Posted by: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic | January 8, 2013

Mountain Flyer Sled

DSCN1070As it turns colder and the snow starts to fall, a friendly reminder it is midwinter in Atlantic Canada, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the “snow day.” Awakening after news of a pending storm, butterflies dancing in my stomach, there was nothing better than hearing Mother’s confirming call, “School’s cancelled, you can go back to sleep!”

Go back to sleep, you say? Really? Roll over, reinvesting in this prime under-blanket real estate promising the warmth of a wood burning fireplace? I don’t think so! No time to waste!

I must get outside, on hands and knees like some sort of Olympic Ice Technician, to check the texture and consistency of the snow and make the official call on what the day would bring.  Was it packed down tight just right for ramping the GT snow racer, or did it freeze overnight leaving a nice crusty covering of ice, suitable for belly slides on the Krazy Karpet?  These were the questions that shaped many days of winter play throughout my childhood.

On reflection, I’m sure these memories are not unique to my life.  I am certain these are experiences of many who have grown up in colder climates like that of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.  In fact, these warm feelings from much colder times, shared between friends and neighbors alike, transcend generations.

I remember most fondly my own Grandfather’s boyhood memories of winter in Bayport, Nova Scotia.  He grew up beside the ocean on a small family farm, living mostly off the land, and was accustomed to “going without.” Although he never complained, I understand it was a harsh life at times, as Grampy was said to have failed Grade 6 three times and then dropped out of school to run the family farm as his father went to sea.  It was always clear to me that despite this roughness, he was keen to bring light to it all, and prone to having a good bit of fun.  Sitting around our dinner table after a meal, sipping on a black coffee, indulging in a sweet treat, is when he would reminisce most about his childhood.  He would begin telling these winter-themed stories by elaborating on how much snow we used to get in comparison to today.  Snow that “stood taller than the cars.” So much snow that you would have to “shovel from the upstairs windows just to get outside.” Whether this as the natural starting place was intentional I’m not certain, but it certainly provided a picture-perfect background and setup a strangely chilly yet warm atmosphere for the rest of his stories.  He would then describe afternoon skating parties and community bonfires on the ice that went well into the wee hours of the morning.  As he continued the stories tended to sound more dangerous, shared with a special smile, one saved specially for those boyhood sagas of reckless abandon.

But nothing ever compared to his story of the legendary “mountain flyer.” This was “the” story; the one we all held out for. This was undoubtedly the climax, for there was nothing greater than his proudest possession, his one-of-a-kind mountain flyer sled.

“Boys oh boys,” he would say. “I never seen nuthing else like it.  She would fly down that hill, mister man.  When we was little kids it was all we could do but hold on, you see.”  I, in my own youth, would picture my Grandfather as he sat on his sled on top of a mountain, his personal Everest, with his friends Gilbert Mosher and Ivan Corkum, wearing capes, flying back down to the bottom like superheroes. Of course there are no mountains in Bayport, and I was always familiar with the average sized hill behind his home, but the way he spoke of this special sled and the fun he had on it, it was just as magical as if he had slid down the highest mountain peak in the world.  On his Mountain Flyer, he was invincible and he could conquer anything.

DSCN1072

In 1940 Karl Wagner of Bayport, NS built this sled as a gift for my Grandfather, Donald Mosher. The iron work was made by blacksmith Lenny Conrad

Today this family relic has found a special place in the Community Life exhibit at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.  It is a great reminder of the importance of winter activities in this area, and it highlights the local drive to reuse and recycle before the green bandwagon rolled our way.  This upgraded toboggan has a cleverly engineered design, using old iron runners, and a steering wheel from a Ford Model T.  It is the precursor to the GT snow racer of my generation, and a local favourite on the snow hills in the 1940s.

Ashlee Feener

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