Here is a word about skates. Everywhere in northern climates where there is much ice and where skating is not only a pleasure, but a necessity, or at least a great and and helpful acquirement, the general form of the skates used is the same. For distance skating, over ice such as is to be found on rivers and lakes, where the wind causes the surface to congeal into rough ripples, and for skating for where wind has to be breasted, the skates are made so as to present a long, level surface to the ice, and the farther north, that is, the colder the climate, and therefore the harder the ice, the thinner and sharper the blade.
With boys the favorite skate is the long "wood-top" or speed skate, and scarcely a Milwaukee youth but sighed for a new pair for Christmas. These skates are frequently called "long reach" or "long reachers". A local hardware man, a few days ago, in selling a pair, told the writer he had no idea why they were so called or where they secured their title. The writer was able to enlighten him. A glance at any pair of such skates will show that they are stamped with the name "Whelpley". This is the name of the maker and his home and that of his forefathers for generations back has been on a stretch of river know as "The Long Reach". Away in the province of New Brunswick, in the Dominion of Canada, on the banks of the river St. John, is the home of this man Whelpley, and the skate which bears his name and which is sold all over the United States where boys skate, was conceived there. To the inventor, and to his father and his sons skating was a necessity and there have been in the family young men who competed for world championship honors on the keen blades.
The Long Reach of the river St. John is a stretch of many miles in length where the river narrows and runs between high banks, so straight in its course that there is a "straightaway" of miles for the boys to frolic on when the ice forms. Before the era of railways and good roads the river was the highway and in winter when its beautiful course could not be followed in vessels or in canoes, the skates were used until the snow fell, when roads were marked out with spruce and fir trees and were kept open by the hard work of the farmers who used them. To reach the towns and villages or to get to the city of St. John at the mouth of the river, skating was the popular method and the "Long Reach" skate was the form found most suitable. Many a weary trip has every boy who lived there made on skates of this pattern, and not the boys only, but the girls as well, for they were often as adept and as graceful and speedy as their brothers. A trip of twenty miles down river against a head wind is no task for them. There is a factory near the home of the Whelpley family and another in Keene N.H., where the speed skates are made.