Wineka column: When it’s not 70 in the winter, a boy’s best friend is his sled

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 13, 2013

CHINA GROVE — This is a cruel joke to all the kids out there.

But here’s a story of a boy, his sled and the best sledding hill in China Grove.

It will make you want to shout, “Rosebud,” and is meant as an antidote to this weekend’s 70-degree temperatures in January.

Trent Patterson, senior pastor at Beulah Heights Wesleyan Church in Troutman, grew up in maybe the best house in China Grove when it came to winter sledding.

He lived at 206 S. Franklin St. in a historic 1901 house next to First Baptist Church. It also happened to be at the top of a long hill going back toward town.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew to gather on Franklin Street when sledding conditions were good, and the take-off point for sledding runs would be next to the Patterson house.

Because of the number of sledders, the town would even set out barricades to prohibit vehicular traffic.

“This was considered the big-kid hill,” Patterson says.

Charlie Patterson, Trent’s dad, got into the spirit, too. He would set out a fire barrel on the sidewalk in front of the Patterson house, and the kids could warm themselves around the barrel in between runs.

It was an exhilarating ride down and a long walk back up the hill, pulling your sled.

Trent Patterson says his dad would keep the fire going, and the sledding seemed to last all night long.

Kids often piled on top of each other on some of their runs, stacking themselves two, three, four and even a wobbly five high.

“We were a lot skinnier back then, too,” Trent says.

All these memories of sledding flooded back to Patterson recently when he noticed his old sled stuck away in the basement in Troutman.

The paint was fading, but he could still make out the words “Royal Racer” on the wooden slats of the body. Part of a slat was missing. A piece of the original twine attached for pulling, was still tied to the sled.

Trent Patterson’s name and a date — Jan. 10, 1973 — were still legible on the steering arm at top. He remembers why.

His father had bought Patterson the sled at China Grove Hardware, and that particular date, following good weekend snowfalls and a nice packing on Franklin Street, was the first time he had used it.

Sometime during that day’s fun, Trent Patterson panicked, because he couldn’t locate the new sled. It showed up at the top of the hill later, prompting Patterson to heat up his dad’s soldering arm and burn in his name and the date.

“I’m kind of glad I did put the date,” Patterson says, looking back. “I was upset.”

He was 8 years old at the time and had a younger sister and brother, who would have been too young for the Franklin Street hill.

“I remember crashing a few times,” Trent Patterson says.

Trent and his father recall how their big trees (now gone) used to provide a giant canopy over the street back in the 1970s. With snow on the ground and the shimmering street lights, “it was a beautiful sight,” Trent adds.

Trent Patterson left the house at 206 S. Franklin St. after high school, and his mother sold the house in 1987 to Geoff and Pam Siege, who raised their own family here and still live in the house.

The Sieges and their children, Ben and Cassie, also took advantage of this best sledding hill in China Grove, when the winters cooperated.

“Our kids have, we have — it’s a blast,” Geoff Siege says, “especially when it gets frozen solid.”

Today, Trent Patterson has two married daughters and a granddaughter. Yes, he acknowledges, they have heard him reminisce about sledding on Franklin Street.

Charlie Patterson, who had a long career at Fiber Industries, moved to High Rock Lake and still lives there.

The Post files show that Trent Patterson’s memory is pretty good.

A Jan. 10, 1973, caption under a photograph of children sledding in Salisbury said this:

“The weekend snow and consistent subfreezing temperatures since have left sledding enthusiasts with almost perfect riding conditions. Most of the residential streets are coated with a hard glaze of ice, and the youngsters are taking full advantage of Salisbury’s many hills.”

Snow. Sub-freezing temperatures. Sledding.

Those were the good old days.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or