Boy-powered ice-sweepers

Boys with ice-shovels pose for their pictures while clearing snow off a pond.

For the most part, boys who wanted to skate had to clear the ice themselves.

Ice rinks, though not unheard of, were far fewer in number and far less interesting than frozen waterways, whether rivers or ponds; and, for the better part of a century, most American skaters enjoyed their sport in such natural settings.

Here, boys of various ages pose with their shovels while clearing the ice in Washington DC.  Half-pose for the camera, I should say, for, while cooperating, still they couldn’t quite stifle their pure excitement and joy, their clowning and jostling frozen forever, along with their readiness to have a good time.

Despite differences in headgear, the skaters’ dress is fairly uniform: their knee-length trousers terminating above long wool stockings and lace-up skates.  Most wear jackets rather than long overcoats, and a few wear ties!  In the vanguard, an earnest-looking boy wears a serious woolen hat, its folds covering his ears, neck, and chin in a heavy cowl.

The knee-length pants were known as knickers.  Their uniform usage in this photograph suggests that it was taken in the nineteen-teens.

Image: from this source
Click image to enlarge.

This is the fifth in an occasional series on ice-skating.  Click here to read from the beginning.

4 responses

  1. My father, born in 1917, often wore a tie in childhood. And throughout adulthood as well.
    Our joke was that he was “born with a tie on”. But, apparently, this was not unusual.
    Had he been in this photo chances are he’d have been one of the boys with a tie. Great photo!

    • I wish your father were in this picture! Thank you for that vivid recollection–I love the idea of boys growing up in ties.
      Thank you, KW.

  2. Interesting to see–a nice photo you found of such an esoteric activity! . . . . To this day it seems to be a “men’s” job. During the break between the periods in professional hockey, men always clean the ice with shovels, but they also use a machine to put on a fresh coat of water to freeze and thus produce a “new” layer of ice for the players to skate on.