By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Many kids who grew up in Otter Tail County enjoyed ice skating during the winter months. There were good times at public skating rinks and also home-made ice rinks at various lakes where families would shovel off the snow and make smaller rinks.

Fortunately, ice skating remains popular today in many areas of the county.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958, was a favorite of skaters at Lake Alice in Fergus Falls, during the Christmas holiday season.

“My friends and I thought we were the ice skating devils of Fergus Falls,” said Tudy Heinl Nycklemoe, “practicing our twirls and spins at the Lake Alice public rink.”

The skating rink and warming house were and still are located on the southwest side of Lake Alice.

During the 1950s the warming house was painted green on the outside.

“It was a great place to have fun, spend time with friends and skate to the music. ‘Skaters Waltz’ was a favorite of mine,” recalls Ann Johnson Arnold.

The records were played in the concessions end of the old warming house, with a loud speaker mounted outside.

“During the 1950s the warming house was heated with a pot-bellied wood stove. There was a special bin inside for firewood,” says Lance Johnson in his book, “Fergus Falls and the Fabulous Fifties.”

Johnson further points out that on the west end of the warming house was a snack bar with fold-up door.

“The menu offered Coke, Nesbitt’s Orange and hot dogs,” he said. “Skaters would smell the aroma of hot dogs even before the door was raised, which made them even more hungry.”

Jo Ann Arneson, FFHS Class of 1956, remembers the smell of wool mittens overheating on the warming house stove.

The warming house attendant would often tighten skates for boys and girls. 

Outdoor hockey rinks were constructed at area lakes and near schools in prior decades around Otter Tail County. Today, many parents construct small outdoor rinks in back yards for their kids.

It’s a lot of work to construct a back-yard rink, but the hard work is well worth it.

“It’s all about hockey pickup games for kids, hosting a nighttime skating party, or just waking up early and having the ice all to yourself,” said one parent. “Memories will last forever.”