All of this snow is making me nostalgic for the sledding days of my childhood. We used to pile on the clothes and throw ourselves down the hill on our sleds until we couldn’t stand the cold anymore. Then we ran inside for hot chocolate made with real milk. I started doing some research on sleds.
Chances are you grew up with a Flexible Flyer sled. I remember sledding down the hill at my neighbor’s as a child on our family’s short flexible flyer. I had to take turns with my older brother, but my turns were worth the wait. When I was a child it was the sled to own, but my children have never been able to slide down a hill on a sled with runners like I had when I was a child. There have been very few snowfalls in their lives that were deep enough or icy enough for the runners. We opted for plastic sleds without runners because they went over the snow easily and because Fort Wayne doesn’t have many public hills for sledding. Our back yard is flat and the front goes straight into the street. We spent a lot of time pulling sleds on flat ground rather than sliding down hills. I think they missed out on a lot.
Flexible Flyer was the trademark of the S. L. Allen Company, which manufactured farm equipment in most of the year. Samuel Leeds Allen patented the Flexible Flyer in 1889. He had a passion for outdoor sports and thought this was a good use of his manufacturing equipment in the off season when they were not producing farm equipment.
Another company that made sleds beginning in 1904, the Standard novelty works, also in Pennsylvania, made the Lightning Guider. It looks very much like the Flexible Flyer and both companies continued to make sleds through the 1980’s. In 1960, there were eight companies making sleds in the United States. By 1990 Paris Manufacturing, now Paricon, was the only one left. I guess plastic sleds took over because they were less expensive to make and they worked on all kinds of snow. The Lightning Guider is no more, except for what you can find on eBay or in a garage sale these days, but the Flexible Flyer brand was purchased by Paricon sleds and you can buy one at Target for a mere $79.99. Paricon also makes just about any type of sled you can imagine.