Feature writing: Hockey at Frog Forum

I think that the very best feature stories are simple ones. I loved this story about a homemade skating rink, and how it bonded two generations of a family. For years I thought this story had been lost, and I was delighted to find it in one of my clip files.

Frog Forum’s last hockey game

By ARTHUR FREDERICK

WATERVILLE, Maine (UPI) – Kyle Frewin welcomed the new year just as he has every year since he was a kid – playing hockey all night with the neighborhood kids on the home-made rink behind his parents’ house.

This could be the final year for the rink, named Frog Forum so many years ago that no one quite remembers why. The New Year’s hockey game that extended well into Tuesday morning could be the last.

Kyle, 21, the youngest of four Frewin sons, will graduate in the spring from Gordon College in Massachusetts. His father, Ron, lost his job months ago and wants to sell the house and move to Arizona. If that happens, there will be no more Frog Forum.

Frog Forum began humbly, a modest backyard rink banged together out of three-foot boards in 1961 by Ron, who wanted to share his love for hockey with his boys.

Over the years, the rink behind the Frewin’s house grew larger.

First, it claimed a few trees and shrubs. Then the Frewins made more room by ripping up part of the driveway. Eventually, even Louise Frewin’s clothesline was ripped down to make room for more ice.

The Frewin boys grew bigger, and so did the neighborhood kids who skated at Frog Forum. Hockey pucks flew over the boards and into the neighbors’ yards. The youngsters played past sundown, groping for the puck in the darkness.

Ron installed six-foot boards to keep the puck on the ice. He installed lights so the kids could play all night if they wanted to.

Down the street, a  group of youngsters formed a hockey team called the Scummies. Ron turned on the lights, and Frewins and Scummies banged each other happily into the boards.

“We’ve had broken teeth, pucks that have split eyes and heads, injuries from when the kids got banged into the boards,” Louise Frewin said. “They all watch television, and they all have to play as rough as the Bruins.”

This year, with Kyle in school and Ron suffering from arthritis, Frog Forum almost stayed stacked up in the garage. But Kyle wanted one more New Year’s.

“Kyle begged us to put it up once more,” Louise said.  ”And Ron said to me, ‘How can the neighborhood kids ever learn to play hockey if they don’t have Frog Forum?’”

The Frewins went to church New Year’s Eve and afterwards, at around midnight, Kyle and a dozen neighborhood kids laced up their skates and started to shoot the puck around the ice.

“I went to bed, but I could hear that puck banging into the boards all night long,” Louise said.

The oldest Frewin son, Donn, died in a swimming accident eight years ago. Paul is a doctor in Louisville, Ky. Wesley is an electrical engineer in Connecticut.

With everyone gone, Frog Forum seems doomed. But Louise thinks Kyle might have other plans.

NOTE: This story ends rather abruptly and I think the newspaper editors may have trimmed it to fit an available space in the page. If I ever find a complete version of it, I’ll add the missing paragraphs.

UPDATE 1/20/2015: I came across another version of this story quite by accident and, sure enough, there was one additional paragraph in the original version, which makes the story end a bit less abruptly.  Here it is:

“What he wants to do is become a history teacher right here in Waterville,” she said. “And he wants us to leave him the boards when we move to Arizona.”

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