And then what happened?


On May 24, 1933 the Newtown precinct in N.Y.C. recieved 100 complaints of noise and traffic jams. Seems spring fever had spontaneously struck 700 skaters of all ages. They filled the streets of Jackson Heights between 83rd and 89th streets on 34th avenue, the police needed help from the fire department sprinklers to disperse them. The next night they were back, after chasing them for an hour and a half (much to the delight of the skaters), the fire department once again had to be called to dampen their spirits and clear the streets.

Two fellows skated from Boston to San Diego it took two months and they wore out 448 wheels. Melva Block senior ladies figure skating champion 1941 and 1942.

The 1940s were the heyday of skating! There were even schools to turn out professional skating instructors who were much in demand as rinks had overfull classes and schedules. Cities included skating in their municipal programes. The metal outdoor skates are forbidden indoors and shoe skates run about $15, composition wheels have arrived and cost $4.50.

Roll-arounders is the termed used for those who haven't learned any steps, most are average skaters slowly increasing their abilities, then there are the serious students and professionals. These people are said to have skatereetis, like the pro who goes skating at other rinks on his day off. Skaters dress well, men in slacks,shirt and often tie, the women in skirts unless members of a club all of which have dashing names and flashy costumes. I should point out they were considered flashy then, now we would see it only as a bright colored jacket with emblem.

All rinks have printed copies of the basic steps and dance patterns and although competition nationally is not as strong, the grass roots urge to become a good skater remains strong. Hollywood is in on the action as it has more and more of it's stars don skates for a scene in their latest movie. Walter Bickmeyer junior figure skating champion1940 to 1943. Rolling into the 1950s skating is still the in thing and to fit in you have to do at least the basic steps. Many couples meet at a rink durring this time and are married. Such a couple came back to the Cairo-Purling Rink not long ago, they had been married fifty years and still skate well together.

The unrest and conflicts of the 1960s put a damper on skating though it did not die, still into the 1970s you could find skaters quietly enjoying the sport, and there was a short revival with Disco. The precision was still there but it's competant skaters got older, tied down with work and families and there was not a learned younger generation to fill their skates.

In 1986 manufacturers began offering in-line skates to fitness enthusiasts and marketing to the public by 1990. People were getting excited about skating again especially hockey and racing. Every state had at least one active rink in 1997 and Texas had 156! Many rinks have expanded their offerings to include entertainment for non-skating family members, with such things as video games. Modern technology has improved the handle of the in-line skate and they certainly exceed the maneuverability of their predecessors. Still the old truth holds, the in-line skate does not lend itself well to the graceful curves, sharp edges and breath-taking spins of figure skating.

We thank Morris Traub"s book "Roller Skating Through the Years" for the antique illustrations and most of the information here-in.

See also The Roller Skating Museum