‘Our Des Moines’ looks at the secret fun we had on Grandview Hill

In keeping with my mission to fill this space, when it’s my turn, with as much of my East Des Moines heritage as possible, I bring you a confession:

Yeah, I was one of the kids who told our parents we were going skating on pond #11, not sledding down the snowy hill at Grandview Golf Course. We didn’t exactly tell them the whole story, lest they tell us to stay home.

For hours under the stars, we neighborhood kids would alternate skating with a few minutes around the cast-iron wood stove in the middle of the warming cabin. What we didn’t tell our parents, though, we did. before adjourning to the relative safety of the ice. (And yes, we were all very good skaters.)

We walked to the top of the hill between the No. 10 tee box and the green, put on our skates and (stop reading now, mom) skated on what at the time seemed to be the hill the longest and steepest (and most icy) imaginable.

If we were lucky enough to skate far enough without seriously spraining (or breaking) an ankle, leg, or arm, we’d be skating right on the ice. We proudly looked back at our route, bragged about how easy it was (when it really wasn’t), and then we’d do it again.

Sleds enjoy a hill race at Grandview Park in Des Moines on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

Our parents warned against partaking in our dangerous version of fun. They threatened to be “beached” from The Hill if we were ever caught. They said they would take our skates for a week.

We listened, but ignored. We were children. The rush to get from the top of the hill to the ice without damaging a limb was worth the consequences.

Yeah, I loved that hill, just up East 29th Street where I used to live from. As pre and early teens, this was our winter gathering place. It was our meeting place, a dozen of us from the wonderful neighborhoods of Grandview and Goodrell.

We were there before a fence was put up to prevent the current sleds from sliding into danger on Guthrie Avenue. We were there before the tires were installed to cushion low-hill landings.

Great times, indeed.

As kids we skated the big hill and what was then a skating rink at Grandview Golf Course.  Dangerous?  Yes.  Fun?  The best.  (photo by Randy Peterson)

Before anyone had even tried the irresponsible skating routine for the first time, we dragged our Radio Flyers (the popular brand of sled in the late 1960s), bought some food from the nearby grocery store, and had can’t wait to roll down the hill.

We waited until evening, because by then the small children had observed their curfew. Our time was when the sun was setting.

Someone always brought pop. I brought the biggest candy bars I could find. Someone’s mother provided hot chocolate. We were ready, and the colder it was, the better.

The long steep and slippery walk to the top of the hill didn’t bother us. The exhilarating feeling we had was worth it. Just like the thrill we got from successfully navigating from hill to ice – on ice skates.

I’m pretty sure our parents knew that, but just in case—mom’s the word, okay?

Randy Peterson, a sports columnist covering Iowa State University, is a Des Moines native and East loyalist, except when he’s relaxing in Okoboji. A graduate of East High School and Drake University, he has written for the Des Moines Register since December 1972. Contact him at [email protected], 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.

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Our Des Moines is a weekly feature about an interesting person, place, or event in metro Des Moines, the kind of gems that make central Iowa special. Any idea for this series? Contact [email protected]

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