Tag Archive | Franklin Park

Bobsledding Along

The Debut of Sledding in the Olympics

February 9, 2021

Over the years, a variety of competitions have been added to the Winter Olympics. On February 9, 1932, the two-man Bobsled made its debut and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Photo of a USA 2 man Bobsled team at the 1932 Olympics

For anyone unfamiliar with the event, think sledding but much, much faster. The first competitions, predating the Olympic Games, occurred in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the 1800’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Its foundation began when hotelier Caspar Badrutt (1848–1904) convinced some wealthy English regulars to remain through the entire winter at his hotel in the mineral spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland. He had been frustrated that his hotel was only busy during the summer months. By keeping his guests entertained with food, alcohol, and activities, he quickly established the concept of ‘winter resorting’. Within a few years, wintering at Badrutt’s St Moritz hotel became very fashionable in Victorian Britain. However, with increased numbers this led some guests to search for new diversions. In the early 1870s some adventurous Englishmen began adapting boys’ delivery sleds for recreational purposes.”

The hotel guests loved the sleds and soon they competed in races down the streets and alleys of St. Moritz. The ‘runs’ became longer and the speeds faster which led to crashes and injuries. Complaints from the townspeople increased.

Sledding the streets of St. Moritz circa 1903

(Badrutt’s) “solution was to build a basic natural ice run for his guests outside the town near the small hamlet named Cresta in the late 1870s. Badrutt took action because he did not want to make enemies in the town and he had worked hard and investing a lot of time and money in popularizing wintering in St. Moritz so he was not going to let customers stop coming due to boredom.”

The Bobsled – either the two-man or four-man – is controlled by a steering mechanism in the nose of a bullet shaped ‘car.’ The participants sit in a crouched position facing forward inside the car which is guided by the pilot. The additional participants serve as pushers to gain initial speed and then as ballast which helps the Bobsled go faster down the icy track.

Besides Bobsled another winter event, the Luge, also involves excessive speeds. The Luge, however, is sport where the participant lays face up on an open, lightweight sled and uses his or her feet to guide it.

You can ride an actual bobsled on the Olympic Track from the Whistler games… just a six hour drive from Seattle!

Both sports are rather heart stopping at times. The world record for Bobsled speed is 125 mph! Lugers generally race between 75 and 90 mph.

Given a choice between watching the summer or winter games, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the snow sports whether it’s skating, skiing, or sledding.

I think this may stem from my childhood days growing up in Yakima. While most of winter in Yakima tends to be marked by sunny, cold, and dry, there are usually a few big enough snow events which made sledding – which is an inexpensive pastime – possible. The street I grew up on was perfect for a beginner sledding experience. It had a slope, but was gentle enough that a five year old could manage it.

As the years went on, I graduated to bigger hills. A walk south to where 31st Avenue crossed Tieton drive brought we adventurous sliders to the top of a rather daunting slope. At the bottom of that slope lived my cousins. When we got bored with our pedestrian hill we ventured to theirs.

Then, the year I was twelve I was allowed one day to head to the holy grail of all sledding hills in Yakima: Franklin Park.

From top to bottom, the hill is probably about 60 feet. The center of the 45 degree slope is flat like a cookie sheet. But on either side are terraces, each of the half dozen around 10 feet high. After a big snow, of course, the hill comes alive with hundreds of kids and every one of them wants to slide down the sloped ‘cookie sheet’ in the middle. It doesn’t take long for the snow to reveal the un-slidable grass from the activity of all those kids.

Franklin Park in Yakima is a magnet for kids after a big snowfall. The center section was always the most popular spot but when the snow was gone even the terraces (the lumpy looking sides) beckoned the brave.

On the particular day I was allowed to go I ended up relegated to trying to figure out how to sled the terraces. I lay down on my sled, hands on the cross bar and inched my way to the top of the highest terrace; the sled dropped down over the edge and I flew. For exactly 10 feet before the sled lurched to a stop in the deep snow.

