Bob Run in Cairo
By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail
Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
When I saw the old cutter on the porch of Ed. Bingelís hardware store, it recalled the days when the streets of Cairo were one gay scene. Every afternoon the men who owned trotters and some who thought they did, would race up and down the length of the street. Many a bet was placed on the favorite.
Some of the ladies owned their little driving horses which they kept in the pink of condition by grooming them until they shone. The ladies would dress in their fur caps and coats. The cutter would have a white fur robe tucked in the floor seat, and flowed over the back with a black bear skin over the laps. Orange silk plumes would deck each side of the dashboard as well as each side of the horseís head. The horses would be driven at a walk or very slow trot by the side.
Of course, the cutters were also used for service as well as show. Have you looked at the width of this cutter? Just think what it would mean for a large man and his wife, with one or two children driving a team of horses to Catskill, a distance of 10 miles. It would take from an hour to an hour and a half to cover this distances one way. Two or three hours sitting in the cold over the hills and down the dales with many a snowdrift! It is much different today, with a 10-to 15-minute drive in an auto with no snow in the road and all the hillocks smoothed away.
Then there was the bob sleigh and the sleighing party. Would the young people today enjoy it as we did? A nice cold evening someone would get the idea to go to a friendís for a surprise party. Eight or ten couples would be invited and one of the men would put plenty of straw in the bottom of the bobs and with horse blankets over the straw and robes to wrap up in. Oh yes, they sat in the blankest, there were no seats. What a merry time they had singing and telling jokes and the drivers threatening to upset the bobs in a snowdrift. When they arrived at their destination it was a surprise alright. Some of the family might have retired but that made no difference, for all were welcome.
More lamps were lighted and a wood fire already laid in the parlor stove would be lighted. The wood fire in the kitchen would be started up. Coffee would be made while the sumptious supper which the visitors had brought would be unloaded from the sleigh. Sure the house was cold, but it would warm up, and there was plenty to do. Everyone helped. Games were played with plenty of singing, especially if they had an organ. Some times they would have a taffy-pull and then what fun!
Soon after supper the party would have to leave, for transportation was slow in those days. And then there was the next day coming with plenty of hard work for everyone. Of course it was cold, very cold, going home, but the stars were shining like diamonds in the sky. With the rugs tucked tight it was just right to sit close to the person you like so much.
We must not forget the sleigh-bells with their silver music. Most people liked the long string of silver bells which went around each horse, but many ladies liked the more modest music of three of four silver bells which were attached to the shaft of the cutter. It was truly "Jingle Bells" all the way in those days and what a merry music they would tell!
Riding Down Hill
January 6, 1954
Have you seen in the window of Hainesí Store, Main St., the Snow-coasters? They are a large oval pan made of aluminum with handles at each side and two holes in the front through which a rope can be inserted so they may be drawn. They remind me of the pans which the youngsters used to use for sliding down hill. These pans were not popular in the old days and where will these new coasters fit in!
And speaking of riding down hill, do you remember that snow used to fall about Thanksgiving time and out would come the sleds and as the roads and fields became more densely covered the bobsled would be brought out and readied for the sleighing parties.
There were the short sled with the wooden seat and the round bent iron rod which made up the remainder of the sled. These sleds were used by the youngsters and were not at all popular for coasting.
Then there were the sleds about four feet long made of all wood, well braced, with thin iron runners which covered the heavy wood runner. These runners were kept in first class order and highly polished with never a speck of rust, so there would be no friction. These were the racers.
The choice hill around Cairo was the Jenningís Hill. Starting from about where Elliott Jones house now is, speeding down the hill, over the stone wall which had been banked with snow and doused with water so it was only a little hazzard, down over the county farm until near the creek where Capt. Webster used to live now the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Clark. What fun! One ride at noon maybe two but no more.
Of course there were other hills but not as popular as the Jenningís Hill. The second best was the Jacobís Hill but this was the main road. Yes, it is true both the Acra and the Durham Road which convenes into Main St. were used by both children and adults both day and evenings for coasting.
Did you ever ride one of the bob-sleighs? These were two bobs, one in front and one in the rear connected by a heavy plank which was elevated 12 to 18 inches. The front bob was steered by ropes, something on the same ideas as the autos of today. The ropes were wound around a bar through which a rod was inserted by which to steer.
It took three or four men to pull the bob to the top of the hill and it certainly took at least one man to escort each lady up this incline. Then there was the loading. What fun! The ladies sat sidewise with their full skirts, long coats, fur caps, fur muffs and fur boots and wool leggins. There was a rail on each side to put the feet on. After much arranging and care the two men at the rear would give the sleigh a good start and then jump on. With ahs and ohs, she was off! Many times with a song.
Then with the racing sled, when a young manís fancy turned to escorting a young lady, she would sit on the front and the gentleman in the back and guide. This was not so much fun as the bobs, for the man had to pull the sleigh up the hill as well as escort the lady, but then there was no rush and all were happy.
Riding Down Hill could only be enjoyed during the day when the youngsters had a grand time or on moonlight evenings when the young people made a carnival of the affair. The young people of Cairo certainly enjoyed Riding Down Hill.