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Retrospective: Winter as a Kid on Westfield’s Mindowaskin Pond

One of the best memories growing up in Westfield New Jersey was winter skating on an iconic pond that sat adjacent to the Municipal Building just east off the town center. What is now a distant memory, this post not only serves to share a few memories, but to also build an online tribute photo gallery for the by the community to view and share (we”ll talk more about that later).

Mindowaskin Park – December 2021 – The sign that says it all. Oh, what the kids are missing!

Being fortunate to grow up within walking distance from town, the winter was a special time for me. I’d be walking home from town and see that sign sign change from “No Skating” to the tape covering the “no”. That sign on East Broad Street would be the indicator that the police have authorized skating on Mindowaskin Pond. I’d run home, tell my mother and she’d call the police department where you’d get the message that skating was permitted. I’d grab my skates and hockey stick and literally run back down to get on the ice.

Skating Rules

From what I recall, the general rule was that the Police Department would go out and dig a hole in the ice. I remember for some reason that the ice had to be 9 inches before the PD would allow public skating on the pond. Also remember the Department of Public Works coming in and installing those red stained fences around the waterfall, the island with the wooden lit mini- Presbyterian church on it, and how they’d bring on that mini zamboni to clear the ice after it snowed. You could call some phone number and get the official announcement that “skating is now permitted”. I just can’t remember the number but I must have dialed it a thousand times.

I also remember that there were a few rules about pucks and hockey sticks. Hockey was prohibited once masses started to gather. You had to wait until night time to get the puck out. Does anyone remember losing a puck down the waterfall just past the fence just off Broad Street? I do! In fact I remember going down there to fetch a few out (it wasn’t a fun task).

Peter Voght - Brand new Municipal Building-Clipped
Skating on Westfield’s Mindowaskin Pond c.1955 with a brand new Municipal Building in the background. Source: Peter Vogt/Facebook

Making New Friends Using the “Bump Method”

I have to admit, there was no better place to meet the young ladies. Sure you could be shy, but there was never a rejection when you just skated into another member of the opposite sex and they save you with a full hug embrace. Sure you’d apologize, and maybe get punched, but it sure was fun doing it.

Does anyone remember getting tired and resting on the round pond fountain in the dead center of the pond? What a great resting place that was. Or how about sitting on the bench with that metal skate hook pulling those laces as tight as you possibly could to make sure your ankles weren’t sore in 10 minutes. As a kid, I didn’t realize that the tightness was actually causing the pain. Thankfully an older neighbor told be about taping the ankles, which later became a distinct advantage on the ice.

While this photo was taken in January 2004, it could have been me and my pals back in 1972.
Source: Westfield Leader

Then there’s the memories of skating behind the island. At night, when you did it you lost the light of the streetlights around the pond and felt your were in Antarctica. God forbid you skate over towards the little stone bridge thinking you might actually get lost!

Lifelong Memories

It was Mindowaskin Pond that let to greater things for me personally. I gained a solid skill playing pick up hockey which later led me to play for the Cranford Hockey Club and helping to start the Westfield Hockey Club alongside Rob Cullen and a few others in the late 70s. Those friendships I made on the ice all started at Mindowaskin Pond. I’m thankful for the memories!

Just want to thank the internet for providing a spot to share these brief memories that popped into my head.

The #Westfieldskate Public Photo Album & Slideshow

Share a story or a photo for the community to look back and remember what once an annual winter ritual in Westfield, New Jersey. See the form below:

Preserve Westfield’s Local History with this Mindowaskin Park Keepsake

Preserving Westfield’s local history Cat’s Meow Village keepsake – Learn More

How about You – Help Preserve the Memories

Share a story or a photo for the community to look back and remember what once an annual winter ritual in Westfield, New Jersey.

Submitted photos will be added to the gallery above. Just tell us the year and participants you know from the photo.

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