This was not, you might imagine, a particularly successful method of sledding. But I persevered and dragged the sled to the next terrace ledge, lay down and once again pushed the sled over the ledge, pretty much bouncing down the next terrace with a similar result.

Now I cannot recall for sure on which terrace disaster struck, but strike it did during this, my first and only time sledding at Franklin Park.

Down the slope I went and when I got to the bottom of the third level, the front of the sled reared up and smacked me in the face. I rolled off the sled, the stinging pain letting me know my decision making abilities were not very good. But the worst part of all was that my glasses, which I needed for distance vision, lay broken in two in the snow.

Despite that experience, I have persisted. There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as when you gain momentum and go hurtling down a slippery slope, knowing that you are likely out of control, but loving the speed and the flying sensation.

Kids having fun sledding at the family cabin near White Pass

Our family cabin was, for years, a destination for New Year’s or President’s Day weekends. When the kids arrived, we introduced them to the joys of sledding and everyone looked forward to those trips.

On one particular afternoon, we were all outside playing in the snow and my dad had driven up from Yakima. He had to have been in his late 70’s at the time, but there he was sliding down the hill with the kids and having a great time. Or he was right up until the boat sled in which he was riding sailed over a berm and he landed hard, bruising his tailbone. It was at that moment he declared his sledding days over. About five years ago I did the exact same thing in the exact same spot and, like my dad, ended up bruised and battered.

We all frequently ended up sprawled out on the snow at the end of the sled run

I have my doubts that I’ll ever get back on a sled but I haven’t counted it out quite yet. After we sold the cabin this past summer, two of the metal boat sleds came to live in my garage. Now all I need is a snowy day. Not too far from where I live is an epic hill which would be perfect for a run.

But, with no big snow storms on the horizon, I’ll do the next best thing. I typed in ‘virtual luge’ on my computer and got hundreds of hits. For best results, view it on a full size TV. And for a couple of minutes you can see what it would be like to ride a two man bobsled. And you won’t even need to wear a helmet or your mittens. But a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whip cream would be heavenly.

And a couple of links:



Take The Plunge!

The Swimming Pool

July 23, 2019

With the extreme temperatures which have gripped much of the United States the past week, people – especially parents with kids at home – often seek out water as a way to find relief.

It’s appropriate, then, that the first swimming school in the U.S. opened on July 23, 1827, in Boston, Massachusetts. The proprietor, German immigrant Franz Lieber, believed that swimming was a healthy activity necessary to aid a boy’s growth.  Unfortunately, the swimming school failed after two years


First public pool in Brookline, Massachusetts

Now I can’t find the reason for this failure except to say that it might have been due to the absence of a heated water holding area where his young charges could safely swim. If those boys were forced to swim in the Charles River, they likely found it somewhat unpleasant. Alas, it was another 60 years before the first public swimming pool opened in nearby Brookline.

Over the years, the swimming pool has become a staple of American life; a desired amenity for traveling Americans and nearly a requirement for suburban homes across the southern half of the nation.

In my research I found some interesting ‘records’ for pools. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“According to the Guinness World Records, the largest swimming pool in the world is San Alfonso del Mar Seawater pool in Algarrobo, Chile. It is 1,013 m (3,323 ft) long and has an area of 8 ha (20 acres). At its deepest, it is 3.5 m (11 ft) deep. It was completed in December 2006.

The largest indoor wave pool in North America is at the West Edmonton Mall and the largest indoor pool is at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in the Sonny Carter Training Facility at NASA JSC in Houston.

In 2014, the Y-40 swimming pool at the Hotel Terme Millepini in Padua, Italy became the deepest indoor pool at 42.15 m (138.3 ft), certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. The recreational diving center Nemo 33 near Brussels, Belgium previously held the record (34.5 m (113 ft)) from May 2004 until the Y-40 was completed in June 2014.

Fleishacker pool San Francisco

Fleishhacker Pool which was really more of a man made lake complete with boats

The Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco was the largest heated outdoor swimming pool in the United States. Opened on 23 April 1925, it measured 1,000 by 150 ft (300 by 50 m) and was so large that the lifeguards required kayaks for patrol. It was closed in 1971 due to low patronage.

