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Ice Rink #33!

November 12, 2012

Ken recently began work on his 33rd ice rink at Kelly Elementary. In the next few blogs, he reminisces about how the tradition began and the evolution of his annual creation!

The year was 1979 when my wife, Bobbi, and I were asked to be the two teachers at Kelly Elementary School in tiny Kelly, Wyoming. We accepted the challenge knowing we were going to the one school in Teton County that lacked the facilities that all other schools in the county had. The little school had obviously been neglected. There was no gym, no kitchen, no library and very little storage. The school building was two rooms, one ground level room and one basement room beneath it.

We talked about what we could do to provide physical education activities, especially during the region’s long winters. Bobbie had grades three through six in the upper room, and I had grades Kindergarten through second in the basement. We decided my room would serve as the “gym.” I would stack the children’s desks three high against the east wall of my classroom leaving space for games, exercise, and gym mats for gymnastics.

For winter activities outside, we decided on cross-country skiing and ice skating. Not every child had skis, so I used scrap plywood to build birdhouses to sell for $5 each. We used the money to buy three-pin binding cross-country skis and boots. I made regular trips to our local thrift store to find good deals on skis, boots and poles. One day, the staff there called to let us know that a sporting goods store just gave them almost twenty pairs of three-pin boots! We rushed into town right after school and purchased all of them at a cost of $2 a pair.

Next, friends in our neighborhood who were part time residents and lived in Memphis, Tennessee, said since they ran a sporting goods store, they could get us children’s skis at cost, poles included. Our cross-country ski program was ready to go!

On my trips to the thrift store, I also bought all their children’s ice skates in children’s sizes. I was determined to build a large ice skating rink on the east half of the playground. The summer before our first day at Kelly School in September of 1979, I had worked forty days clearing sagebrush and rock to create a playground space for soccer, kickball, capture the flag and softball. Not only did we find a school with a lack of indoor facilities, but the playground was also nothing but a piece of blacktop, a four-swing swingset and two sets of monkey bars.

As winter approached, I had several boxes full of ice skates in varied sizes. Now the challenge would be to build an ice skating rink 75 feet by 75 feet with a garden hose. Stay tuned… the next blog, “The Anatomy of an Ice Rink,” will explain how I accomplished this!

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