[1]

[1] “Starr Manufacturing Company – Makers of World-Famous Ice Skates,” Historic Novia Scotia, accessed March 14, 2020,
An unidentified young girl wearing ice skates, location unknown, ca. 1910. Object ID: 2011.065.002-50. Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Now:  Cañon City provided ice skating for the young and any others who had ice skates and could manage to skate on man-made rinks or natural ice rinks on lakes, ponds, creeks, and livestock water tanks, and the Arkansas River.

As I was researching files, photographs, microfilm, and old maps, I came across an article in the late 1880’s about high school teenagers and the school band.  The plan was for the skaters to skate through the Royal Gorge (before there was a bridge) on the solid frozen Arkansas River. The band would also have ice skates on and follow close behind while playing their instruments.  The skaters all had a jolly good time. Now that’s innovative ice-skating with quite the sound system!

Then: Growing up in the 1950’s on Riverside Drive, my four siblings and I were without ice skates but had plenty of imagination and desire to skate on the ice.  We created our own skates by packing snow on the bottom of our shoes. Our glides on the ice were far from graceful but that did not stop us from have our own merry ice-skating parties with the neighborhood kids who lived in South Cañon.

Cañon City Times

December 12, 1905

Skating has been good the past week and the young folks have been making the most of it these moonlight evenings.  Merry skating parties are out every evening, to Sell’s and the [Lincoln] Park reservoirs.

Map of Cañon City, 1886. Object ID: R1986.046.001

Cañon City Record

November 13, 1913


Warden Tynan of the penitentiary had a dozen prisoners and a couple of teams at work this morning cutting the weeds and clearing the old water works reservoir adjacent to the City park on South First street in preparation for their conversion into skating ponds for the young people of this community during the coming winter. The Canon City Civic Improvement league took up the matter of flooding the old reservoirs with the city council some time ago and through its efforts splendid skating will be provided there for the public during the next few months.  The city council very generously offered to fill the reservoirs from the water mains free of cost and through the {unreadable} the Civic Improvement league, assisted by Warden Tynan and the city council, healthy, invigorating sport will be provided for skaters during the winter season.

Map of Cañon City, 1886. Object ID: R1986.046.001

Cañon City Record

December 18, 1913


The old waterworks reservoir near the river on South First street affords fine skating to young people of the city and attracts a large number of skaters every afternoon and evening. The reservoir, which has been dry for many months, was recently flooded by order of the city council at the request of the officers of the Civic Improvement Leagge [sic] in order that skating might be provided for the public. That the action of the league in the matter is duly appreciated is evidenced by the large crowds which gather there every night to enjoy the sport. The water to the reservoir is only about two feet deep and there is but little danger of drowning in the event of falling into it. Notices have been posted about the reservoir at the instance of the city council warning skaters that the city is not in any way responsible for any accidents or mishaps that may occur from the breaking of the ice or from other causes.  In other words, skaters assume all risks in going upon the ice.

Cañon City Record

December 19, 1912


Following the suggestion of Mr. W. E. Galley, Mayor Frank P. Smith has arranged with City Water Commissioner C.W. Van Patton to flood the reservoir at the city pumping station in order that the children of Canon City may have a skating rink during the Christmas season. The reservoir will only be flooded to a depth of 2 ½ feet and there will be no danger from drowning or other accidents of that nature.  The pond will probably be filled Wednesday and will be ready for the children about Saturday.

Cañon City Daily Record

November 16, 1916


The site of the old city reservoir at the foot of the Hogback, a few hundred yards west of the upper end of Cooper avenue, which was flooded by the instance of the city council last summer, promises to afford ideal skating during the coming winter, if the weather gets cold enough.  There was considerable ice there the first of the week and many young folks about town took advantage of it for skating purposes. The pond is a large one and the water is quite deep; in some places ten or twelve feet.  In view of the possibility of drowning skaters should be careful not to venture upon the pond until the ice is thick enough to assure them against all danger of breaking.

Cañon City Daily Record

December 1932

Many Cooperate To Prepare Pond For Ice Skaters

A great deal of public interest was shown in preparations made by the people of the community on Monday and Tuesday to make available the offer of Charles Sells to turn over Sell’s pond for skating purpose during the cold weather.

The county furnished a truck and driver to assist in the undertaking. The Citizens Unemployment league contributed three men and a truck to haul wood for building fires along the banks of the pond. Warden Best of the penitentiary donated the labor of a group of prisoners to clear the snow from the ice.  The city council provided free meals for the prisoners while engaged in the undertaking.

The enterprise proved a very popular one and between 75 and 100 people, young and old, enjoyed skating there Tuesday afternoon.  Almost as many pleasure-seekers were there Tuesday night, some of them remaining until nearly midnight to enjoy the sport.  Wednesday was hardly less alluring and skating parties were there most of the day.

It is expected that skating will be good at Sell’s pond during the remainder of the week, perhaps longer.

Cañon City Daily Record

December 13, 1932

Sell’s Pond Made Into Ice Skating Resort for City

Through the courtesy of Charles Sell, and the cooperation of Warden Best of the penitentiary in furnishing inmate workers, Sell’s pond has been converted into a free skating resort for the people of Canon City.