In Europe, the largest swimming pool opened in 1934 in Elbląg (Poland), providing a water area of 33,500 square metres (361,000 sq ft).

One of the largest swimming pools ever built was reputedly created in Moscow after the Palace of Soviets remained uncompleted. The foundations of the palace were converted into the Moskva Pool open-air swimming pool after the process of de-Stalinisation. However, after the fall of communism, Christ the Saviour Cathedral was re-built on the site between 1995 and 2000; the cathedral had originally been located there.

The highest swimming pool is believed to be in Yangbajain (Tibet, China). This resort is located at 4200 m AMSL and has two indoor swimming pools and one outdoor swimming pool, all filled with water from hot springs.”

Hearst castle pool

One of the world’s most iconic and beautiful pools located at Hearst Castle in California.

If you want to really indulge in pool envy one needs only to watch the HGTV show “Ultimate Pools” which features beautiful private oases of the rich but not famous.

Having grown up in Yakima, Washington, the hot, dry summers made it a natural spot for pools to proliferate. When my family moved there in the early 1960’s, however, very few families I knew had built in backyard pools. Instead, the first ‘pool’ I recall was about the size of large area rug and constructed of industrial canvas and metal poles. It was no more than 18 inches tall. Once it was filled with icy cold water my sister and I would, on hot days, lay in the shallow water to cool off.

For my 7th birthday a new pool arrived. It was round and about the size of a small bedroom. Its hard plastic walls stood about 3 feet tall and it was definitely an upgrade.  It was during this time, however, that I was introduced to the public swimming pool. The best summer days were those when we got to go down to Franklin Park – about a mile from our house – and pay our 10 cents to swim.


I was unable to find an historic photo of the death board at Franklin Park. It was located on the other side of the water slide in the original pool. The pool in the foreground was added sometime after 1980.

It seemed as if we were gone all day but I’m pretty certain it was only for a couple of hours. The pool was constructed in an ‘L’ shape with one area being the shallow end and the other being the terrifying end. In the years I went to Franklin pool there was one thing I never did. I never jumped off the high dive board. I can still see that board, suspended over the deep end, beckoning me like the death trap I was certain it must be. Yet other, much braver, young souls would scale the ladder, walk the plank, and then plunge 47 feet to their death.  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t 47 feet. More like fifteen. And to the best of my knowledge no one ever died. But I was not taking any chances. Mostly I got cold after a short time swimming and would go hang out in the locker room with the girl who worked there. I remember her name was Nancy and she was in high school and very kind to this annoying child.

It was in the summer of 1973, however, that things really changed. That was the year my parents decided to put a pool in the backyard of our home. What an exciting summer that was. One morning a crew arrived with backhoes and soon there was a huge hole behind our house. For several weeks we watched the daily progress until one day in late summer the pool was complete and the hoses began to flow.

That pool was the dream of every teenage girl. A diving board was set just above the water so no death defying plunges were required; and it featured a curved water slide that flung the rider into the pool.

Pete demonstrating the water slide September 1973

My brother demonstrating proper use of the water slide. September 1973

As for me, I still got cold far too easily and discovered that the best way to ‘swim’ was with the aid of an air mattress. Hours were spent each of the next several summers floating on my conveyance about the pool, getting in the water when I got too hot, but would soon return to the lazy comfort of my air mattress.

Barb 1973 during pool construction

16 year old me out investigating the pool construction site August 1973. They had to remove a deck at the side of the house to access the yard. (behind me)

Eventually the upkeep of the pool became too much and was one of the factors which prompted our parents to sell the house and move in 1984. What great memories I have of those summers in the 1970’s and the hours spent afloat on that pool. When we are young we often don’t appreciate something so special. Ah, to be 16 again with nary a care in the world and a pool to call my own!

As always a couple of links:


Pool envy:


History of pools: