In the comment section a few days ago, Angelia referenced a piece of our collective past that has been buried beneath years of dust, and bad fashion decisions. A place that was once a very central part of the social scene for every rural tweeny bopper in America. A place that was once so popular it spawned a whole genre of movies.
I am speaking of the Roller Rink.
Yes, you heard me. The Roller Rink. Anyone over the age of 35 can probably remember them. They were the kiddie disco’s of our time. After reading Angelia’s comment, the memories of going roller skating came flooding back. I’m not sure where those memories had been misplaced inside of my brain. Perhaps they were in that little collection of brain cells that I sacrificed to a case of Genny Cream Ale in 1987.
In our little corner of Western New York, the local roller rink was “Skate 98”. It was nothing more than a metal pole barn on the side of Route 98 in Alexander, about 5 miles outside of town. But it might as well have been Studio 54, because in 1979 it was about as close as an eleven year old could get to the world of John Travolta and the Bee Gees. It was the height of the disco era, for better and for worse.
OK, mostly for worse.
It strikes me as funny that of all the 70’s fads, and fashions that have been dredged up, disinfected, and resold to the masses, somehow Roller Skating has managed to remain buried beneath a layer of polyester, and velour. As a child of the 70’s, roller rinks were as ubiquitous as bowling alley’s. Just about every kid went at least once a year for someone’s birthday party, and for some teens it was a weekly event, like Pizza at Pontillo’s, or a movie at Mancuso’s. Believe it or not, Roller Skating was as much a part of popular culture as Star Wars movies, bell bottoms, and Welcome Back Kotter.
Whether you were into skating or not, there were few greater excitements than a 6th grade class trip to the roller rink. There beneath the swirling lights of a disco ball, 12 year old boys, and girls would skate in circles, chasing each other, around and around as they flirted in a courtship ritual that could easily have been mistaken for an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
There were certain traditions at the roller rink that were common no matter where you lived. There was the hokey pokey, the limbo stick, the chicken dance and the Loc-o-motion. Come to think of it, there wasn’t much difference from your average VFW wedding reception really. There were rules, and etiquette that had to be followed; everyone skating in the same direction, no cutting through the middle, and rink Nazi’s there to enforce them.
Every demographic was represented at the rink. There were families with small kids, the teenage show offs that could disco dance on skates, the newbies who could hardly stand, and the little brats that tore around the place like it was a roller derby. There were even old couples holding hands and circling the floor, reliving some gilded memory of the fifties.
And of course, there was always a snack bar, and a collection of video games, air hockey tables and places to sit if you got tired of skating, or needed to find a secluded corner to make your move on Mary Jo Bambenik. The place was always jammed on Friday nights, or Saturday afternoons.
OK, you guys aren’t believing me are you?
I swear, I am not making this up. Roller Rinks were a BIG DEAL in the 70’s and early 80’s. They even made movies about them
like Roller Boogie…
Yes kids, the 70’s really were that hideous.
Perhaps it was the Roller Rink’s association with Disco Music, that ultimately killed it. Or maybe we just outgrew them. I don’t think I would have ever been caught dead inside of a roller rink after 8th grade. One by one they seemed to go out of business, or get redeveloped into something else. Yet a few still linger on. In fact, last year Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect’s 4th grade class had a field trip to one somewhere nearby. Maybe next time I’ll volunteer to chaperon as a study in tweenage anthropology, to see if anything has changed. Somehow I have a feeling Lil’ Miss 20 P would be horribly embarrassed to have her Dad along as she was chasing boys around the rink.
So, what was your favorite roller rink memory? What boy or girl were you chasing around while the lights flashed and the DJ played Pat Benetar? Discuss amongst yourselves class…