Roller skating rinks and childhood nostalgia

Between ages 7-10 one of the biggest social activities of my life was roller-skating (or more precisely, blading) at the local roller rink. The first Wednesday night of each month was the official skating-rink night for my school (a small private elementary school) and most of the kids, or the cool ones anyway, would have been seen there. But I wasn’t content with just that one night, so I was always making my parents take my friends and I to the skating rink whenever possible. It was way too far away from my house, in a somewhat seedy area of town, to get there any other way.

Actually, the whole roller rink itself had a seedy atmosphere to it. This was back in the mid-90s when smoking was still everywhere, and this place was no exception. Looking back on it now, it was pretty ridiculous how smoke-filled a place which was ostensibly supposed to be for kids was. But then again there was a large adult contingent there too. The crowd was probably 50-20-30 kids, teenagers, and full-grown adults (as in, my parents’ age). A lot of them were probably there just for their kids, but they did skate, alone or as couples.

The rink had an arcade section too and when I wasn’t skating, my friends and I were in the arcade playing such excellent games as “Rastan,” a side-scrolling platformer starring a barbarian warrior with a huge sword; “Combatribes,” an extremely fun multi-player beat-em-up, and finally “Lethal Enforcers”, a light-gun game which featured a blue pistol for Player 1 and a pink pistol for Player 2 (whose character was female in the game.) Nobody ever wanted to be Player 2.

The skating itself, at least for me, was an almost euphoric activity. It was an amazing feeling to be able to glide effortlessly along the wooden floor, much more so than a bike because the rollerblades are actually strapped right to your body rather than being a vehicle that you control. Being a small, lightweight kid, I really flew on those rollerblades, and I prided myself in being able to not only go very fast but also bank perilously to the left and right, really leaning into the corners. I spent a lot of time rollerblading outside the roller rink too, on the streets (where I cut my self open more times than I can count; I still have the scar tissue on my knee from one of the worst accidents.) I had a high-end pair of in-line rollerblades (only the lame and uncool rented the dorky old-fashioned ones from the rink.) I can’t remember what kind mine were, though I think they may have been the actual original Rollerblade brand. They were black, very sleek, and fit perfectly; they also came in a fancy black case.

The most exciting thing about the roller rink was undoubtedly the girls. Now you must remember I was just a kid, and the early pre-teen years are an interesting time for romantic feelings. There’s not a big sexual dimension to it; that starts to come later, for most boys anyway. It’s truly more of a romantic feeling, and in some ways it’s even more powerful than the feelings towards the opposite sex that you get when you’re a little older, because of the mystery of it. Kids at that age aren’t really all that sure of what to do with girls, what’s expected of them, or how to express any kind of romantic feelings for the opposite sex, and so it’s all kind of confusing, a real jumble of excitement and fear. Most feelings of desire towards girls at that age are expressed through acts of aggression - not genuinely hostile aggression, just things like condescending teasing behavior. I think this is probably because the values of machismo are strong in American pre-teen boys, but they’re not at the age yet where those values can be expressed in terms of sexual conquest and cockiness. Boys are fed an unceasing diet of toy guns, war games, comics and action movies of extreme (albeit stylized) violence; when this mentality first starts to rub up against the early stages of sexual desire, the results can be bizarre indeed.

I’ve really gone on a tangent here. This has nothing to do with roller rinks, at least not directly. But the roller rink will always be a very nostalgic place in my mind because it was one of the major backdrops of my childhood. From what I’ve read, I take it that roller rinks were even more popular during the 1970s and 1980s, especially among teenagers (as opposed to kids) which would lead me to believe that some of the people here slightly older than me probably have even more vivid recollections of their days at the skating rink. Does anyone else have this kind of nostalgia?

Oh, yeah. Remember when they’d put the lights down low and turn on the disco ball and play “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”?

Ours had a state-of-the-art hard blue plastic floor. I remember when it was built, probably around 1980 or so, and my Dad’s construction company worked on it so we were invited to the private opening party. I’d never seen anything like that before! Funky blue floor! Neon lights! A disco ball!

I spent a LOT of time there in my middle school years. I think by the time I was a teenager it was Not Cool to go to the roller rink.

No rollerblades for us - they weren’t invented yet. Plain old 4-wheeled skates that came with the admission fee.

