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Skating Through The Years

There are moments in my life that seem inconsequential in hindsight; however, the smallest item can instantly transport me back to my youth and all the feelings of the moment come rushing back. Feelings of being a weird kid in a weird town living a weird life and trying desperately to find my niche in life. (Spoiler alert: it was not to be found in the skating rink.) Join me as we go on a journey filled with spills, thrills, and the dulcet tones of Richard Marx.

 

Growing up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas in the 1980s is not as thrilling as one might imagine. In the days before the internet the world could be a lonely place. It was especially lonely for a young kid trying to survive being a middle child and the syndrome that comes with it. Whenever I hear the song "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx I recall the summer of 1989, and one of my many attempts at finding myself.

 

At the time, my older brother was into the skateboarding scene while I was more into the “getting on a board and falling whenever I tried to do the simplest trick” scene. As such, I needed to find something more my speed. My issue with skateboarding was apparent only when I attempted to do a trick. If I could find something that involved wheels but no tricks I would be okay. I recalled kids at school talking about the local skating rink, so I had my eureka moment. I just knew that I was born to roller-skate.

 

 

One Friday night, I built up the nerve to venture out of my home and walk the couple of blocks to the local rink. The building and sign might have been appealing in the 70’s, but time had not been kind. One of the lights on the sign was burnt out and the building could have used a good power washing. The smell of burnt popcorn and dirty hot dog racks assaulted my nostrils as I entered to face my destiny. I paid my two dollars to rent some skates which was a small price to pay for awesomeness. I don’t remember the exact song that was playing while donning my skates, but it was probably something by Debbie Gibson or New Kids on the Block. Skates tied tight and my head filled with dreams of gliding across the floor it was time to embrace my calling.

My foot touched the floor, and I immediately fell on my butt. Not a problem. I would surely get it next time. I pulled myself up and moved forward a couple of paces. At that moment, my legs decided it was time to do the splits. This was not going according to plan, but I was adamant that I was going to succeed. I wish I could say through my grit and determination I became a skating master. Alas, I flopped around for an unknown amount of time until the DJ called for couples skate. To this day, I don’t know if he did it to save a ten-year old Squidbee from further embarrassment, but if so, thank you Mr. DJ.

 

I slowly made my way across the floor to the safety of a bench and my shoes. I was extremely disappointed in myself and all of the feelings that I would later find out to be bipolar disorder started to creep in. Richard Marx started playing as I watched couples—young and old—hold each other and glide effortlessly across the floor that had been my downfall. My night was effectively ruined until I heard the beep bloop of my electronic savior.

 

Unbeknownst to me, the rink had an arcade set up next to the food court. I ended up losing myself in a sea of flashing lights and electric euphoria. Most of my money was spent playing Elevator Action. It was originally released in 1983 and that night it was my escape. (Thanks to the rink for having an outdated arcade selection.) How can anyone be depressed with an elevator-riding, secret-stealing super spy?

Needless to say, roller-skating was not my future, and it would be another 8 years before I stepped foot into a skating rink again. I would eventually find my scene, but that is a story for another day. Right now I need to throw on some Electric Youth and dance around my living room. 

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onipar Posted on Jan 15, 2022 at 04:04 PM

Nice story, loved it! You know, interestingly, I never went to a skating rink, and only in my adult years did I even realize roller skating was "a thing" in the 80s. But I can totally relate to the arcade savior, because I'd always gravitate to the arcade selection at my local bowling alley.

Beatles_Toybox Posted on Dec 21, 2021 at 09:09 PM

Thanks for sharing! Growing up in rural Oregon, one of the few things for us to do on Friday nights (maybe it was Saturday) was go to the small Catholic church for skate night. They had ancient roller-skates that they would rent to us and a big chunk of the community would fill the place as we would skate in a circle around the small basketball court. I broke my arm there in fourth grade, but it didn't stop me from lacing up the skates for a school reward trip to Skate Palace in Salem. Looking back on it, roller skating was huge for me as a kid. Unfortunately I never mastered any cool skating tricks but had fun anyway. Most skate places around here are now closed and the church hasn't had skate night for a very long time.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 07, 2021 at 07:01 PM

That sucks. I hate seeing/hearing about the state of most malls these days. There are a few bright spots here and there... actually most malls I've visited in West Virginia are doing well (Barboursville/Huntington Mall, Parkersburg Mall, Beckley area mall). The mall I'm most familiar with from my youth (Parkersburg) recently added a whole new section for Ross, Petland, and some other anchor-type stores.

squidbee Posted on Dec 07, 2021 at 05:54 PM

I live in an area that saw an explosion of malls during the 80s and 90s. Recent years have seen many of them closing down, being bought out, or demolished. My mall was one that was bought out, and from what I hear, it is still not doing very well. I last visited prior to the buy-out, and there were cellphone repair kiosks and cheap clothing stores everywhere. The anchor stores were either all gone or in the process of running a clearance sale.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 07, 2021 at 05:41 PM

I whole-heartedly agree. That is awesome though that the place is still kicking. I'm kind of in the reverse situation in that the mall I most frequented is actually thriving. Then again, it's in West Virginia, so they're like 20 years behind the curve, LOL.

squidbee Posted on Dec 07, 2021 at 05:10 PM

@Benjanime Video games and comic books have always been my biggest addictions. Ever since my mom bought me an Atari 2600 for Christmas one year, I have been hooked. Plus, I was indoctrinated by Nintendo all through my youth with games, comics, cartoons, and cereal.

squidbee Posted on Dec 07, 2021 at 05:08 PM

I hate seeing my old haunts closing down, so I feel you Vaporman87. For example, I love Dead Mall videos, but it hits me right in the feels whenever someone posts about my local mall. A place where I hung out and worked for many years.

It looks like the skating rink from my youth is still open. I am honestly shocked because back in the 80s it looked to be on its last legs. Skating lessons are only 5 bucks. Maybe I should look into it. lol

Benjanime Posted on Dec 06, 2021 at 07:08 PM

I can't skate for crap tbh, even roller blading was a joke for me, but hey, that's what happens when I have a video game addiction as a kid I guess lol.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 06, 2021 at 04:35 PM

I should mention that our skating rink did NOT have a DJ. The owner just played records through the speakers. She would swap them out behind the counter as she collected entry fees.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 06, 2021 at 04:33 PM

Ha! Here I was expecting an ending where you go through some type of "Karate Kid" montage and become a skating legend in your area.

Let me state for the record... I loved the skating rink. For a number of years it was my mecca on the weekends. I lived in a small neighborhood of houses along a hillside in the middle of nowhere. I still live in the middle of nowhere, but hey... I like nowhere.

At the bottom of that hill, really looking out of place along a state road, was the Skate-A-Way. I walked down my hill to that place nearly every Friday or Saturday night (sometimes both) with my metal case containing my skates.

I have years worth of memories made there. Birthday parties, couple skating with the girl behind the food counter, my sister breaking her arm, competing in ruthless competitions... particularly the limbo, munching on mediocre hot dogs, and trying desperately to earn the high score in Galaga for the night.

I loved that place. Now... it has been converted to office space for a construction company. Sad.

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