I once wrote an article for the Colonial Williamsburg Journal about the origin of ice skating. It began on the Hudson River in New York, where wealthy aristocrats took to speeding alongside trains on the coast—and beating them.
Steve Brown had a similar experience growing up in Michigan. He took his wife and daughters sailing on a serene York River and recalled growing up. “My grandfather was a big sailor on the lakes of Michigan. He sailed an 18-foot boat on water and then we’d go ice sailing in winter. We raced snowmobiles and beat them.”
As a grown-up, he’s taken to wind surfing. “I can get up in 8 knots of wind, but more wind is better. You move your feet back on the board to turn, and you tip forward to move the sail. It floats, but the mast and the sail are so much added weight on the board that it’s below the water line until you come up to plane. I can go for an hour or two at a time.”
As for kite-surfing, “That’s too dangerous, flying up in the air.”
Later, Tim Waldron took his wife and parents out on the York as the wind picked up. The occasion was Jim Waldron’s 90th birthday. He’s a World War II Navy veteran who seemed quite comfortable on the water. His wife Les looked over to the Coleman Bridge.
“I was in high school when the bridge opened in 1952. My father was with Bethlehem Steel and would come over here from time to time to check on the construction. My brother played hokey the day the bridge opened. He got his picture in the paper at the bridge and got into trouble as a result.”
We talked about the closing of the Kimball Theater by Colonial Williamsburg. It used to be known as the Williamsburg Theater. Les said, “I worked the box office of the theater and once sold a ticked to John D. Rockefeller Jr.,” the founding benefactor of Colonial Williamsburg.
Jim and Les are big into the Williamsburg Players and theaters in general. Jim said, “People are surprised to learn that the Roxy in New York, Radio City Music Hall and the Williamsburg Theater all opened on the same day, Dec. 31, 1932. There used to be a plaque in the foyer of our theater.
Sailing Through the Air
Tim Waldron had a unique hobby, hot air ballooning. “I spend seven years doing it. I’d go up for an hour or hour-and-a-half, flying from three to five miles at a time. How high you fly depends on the ambient wind of the air. To go up, you fire up the propane to heat the air in the balloon. It’s not automatic, but takes a minute or two to heat up and move the balloon.
“You can only fly an hour before dawn and an hour before dusk because that’s when winds are the most stable. During the middle of the day the atmosphere is too violent.
“It’s not always possible to land where you plan. Sometimes you come down in a farmer’s field, and that’s what the champagne bottle on board is for—to give the farmer. We’ll also give him a short ride as well. And here’s a tip: Try not to land near horses.”
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