Those who’ve recently had to shovel snowy sidewalks probably aren’t thinking of these concrete trails in terms of fun. However, any kid who grew up near such a path knows it took little more than imagination to turn that simple structure into hours of fun. Old timers who let their minds wander down memory lane quickly recall happy memories involving metal shoe skates with keys.
The other day, my mom’s old sidewalk caught my attention. Time’s taking its toll on that decades-old fixture, yet a short walk along its divided squares triggered dozens of memories and the imagined sounds of metal wheels rolling across its gritty surface. I suspect more than a few old skate scars still decorate its mottled exterior.
I spent happy hours skating down similar lanes throughout my early years. I can still sense the feel of plopping onto a sun-warmed, pockmarked sidewalk while I clamped a pair of metal skates to my shoe soles. The length adjusted so a kid could wear them for two or three summers before needing a bigger pair. They came with a skate key designed to be worn on a string around the neck. That kept it handy to tighten skates after a particularly rough stretch shook them loose.
As a skater’s confidence grew, speed increased so trips around the block grew took less time. If several kids joined the fun, it looked a lot like later Roller Derby action on TV. Brave kids tucked elbows and squatted low to zip past slow moving friends. A neighborhood bully occasionally showed up and intentionally tripped skaters and sent them sprawling. Not every kid could respond. It took a cool and skilled character to fist fight on roller skates.
Unlike my experience with blocks of city sidewalks, our daughters grew up in a country home with a very short slab. To compensate, they adorned themselves in floofy tutus or their dad’s huge tee-shirts, turned on their record player, strapped on plastic shoes skates, and spun around our concrete basement. It lost much of the effect of whizzing down a city sidewalk, but they enjoyed hours of whirling around this makeshift rink. These practice sweeps prepared them for more fun at a real roller rink in a nearby town.
Mention skate rink and older people fondly remember weekend visits to the nearest one. It doesn’t take much prompting to get stories flowing. They recollect events like the Hokey Pokey, Limbo competitions, obstacle courses, and backward skating. One friend was a gymnast as a kid and loved doing backflips to astonish less agile participants.
The games were fun for everyone, but junior high and high school kids looked forward to the infrequent couple skates. For a few minutes, potential sweethearts could hold hands and circle a dimly lit rink. It would be interesting to learn how many romances began during doubles skating and then turned into long time marriages.
The old stories are so engaging it might be worth starting a skating resurgence both down the sidewalk and at the roll rink. Dig out those old shoe skates and keys; clear a path or an empty city building. Count on making great memories.