Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating

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A child of the 70’s and 80’s, I did a lot of roller skating in my younger years.  I started skating around the age of seven, and eagerly hit the pavement in my super cool Fireball roller skates.  You know, the white ones with red and blue stripes on the side.  (My brother had a pair that was blue with white and red stripes.)  It makes me smile to think of young, blonde-headed me excitedly lacing up my Fireballs and heading off for wheel-borne adventures.  The skating-related slips, falls, and scrapes didn’t deter me – similar to falling off a horse, I just got back up and tried again.

I eventually moved up to plain white skates, and then on to a pair of black speed skates, but those white Fireball skates are iconic – at least to me.  They may have been cheap, but those skates – and any other pair I later owned – were much better than wearing the dreaded rental skates found at virtually any skating rink. No matter where I’ve skated the rentals have been the same – light brown leather with dark brown laces, orange wheels and orange toe stops.  Rental skates were to be avoided at all costs.  They were never comfortable, and never seemed to want to go where I intended them to go.

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I lived in a very small city during my prime skating years (ages 5 – 12), and going to the local skating rink was really all there was to do.  We didn’t have a mall, or even a movie theater – skating was it if you stayed within the city limits.  And though my family struggled financially and was almost always strapped for cash, my brother and I were able to go skating fairly regularly. It kept us entertained and active, and gave my parents time to themselves for less than the cost of a babysitter.

Most people my age have probably left skating in their past, but I still lace up my skates and head to the local rink from time to time.  This “new” rink is a bit different than the one I frequented as a child, but so many things are the same – though both rinks were in their heyday over twenty years ago.  This feeling is enhanced by the fact that I go for 80’s/flashback night and many of the tunes I listed to in grade school fill the cavernous space with sound.  It’s not just the music though; it’s the smell, the sights, the flavors, and the experiences too.

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For example, skating rinks have a very distinct, universal smell.  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s soaked into my clothes by the end of a skating session.  As for the sights, going on 80’s night contributes to the déjà vu experience because groups of people (birthday parties, sororities, etc.), often go retro and attend 80’s night dressed in their finest neon clothing and Flashdance-style sweatshirts.  The snack bar still serves many of the same things, and a trip to the roller rink doesn’t seem complete without having a treat of some sort.  The lockers are also the same – quarter-fed metal cubes with bulky, orange plastic-topped keys.  And don’t forget the challenge of bathroom visits: trying to take care of one’s business while on eight wheels!

The music, the lights, the songs dedicated to backwards skating, and the damned switch from regular counter clockwise skating to the odd-feeling clockwise skating – they all take me back, as do the hokey-pokey and the dice game.  If you used to go skating and want a trip back in time, look no further – just pop on into your local roller rink!

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All that said, I now see the skating rink through the eyes of an adult.  I take note of the interior, and when I find myself thinking they should upgrade (at least the paint job!) I remind myself that the rink probably isn’t making a ton of money and refurbishing is a luxury.  I enjoy skating to the music for the fun of it, but also appreciate that skating is good exercise.  I enjoy watching the young kids, the folks there for special parties, and the people around my age who are obviously rink rats from way back; still forming clicks and skating socially.

As for me, I’ve always been a bit of a loner – so I usually keep to myself and just skate.  I relish the feel of the wind on my face.  I laugh to myself at some of the ridiculous songs, and over the antics of some of the other skaters.  I wear my speed skates and appreciate that they take me in the direction I want to go, even if I’m just going round and round and round…

Warm regards,
Melody

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14 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm by Karan Simoni | Permalink

    I used to go skating back in jr hi in the late 70’s. My husband and I went 5 years ago for the kids birthday, and spent so much time laughing at each other that I almost PIMP. My center of gravity changed and I can’t seem to balance on them anymore. But it does bring back a lot of good memories and it felt good to laugh like that. It is always a lot of fun.

  2. Posted March 1, 2011 at 10:23 am by JuiceinLA | Permalink

    Mine were white with red wheels and toestop and my favorite memory was my aunt Becky taking myself and my sister in our satin short-jacket ensembles to Venice beach to roller skate where they shot three’s company!!

  3. Posted March 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm by Kim | Permalink

    I use to love going to skate, the music, the wind in my face! This post back so many memories! And you have inspired me to find one near me and give it a shot. I hope it’s like a bicycle and you never forget how to do it, because I haven’t done it in the longest time.

  4. Posted March 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm by Barbara Cordill | Permalink

    OMG, what memories that brings back, only I had to use the rental skates. Oh well, those were still great times in the 50’s.

  5. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Karan,
    I can just imagine you and your hubby laughing ’till your sides hurt. Thank you for commenting!
    Melody

  6. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Juice,
    No wonder that’s a favorite memory. I’m sure you looked darling!
    Melody

  7. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:39 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Kim,
    I’m glad you’re thinking about going skating. You might be a bit wobbly at first, but I bet you’ll settle in and be zooming around in no time!
    Melody

  8. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Barbara,
    It’s such great fun, isn’t it? And you would’ve had great music to skate to back then!
    Melody

  9. Posted March 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm by Ida | Permalink

    OMG – here I am, 80, and after reading your roller skating blog, I’m right back there at the rink, skating with Red, and then Serbie. Our arms around each other, going round and round, the music going, and we are flirting and laughing – what fun !!!!
    Thx,
    Ida

  10. Posted March 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Ida,
    I love that my post brought back such wonderful memories. You skated with Red AND Serbie? Good for you! 😮
    Melody

  11. Posted March 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm by Terry | Permalink

    Great post, Melody! I took my kids to a skating party last year and was enthusiastically looking forward to getting out there and showing them my stuff. Turns out, skating at fortysomething is much different than skating as a teenager. I was keenly aware at how easily an arm is broken in an adult fall vs. a kid fall. I managed to stay upright, but I think that was sheer luck more than ability. Your post brought back great memories!

  12. Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Terry,
    Thank you for the positive feedback. I’m glad you managed to avoid broken bones at the skating party!
    Melody

  13. Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:18 am by Becky Shander | Permalink

    This post brought me back to many happy skating memories, thank you. Enjoy the wind on your face and the wings on your feet.

  14. Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:10 am by Melody | Permalink

    Becky,
    You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The comments on this post have shown me that people in a wide age range – from their 30’s to their 80’s – have treasured skating memories. So fun to find that out…
    Melody

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