Skee jumping and some other winter sports

Published 8:40 am Friday, January 2, 2009

That’s no spelling error in the headline. Back in 1908 an article in the Tribune used the word skee instead of ski to describe this wintertime recreational activity. That article was called Winter Sports and published in the Tribune’s Christmas Edition on Dec. 22, 1908. This is the article I mentioned in the Lifestyles article for the Dec. 21 issue.

I’m not too sure when the word skee was replaced by the present ski. Here at the Tribune we have a huge old 1934 dictionary on its own stand which doesn’t have this word to be defined at all. I’ve also checked with three more modern dictionaries and the word skee doesn’t appear in any of them at all.

Yet, there’s still something somewhat familiar with this word. Thus, my next step was to make a check with Google. And what I found were references to a game called Skee ball, someone involved with the music business using the name of DJ Skee, and a person named Skee Skinner.

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Now, allow me to pass along more information about winter sports a century ago and make a few comparisons with the present era.

The 1908 article by Frederick R. Toombs had these comments about this time of year:

“’What is so rare as a day in December or January,’ sing the sound limbed, deep chested, oaken hearted American lads. Then, if ever, come perfect days, of slanting to windward, a mile in 50 seconds, on a true and tried ice yacht, of spirited hockey matches, of skating over miles of glistening lake or river surface, of bobsledding, of gliding under moonlit skies with the girls in the old (horse-drawn) family sleigh, of snowshoeing and tobogganing, of hunting the sly fox, the juicy rabbit or the elusive bobwhite.”

In my Dec. 21 Lifestyles article is a photo of two of those ice yachts or what could be called ice boats out by the Hatch Bridge a century ago. These craft had very simple boat bodies on sled runners and equipped with sails. They worked best with smooth ice on days with light winds. Thus, during some winters the owners of these mostly homemade wintertime boats had to keep them in storage because of snow covering the lake ice, rough ice, or even open water. (By the way, these alleged yachts weren’t usable during the warmer parts of the year.) At the present time there still may be one or two of these craft still existing and in storage in the Albert Lea area.

In the Dec. 21 article I listed skate sailing without any further explanation. Right here are more details about what may be a forgotten outdoor activity of the past. The ice skater, according to the photo with this old article, was supposed to hold a small sail, similar to a kite, with both hands to catch the wind and easily skim along on the ice.

There was also a slight reference in this 1908 article to an outdoor sports activity called curling. This has nothing to do with hair styles. In this part of the nation there’s quite an interest in curling. An article in the Winter 2008 issue of Southern Minnesota Magazine explains the connection between this old Scottish sports competition involving the stones or rocks and brooms and the nearby city of Mapleton. I have also been informed there are indoor curling rinks in Owatonna, Mankato and St. Paul. In fact, what could be called “chess on ice” is even an official winter Olympics sports event.

In past winter season articles I’ve had the opportunity to both describe and illustrate various outdoor wintertime events. These include the outdoor ice skating rinks at Morin Park and other parks in the city, the indoor hockey rink at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds., the old toboggan slides behind the Wedge-Jones home and near what’s now the City Center, and the skiing slopes and ski jump structures northwest of Albert Lea.

One aspect of skeeing, or what’s now more logically called skiing, which was overlooked in this century-old article, and now even in this era, is the cross-country type.

To close off, here’s hoping everyone enjoys those winter sports, indoors, outdoors or on television.

Ed Shannon’s column have been appearing in the Tribune ever Friday since December 1984.