by Rose-Mary Rumbley
You know you're old when you remember wearing a skate key around your neck. Now, you boomers, you had much better skates that we, your parents, the older set, did. Our skates clamped on to our shoes and we tightened them with a key which we wore around our neck, so we could tighten when needed! But, we all enjoyed a skating rink where we rented skates with wooden wheels. They were wooden as the floor was, thus we could glide easily around the rink.
Roller skates were first made in the 18th century for the production of a French opera, LE PROPHETE. In the opera there was a scene where people were ice skating. Well, ice could not be on the stage, so the stage hands created "roller" skates so that those in the cast would look like they were skating on ice as they sang their arias. That's when these stage hands thought, "We have something new here!" Roller skates were made and they became very popular as a sport that offered great exercise!
We all know that the German people love to drink beer! Beginning in the 1840s, the beer halls in Germany furnished roller skates for their servers. All the patrons appreciated this quick service. There was real art in roller skating with a large stein of beer in your hand!
Remember Sivils Drive In? The girls who waited on the cars were wearing majorette outfits and roller skates! It was a very popular place to get a soda or some ice cream!
But let's go back to that stage production in 1743! People were fascinated by the actors rolling around on the stage. By 1818, there was a roller skate ballet in Berlin. Then the first public rink came in 1857. The audience wanted in on the fun of rolling around. Skating competitions were established for those skilled in the sport. Who could skate the fastest? The first winner was announced in 1875.
People kept skating but the true golden age of roller skating was from 1930 to 1950. There were roller skating rinks everywhere!!! And kids were skating up and down the sidewalks--some brave ones in the street! Even the kids who were not very agile managed to roll around!
I remember Dubeck's Skating Rink on Greenville Avenue. It was on the east side of the street where today are scoccor fields--across from Royal Oaks Country Club! There was a huge rink at the Fair Park. It was always crowded! Skating was the thing!
Would you believe my Pastor, Dr. W. A. Criswell, had a skating rink built in the activities building of First Bapist?? He saw a large mission field! I was talking with a friend and he assured me that East Dallas Christian Church also had a skating rink! Skaters and rinks were everywhere!
My son, Phil, excelled in skating. I had to go out and watch him do his tricks! In my mind I kept seeing him hauled off in an ambulance with every bone broken, but he never had a major mishap.
Then came the skateboard! It was more dangerous than roller skates, but somehow Phil remained in one piece through his skating years!
Remember the stage show, STARLIGHT EXPRESS. That was a musical on Broadway in 1987! The entire cast was on roller skates! With some research, that cast would discover that a cast on stage in France in 1743, was also wearing skates!