The first time I’d ever seen Nachos was at the snack bar there. They looked so good - chips with melty cheese over them. I was totally bummed when I got them and they had some sort of weird HOT flavor to them. Who in the world would like that?!?

I loved it so much! Glow sticks, cheap crappy candy, holding hands as you skated a “couples dance” … okay, I never did that because I was shy about talking to boys when I was that age, but I totally remember the glow sticks.

My parents used to take us to a local rink every winter Sunday back in the early '70s, and I remember going to the same place a few time with the Girl Scouts.

Remember that weird feeling in your feet after you’d been skating 'round and 'round for a couple of hours, then put on your shoes and started walking for the door?

This place also had a sort of automated “band” in one corner–a big drum and several string instruments that “played” by themselves. It would run through one song at some point every Sunday, and was the highlight of the evening.

Roller skating was a big social activity for Girl Scouts. We went a lot (this was in the late 80s).

Our rink was dark and dingy. It had an arcade and a snack shop. I had to buy my own snacks and I could never afford anything more than a Super Rope or a Slushie. But I did like those!

Disco was dead by the time we started skating, but hair metal was ALL THAT.

I remember they had the big hokey pokey, and the limbo. There was also some game they played with numbers on the wall. I think it was that you skated in a circle until the music stopped, then hustled over to a number. They’d spin a wheel and everyone at the number on which the wheel landed had to sit down. Whoever was left standing at the end won a prize (I never EVER won a prize at the rink!)

Our rink didn’t have roller blades (not invented yet) but they did have the world’s HEAVIEST rental skates. They were like lead on your feet, and the shoes were made of suede. I had my own skates when I was younger, pre-Girl Scouts (Strawberry Shortcake ones!) but I always had to rent.

The Rollerdome in the 70’s. (it has since burned down). They had the couples skates of course (they’d usually play something sappy like Love Hurts by Nazareth) and then boys only on the rink where I’d watch from the sidelines in fascination because the boys would skate really aggressive and they looked really hot. When it was a girls only skate, they always played Fox On The Run by Sweet and we’d try to look sexy cool with our feathered hair blowing in the breeze.

Visiting “The United Skates Of America” in Woodside/Jackson Heights in Queens was always a high point of my summer day camp in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I well remember those heavy rental roller skates (roller blades not having been invented yet), the island in the middle of the rink where the snacks were, the arcade section near the lockers, and the skyway passage to allow non-skaters to pass over the rink below between the two areas. It was converted to a church a long time ago and I still see the building all the time from the elevated 7 train on the way in to work.

The last time I was there was for a kid’s birthday party around 1983 or '84, when I saw the mascot (some guy in a dinosaur suit on roller skates) get taunted by some teenagers about how dumb a job it was (acquaintances of his, as they were addressing him by name). Whoever was in the suit apparently didn’t want to get in trouble for arguing with customers, but was silently flipping the bird back at them from time to time, which was pretty funny given how the suit gave him a goofy fixed grin on his face. And less than a full complement of fingers, too.

I just Googled them up and it seems they were, or are, a chain that still exists in many other locations. Maybe I’ll hit one up with my kids some time and see what it’s like nowadays. I can’t imagine going around a rink in roller blades…

Yeah, it was. The skating rink was one of THE top teen destinations when I was a teen, either going in a group, solo, or as a couple. It was one of the very few places that my parents would take me to, and allow me to stay for a while unsupervised. I wasn’t a really wild kid, I just had very restrictive parents.

Yeah, by the time we were teenagers it was no longer cool, so this was all in the 80’s. I begged and pleaded for years for my own skates, because those rental skates were seriously gross, and I FINALLY got them when I was almost too old for them (I think my parents didn’t want to get me skates until my feet weren’t growing so much.) They were white and had unicorns on them and I loved them to death.

Most often we went there for birthday parties.

I only went a few times in high school. Although I had ice skated quite a bit I wasn’t very good on roller skates (quad style).

In-line probably exsted then (and before) but theye were confined off season hockey players and the like.


