Go Roller Skating, I Beg You
It’s funny, you don’t think of something for years and then it is in your face all the time. A couple of weeks ago Blaze and I were expressing wonder and scoffing at how Ice Dancing can be an Olympic winter sport and how if it must be, then by that logic, so should Roller Disco. Given nobody commented and complained about our biased, boorish insensitivity my readership is even lower than I thought.
Then today I read in the Brisbane Times that the city’s roller skating rinks are closing down due to lack of interest. This is, of course, a national tragedy especially if the vacant space is then filled by yet another craft brewery or dare I say it coffee roaster.
I used to love roller skating. My older cousins introduced me to it when I was about 10 and I can remember that first time trying to stay upright while older kids whizzed past and Honky Tonk Woman was pumping over the speakers. I only went a couple of times and then we moved to the other side of town and roller skating was forgotten until sometime around grade eight. Somebody suggested and I can’t remember who or why, that me and two or three school mates should go roller skating one Saturday morning at Stafford Skating Rink.
I must have had some vague muscle memory because while my mates were shit I was falling over far less and so got bragging rights for a while. We all loved it so much we all got hooked. And so the next step of our teen years had begun.
As you do at that age we got good very quickly, ditching the clunky hire skates, buying far cooler speed skates and becoming Saturday morning cool guys or so we thought. It was a win win situation because for our parents they had got rid of us for three hours in a safe, supervised environment, we burnt off lots of energy and had a healthy hobby.
For us there were music and girls, competitions, pin ball machines, junk food and we could show off. Fourteen year old boy heaven.
However we soon realised that we were big fish in a little pond and were outgrowing the Saturday morning season rapidly so we doubled up, doing the Mornings and then the 2 to 5 pm afternoon session as well. This was better as we now had a scene to grow into. The music was better, the speed skating sessions were tougher and faster and there were girls who wanted to hold your hand during pairs.
Also Occupational Health and Safety regulations and law suits were things of the future so you could really fang it in the races and go nuts in the crazy trios. Thinking back there seemed to be very few bad injuries during those sessions. I can only remember seeing them mop a bit of blood off the floor a couple of times and maybe one broken wrist. Plenty of good stacks though which were of course half the fun.
Of course some of my mates got more into team sport and dropped off. But I have never liked team sport so I stuck with it till I was 16. I always loved the feeling of gliding across the concrete and I am sure being a skater led me naturally to surfing and snowboarding.
I can remember my mate Paul who was six or seven months older than me getting his driving license first and with our girlfriends going skating on a Friday night but it was the beginning of the end. New horizons were again calling beyond the bus route or dad’s taxi service.
Once I got my license, my car, my first job and surfboard the skating rink had no chance and I never went back.
Part of the joys, pains and worries of being a parent is seeing your kids go through what you went through. So when my daughter hit about ten years old there were quite a few birthday parties at Stafford skating rink. So one Saturday morning I went to one of the parties and after about 40 years the rink didn’t look too much different. Amazingly Rob who was there in the 1970s is still there, having owned the Stafford rink for a long time. Obviously his passion for roller skating never died, I wonder how many kilometres he has travelled on wheels?. Most of the parents were too smart or as I like to think, too chicken to have a go but after watching for a while I thought bugger it and hired a pair of clunky rental skates.
It felt awkward and I am sure it didn’t look pretty but after a lap or two it started to feel ok and I ended up really enjoying it. My daughter was 95% horrified and 5% impressed with her dad which given how it could have gone was about right.
The skate bug didn’t bite my daughter though.
As Homer Simpson says, “Eeeh, What do you do?”
So parents if you have some young kids around eight or nine years old and upwards who maybe aren’t that big on team sports why don’t you suggest a Saturday morning skate session. It’s healthy fun, gets them off the couch and who knows you might keep them away from the mobile phone apps for a few more years.
If you go to Stafford say Hi to Rob, he was a good guy, earning our respect and keeping us rowdy boys in line back then.
And as for roller disco in the Summer Olympics, forget it.
But what about this?!
A Roller Derby double header made up of Womens and Mens Gold Medal matches - USA vs. Russia.
Now that would go off!
Stafford’s 1970s best skate songs
Boys Are Back In Town- Thin Lizzy
Time Warp – Rocky Horror Picture Show
Time is Tight – Booker T and The MGs
Radar Love- Golden Earring
The Ballroom Blitz – The Sweet
Department Of Youth – Alice Cooper
Summer Love - Sherbet