Submitted by Sheldon O’Brien
Last week as our folklore class was discussing childhood games that we would play, especially Newfoundland ones, I couldn’t help but think of “pan hopping”. I can remember many, many evenings pan hopping with my friends as a child.
For those of you who don’t know what pan hopping is; it’s the practice of jumping from ice sheet to ice sheet upon a pond or the ocean. In my many experiences of pan hopping, it was always on a pond in my home-town of Ferryland; Quarry Pond.
Almost every evening in the winter and early spring after school, a crowd of us would go into Quarry River and Pond and go pan hopping. Soon as you would get home, you would haul on your Helly Hansen (aka: “the ferryland tuxedo”) and head on in the Quarry to meet everyone. Usually we would all start off under the bridge of the river and make our way down the pond; hopping from pan to pan with one or two people falling in along the way. If someone were to fall in, they were to scurry their way out of the water and onto the ice again with everyone dying laughing at them. Either way, you would almost never escape falling in at some point on the river or the pond. In fact, you were almost guaranteed to get your boots saturated and good telling off from your mother every evening.
I don’t really know what the whole point of pan hopping was. Maybe it was all just the suspense or excitement of trying not to or watching someone falling into the icy cold water. I know as people are reading this, they are thinking about how incredibly dangerous this “game” is - I agree looking back on it now. There have actually been many cases in Newfoundland alone where many children and teens have fallen in and slipped under the ice to their death.
As far as my research has told me, pan hopping has been a practice among Newfoundland children for many generations. I guess it’s because kids have made fun and games out what they have or is available to them; like people say “make your own fun”.
I have some great memories of laughter, friendship and embarrassment while pan hopping as child. Although I wouldn’t want to see kids putting themselves in danger today doing it, I think it’s kind of sad seeing it die out!