Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rolling Along On Saturday Mornings

Most urban areas of a decent size have roller skating rinks, Youngstown being no exception. In my youth in the 60's and 70's, The Boardman Rollercade was the place to go. What better place could mom dump her kids at on a Saturday morning to get a little peace and quiet?

My dad would give me a dollar to cover my day's entertainment. 50 cents admission, 35 cents for skate rental,(50 cents if you wanted "Precision"skates), and 15 cents for a soft drink. Any snacks or games of pinball came out of my allowance of a dollar a week.

I probably began skating regularly in third grade following numerous Cub Scout Outings or birthday parties there. I seldom missed a Saturday during the Cold Weather Months, which in Ohio is about eight months long. I usually didn't see any kids from my school and made friends with lots of the "Regulars" that were always there.

The session lasted from 9 A.M. until Noon. It was always structured the same way. It was started out with the mysterious man in the glass booth on the second floor playing the organ and announcing,"All Skate"! A stampede of kids would come flying out on to the main floor trying to be the first one to complete a lap. Naturally, there would always be a "Wreck" with numerous kids falling on the floor and others tripping over them. The dreaded Skating Guards would do their best to limit the pile-up by skidding to a halt behind them and blowing their whistles to alert everyone. The Skating Guards had ultimate power out on the floor and had boys sit for a period of time for horseplay, racing, tripping, and other stupid stunts.

The Rollercade played records most of the time of popular songs that were at least a year old. They must have bought them on sale at The Record Rendezvous up the street. I can still hear "Winchester Cathedral" and "Green Tambourine" playing in my head. After several songs a Couples Skate was called and all the boys scrambled to find a girl to skate with to the lame organ music again. I always sought out Debbie. She was a neighbor of my aunt and uncle and skated in a lot of competitions. She was cute and pleasant and all the boys watched us as we skated by.

About halfway through the session, everyone gathered in the middle for "Fun and Games". The Mexican Hat Dance led off followed by The Hokie Pokie. The Limbo Rock was played as some little squirt would win the competition and get a ticket for a free drink. The last event was racing with boys and girls racing separately by age. The same kids would usually win every week except the boys' races looked more like Roller Derby. More than one kid got laid out or "accidentally" got pushed into the wall.

By my junior high years, I switched to skating on Friday night, Teen Night. I met more girls from other schools which led to numerous altercations with boys from their school that apparently didn't like me moving in on "their" women. After an adjustment period of the boys putting their testosterone in check, girls seemed to be clamouring to skate with me. Of course, I was full of myself. Little did I know that the real reason they wanted to skate with me was: (A) To make another boy jealous or (B) Because I could skate well backwards and they could continue talking to a girlfriend beside them as they skated with me.

Business wasn't doing to well at The Rollercade. Competition from a modern rink and it's location in not the best part of town contributed to it's demise. The elderly brothers that owned the rink sold it to Schwebel's Bakery for a warehouse. I still drive by the place from time to time when I'm in town. I reminisce about a lot of good times as I rolled through the years.