I went a lot when I was about 12, and the songs - “Here I Go Again” and “Knock on Wood” will alwyas remind me of Saints Roller Rink

We had those too. Our couples skate was called “Snowball” (yeah I know). The girls would line up on one side of the rink and the boys on the other. If you wanted to skate with someone you had to skate over to them and ask. Needless to say this resulted in lots of awkward pre-teens just staring at each other, too shy to make a move.

Bon Jovi was HUGE at that time. I still remember feeling like a total bad-ass as I skated around to “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I couldn’t skate worth a shit but it was a good time.

The skating rink was the most romantic place in my pre-teen world. Getting to couples skate with [I know I shouldn’t type his name here, but it’s just such an awesome pre-teen crush name] . . . .I could have died.

Thing is, almost 20 years later, I play roller derby, and spend about three nights a week at the local rink. Often, they’re just wrapping up open skate before our practices. It amazes me the number of kids who hang out there - I figured everyone was too cool for it nowdays.

I loved our roller rink! We used to go every Friday night if there was a party and, if not, every Saturday night. I remember how hot and sticky it used to get with all those bodies out on the rink and how, during the slow songs, you finally got a chance to cool off, whether you were skating with a boy or not. Of course, I was incredibly awkward and taller than most boys when I went to the roller rink, so I was rarely skating with a guy.

I still remember my favorite clothes for the roller rink: my dark-washed (or black) blue jeans (wide enough to cuff and roll up, of course) and a bright red button-down shirt. I can’t remember if I wore my bangs in “the claw” then or not - I’m guessing I did, or my sister wouldn’t have been caught dead with me in public.

The roller rink. Sweet early teenage years (early 80’s). Multi-colored laced, laced down, as many pompoms as possible adorning the top, with lighted wheels. Jordaches tucked in tightly, so everyone could see the skates.

The snowball, teen boys on one side, teen girls on the other. The wait. One brave boy would finally skate over. Like a dam bursting, the rest would follow. Sweaty hand holding. Can he skate? Should I skate backwards instead? Disco ball throwing multicolored lights over our nervous faces. The snowball ends, a collective sigh of relief as we went our way, the boys went theirs.

Always, in the middle of the rink, the older guys with their short shorts, athletic socks and porn mustaches. They would spin, flip, zigzag, all while trying to hit on us. shudder

A few years later going there to have a few hours with the boyfriend, sneaking out the back to smoke (and blame the smell on everyone else when my Mom would ask). Didn’t skate much, I was too cool for it by then. We’d just sit at the tables and make cracks about the “young brats” skating and the pervs still there in the middle, still in their short shorts and porn staches.

Now it’s a furniture store.

Hell yeah. I remember being terribly smitten with this girl I couples-skated with and remember riding home from that time in the way-back of a station wagon late at night all tired and listening to “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross and I was a goner. Not that I understood what she was singing about. So when was that… around 1973 or 4. I was 11 or 12. I think I might have seen that girl once or twice after that. That’s my one lasting memory of roller-skating.

Elementary school/ Junior high. Wobbling around, listening to music that would never get played in my house, GIRLS!

And yes, that funny light feeling once you put street shoes back on.

Argent Towers, have you seen “Roll Bounce?” It was on one day when nothing else was, and it was a damn good movie that brought back some of those feelings for me. You might dig it.

Back in The Day (late 70’s early 80’s) Mammahomie would enroll me in a summer day care program every summer so I wouldn’t have to stay home all by myself all summer. Those summers are some of the highlights of my childhood! We went to city parks, to the lake for boating, to the zoo, etc.

But every Wednesday was skating day, and boy oh boy did we look forward to it! We’d head out to Skateland South, and from time to time we would be joined by participants from other summer day care programs. It was a much more innocent time; boys and girls still regarded each other as “icky,” but some of the girls were starting to get their boobies and all the boys thought that was totally cool. Sometimes one of them would even ask us to skate around the rink holding hands! :eek:

The DJ never took requests, but everyone would rush out (even the geeky kids who couldn’t skate) to skate whenever he played “King Tut” by Steve Martin.

Ah, those were the days. Thanks for this thread! It’s brought up a lot of memories!

My kids were amazed when we went to the grade school skating parties and they found out that I could skate. I spent every weekend from about sixth grade through my sophomore year in high school at Roller Bowl. I remember Rosemary teaching me how to waltz and two step, as well as some other very important lessons for a teenager…