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Traditions excerpt: Bumper shining

Donna Parsons remembers going ‘bumper shining’ before she was a teenager. Bumper shining is what the kids used to call latching onto a car bumper when it passed by and hanging on, sliding along behind the vehicle on their shoes across the snow-covered roads until they couldn’t hang on anymore.

Those were the good old days when cars were big as boats and if you weren’t careful your fingers would stick to the chrome bumpers. Some drivers used to put up with it, if not outright expect it. Others weren’t as keen.

“How many times did the drivers stop and get out and try to chase us, and we’d take off. When they’d get back in the car we’d be back there again!”

Usually Donna would grab on to a car’s bumper up near the Esso, now Spencer’s Garage, and on a good run she could get dragged around almost the entirety of East End Channel, from the ‘bottom road’ (Water Street East) to the ‘top road’ (Legallais Street). She’d go down latched on to one vehicle and come back up the hill hanging on to another one.

“All you had to hope for was that there was no raw pavement,” laughs Donna, who admits she hit raw pavement and went tumbling more than she likes to recall.

One of her friends broke his leg out near Suzie Parsons’ house at corner of Lillington Avenue. When he fell the car ran over his leg. Donna never got hurt that badly, but she did keep running into trouble because of bumper shining.

“Do you know how many pairs of mitts I lost?” she asks rhetorically. “My mother was crazy with me. ‘Don’t you come home tonight with n’ar mitt!’ she used to say. They’d freeze on to the bumper.”

Donna figures she lost at least one mitten from almost every pair she ever had growing up.

At least one time too many kids latched on to a car at once.

“We tore the bumper off this old Volkswagen,” chuckles Donna.

The driver was furious but failed to catch the children. It was all good fun for Donna and her friends.

Other than the mittens she had no problems keeping the nature of her winter fun hidden from her parents. She might have gotten scolded about the mittens, but she’s pretty sure she never got in trouble for the bumper shining.

“Not unless somebody told on me!”

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