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A favorite pastime

When I was growing up roller skating was a favorite pastime. I am talking about the type you did outdoors on sidewalks. I am talking about the type of roller skates that fastened over your shoes. You could not wear sneakers because they did not have a sole that extended for the skates to latch unto. These skates were worn over shoes that had a sole such as loafers or saddle shoes.

I lived about six blocks from the elementary school that I attended. As soon as it was good weather, we dug out our skates to skate to school. When we arrived, we removed our skates and carried them into school to be placed below the coat rack.

Every day that it was nice outside the pattern was the same. My friends and I met a couple blocks from home to skate to school. We skated home for lunch. In those days we had more than an hour to eat our lunch at home.

I especially liked slate sidewalks to skate on. A couple of my neighbors had those and we skated there. I do not think we bothered those people. I think they were happy to sit on their porch and observe us youngsters and our skates.

I also skated in the roller rink that was located at our fairgrounds. When the fair was on the rink closed and cardboard was put over the floor. One Christmas I got my own skates and a case to carry them in. We skated most weekends – Saturday and Sunday matinees.

I guess I must have been a better skater than I thought because when someone who knew how to dance on skates could lead me, I could follow. I found that out when the elementary school was having skating parties for a fundraiser. A couple of my husband’s friends were good skaters. When they grabbed me and started to dance, I could follow them. It was fun.

My children skated as well. At that time the roller rink was in downtown Russell. We had parties every month. I teased the principal about not skating. He told me he wore size 14s and they did not have those to rent.

A little bit later there were church youth group skating parties. We gathered at the rink to skate. Then, we took a short intermission for devotions led by one of the ministers of the area. After we skated, we met at one of the churches for refreshments and conversation. My children chose to attend those parties rather than go to the school sponsored dances that were held. I thought that was a wise choice.

I remember my mother and I skating at the rink at Midway Park. It was a treat to be able to skate with mom. There was live music to skate to. The organist knew all sorts of tunes to play. They also played some games for prizes. My grandparents watched us from the outside of the rink at the observation portion.

When winter arrived, we still skated, but sometimes we chose to skate at the Athletic Field. They sprayed water and froze a thin layer of ice. The boys played hockey. The rest of us just skated around. My ninety-year-old neighbor taught me how to skate backwards in a circle. He also helped me lace my skates so they were tight. Mr. Fors was a lot of fun.

We ice skated for hours and never did get cold. Sometimes our feet got cold but that was all. I learned how to wrap my feet with newspaper to keep them warm. There was a small building where you could sit down to put your skates on. There was a stove in that building as well. We could go in to get warmed up every once in a while.

After skating we walked home. It was at least seven blocks home. It was a thrill when one of the boys asked if he could walk me home. That was a big step for him because it took him even further from his own house. I invited him in to warm up before he left for home.

All of that was innocent fun. We mixed boys and girls but did not have boyfriends and girlfriends. If my grandparents happened to ride by the rink, I always saw them and waved. Not that they were checking up on me or anything.

I had my own ice skates, too. I started out with hockey skates that one of my mother’s coworkers gave me. They worked but they were awkward. That year for Christmas I got to pick out some beautiful white figure skates. I liked those much better and the jagged blades made it easier to stop. I got a pair of red wool skating socks too. I think those are still around somewhere. I also think my ice skates are hanging up in the attic.

The indoor skates are gone. When I no longer used them, I put an ad in the newspaper and sold them. I am not sure what I used the money for but probably something I wanted at the time. Maybe I used them for my tennis racket and tennis balls since that is what I got into next.

Sad to say my children and grandchildren never had the experience of skating with those over-the-shoe skates. I remember that I carried the key on a ribbon around my neck because they often loosened up and needed to be adjusted. I also remember there was a spot that I kept them in near the cellar stairs. I put my skates on by the steps and then went out to skate. I think what I liked best about skating was that it was something I could do on my own.

Memories are made of this!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net

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