The work of making the pond available to skaters was begun a couple of days ago and has just been completed. Skating began there Tuesday afternoon and will be free to the public as long as the cold weather lasts.

In the absence of a place for public skating within convenient distance of town, Mayor James and the city council have been frequently requested since the beginning of the winter months to flood certain low lands about town to afford ice for skating.

The low stage of water in the Arkansas river made this impracticable, and there seemed little likelihood that the authorities would be able to provide opportunities for skating on a large scale, when Mr. Sell very generously offered the pond to the people of the community for that purpose.

Warden Best and the city council combined to make Mr. Sell’s offer a reality to the community. The former furnished the men to clear the snow from the surface of the pond, and the latter used “its good offices” in encouraging and promoting the undertaking.      

Cañon City Daily Record

January 25, 1940

Sells’ Pond Open to Ice Skaters

Sell’s Island pond near the foot of Pump hill in South Canon is open for free ice skating, Charles Sells, owner, announced Thursday.

The ice is in good condition and is thick enough to be perfectly safe, he said.  He has secured the cooperation of Southern Colorado Power company in providing lights, and County Commissioner W.R. Griffiths in providing wood for a fire.

Several skating parties have been using the pond the past few evenings.  All skaters in town are invited to use the pond, the only request made by Mr. Sell is that the property not be damaged.

“I’ve furnished the water for the ice, heaven has furnished the cold weather, the power company has furnished the lights, the county has furnished the wood, but skaters will have to furnish their own skates,” he said.

Cañon City Directory with location of ice-skating rink drawn in, 1957. Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center resource material.

Cañon City Daily Record

January 8, 1950

New Ice-Skating Rink Does Land Office Business Over the Weekend

“How To Have Fun” doesn’t even require 10 easy lessons with the current winter sports recreational program being sponsored by the Canon City Recreation commission and directed by John McPherson.

The three-pronged program currently includes junior bowling, ice skating and basketball – and gives teenagers little excuse to complain “there’s nothing to do around here.”

Nippy nights have finally converted the ice skating rink on College, north of the Rudd Park, into one of the most popular spots in town and as many as 50 skaters have been gliding and spilling at one time, McPherson reports.

All last week the rink was in use but reached the peak over the weekend when skaters thronged there Saturday from early afternoon until 10 p.m. and Sunday found it crowded from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Three large floodlights illuminate the rink for after-dark use and a big campfire completes the setup.  Skaters range in ages from three years old to middle-age spread.

Lincoln school has been utilizing the rink to send pupils there for supervised skating during physical education periods.

McPherson is general supervisor of the project and Mr. Hopper has volunteered to aid him.  They report the rink still in good condition Monday morning and said it will remain open as long as the ice stays frozen….

Cañon City Daily Record

September 8, 1950

Nine Local Men Cooperating in Ice Rink Project

“I don’t deserve all the credit,” W.A. (Bill) MacKenzie protested today.  “There are eight public-spirited businessmen who are in on the ice-skating rink project for this winter with me. 

“In fact, they are going to do most of the work.”

MaKenzie explained that aiding him in the venture for a free public outdoor ice rink for Canon City residents this winter are Bernard McDonough, Jack McDonough, Wallace Bethel, Dr. Jack Vance, Rinehart Dickson, Ira Burns, Lloyd Jaynes and Frank Hickey.

These eight, MacKenzie pointed out, will be responsible for overseeing the grading and freezing of the rink and for the supervision of, with somebody on the job at the rink each evening there is skating – which will be whenever the ice can be kept frozen.

In addition, there will undoubtedly be others who will volunteer their services throughout the winter.

Plans are still in the preliminary stage for the rink but it is hoped to have it ready and waiting when old man winter pays his first visit.

Cañon City Daily Record

December 7, 1951

Ice Rink Ready for First Freeze

The ice-skating season is almost here. 

With Canon City beginning to get ready for sub-freezing nights, the recreation district this week was getting the outdoor rink at 12th and College ready for skating.

The area has been nearly doubled in size and water has already run into the pond to soak up the ground. Recreation Director John McPherson said that “As soon as we get a cold enough night, water will be turned in and frozen.”

Harv Cooper will once again look after the grounds and the care of the pond itself, as he did last winter.

From McPherson came a plea to youths to “Keep the area clean. Last year – and again this fall – there were a lot of cans and other debris thrown into the pond.  We’re asking youngsters to help keep the pond in shape and not throw things in there.”

Shortage of pipe has held up the plan to install an ice freezing machine. Pipe is on the government’s list of critical metal goods.  However, if sufficient pipe is found an ice machine will be installed.  W.A. McKenzie, Canon City man, said that his offer to privately buy the freezing unit still stands, if pipe can be found.

Cañon City Daily Record

November 27, 1952


Falling temperatures this week maybe were not welcomed by many for a variety of reasons. But the near-100 children at the ice skating rink after school on Wednesday didn’t mind.

After dark Wednesday, lights were turned on and about 50 children and adults enjoyed the sport throughout the evening hours.

Continued cold is keeping the ice in good shape and the rink will be opened again tonight.

Located just across from Rudd Park, on College avenue, the rink is a project of the Canon City Recreation commission.

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