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?