On Christmas Eve 1941, Dora shooed Nelson (barely turned 6) and his siblings, Louise (7) and Bill (4) up to bed: “Santa will not come until after you are in your beds asleep.” After sleeping for some time, Nelson awoke and, thinking it was morning, woke his siblings: “It’s Christmas morning,” he whispered. “It’s time to go downstairs.” In fact, Nelson had awoken after being asleep for a very short time, perhaps one-half hour. The children stepped quietly down the stairs to see the presents Santa had left for them under the Christmas tree. Instead, they saw their mother putting presents under the tree. The main object they observed was a new Flexible Flyer sled. Dora turned from the tree and saw the children spying from the stairs. “You get back upstairs and go to sleep!” she bellowed. When morning had really come, the children came down the stairs to see their new sled. Christmas night had brought new snow, which the morning’s cars had packed down on the Millcreek Canyon road. Dora bundled the children up and drove them to the top of a straight portion of the inclined road. She instructed the children that she would drive to the bottom of the hill and signal when they could safely launch. From the bottom of the hill, after the several cars had passed, she waved at the children, and they took turns flying down the icy road on their new sled. Whichever child had sledded down would pull the sled back up the road. Bill, being small, had the benefit of sliding down on each run and being pulled back up the hill by his older sister or brother. Sometimes a car would begin to drive up the road after the sled run had begun, and the rider would have to steer off the road to avoid the car. Thirty years later, Mom and Dad bought a Flexible Flyer for my siblings and me, and we passed many shrill happy hours racing down the hill at Johnson Park, in Piscataway, New Jersey. Whether sitting or prone, we could twist the cross-bar to navigate handily around tree trunks, though once Dad took us down the hill on an old wood toboggan that did not steer well and he crashed us into a tree. We all tumbled off, thrilled with the adventure and mishap, but sad for the cracked toboggan.
Pictured above: the Baker Flexible Flyer, still in use after 50 years.