Skate Or Die


When I was in sixth grade, my teacher organized roller skating parties down at the local rink once a month.  This was back in 1986-87, firmly on the downward slope of roller skating’s popularity, which peaked in the 70’s when the combination of roller derby and flashback fridaydisco had skating rinks the happening place to be seen rolling around on 8 wheels in a leisure suit.  It was still a blast though, and in ways only the 80’s could make things fun for the children of that decade.  Chances are, if you grew up in the 80’s you attended a few roller skating parties, and perhaps you can relate to some of the memories I’m about to share with you of those awesome Skate Night Thursdays of my youth in this week’s Flashback Friday…

Brace yourself and have a good time!

Brace yourself and have a good time!

First, let’s talk a little about roller skating in the 80’s.  I was lucky to grow up in a time when roller skates were still designed like roller skates, and not like ice skates.  I tried standing up in ice skates before… and by standing up, I mean constantly plopping my butt on the ice.  I can’t imagine trying to skate like this…

In those skates... not the bikini.

In those skates… not the bikini.

Instead, roller skating in the 80’s looked more like this…

Much less chance of falling and breaking those tube socks...

Much less chance of falling and breaking those tube socks…

Even a clutz like me could get myself going and stay upright on the classic roller skate design.  Of course, getting yourself going is the easy part.  Skates were designed with little rubber pegs at the toe that were supposed to help the skater stop should they need to avoid rolling out in front of a bus or even worse, plow into the classroom bully and his girlfriend.  YouTube can show you how to do literally everything except achieve world peace, and yes, they even have a video that show’s you how to stop on roller skates…

Yeah, right.  This was how I had to stop once I got started….

They needed more poles in roller rinks.

They needed more poles in roller rinks.

Upon arriving at the rink, the first thing you had to do was rent a pair of roller skates, because the manager of the rink didn’t want you rolling in your scuffed up street skates that would mess up their already rotten, warped and cracked floor.  There was plenty of other oppressive rules and regulations us kids had to follow while trying to have a good time.  At our rink, the enforcer of the Skating Rules and Regulations was this old, creepy looking guy who had about half his teeth and wielded a flashlight that was always on.  He would skate up to any troublemakers and read them the riot act, and maybe even make them take a skating timeout if they did something horrible like give the skater in front of them a wedgie.  It was like having Barney Fife on skates…

I'm ready to nip those wrong way skaters in the bud, Sheriff!

I’m ready to nip those wrong way skaters in the bud, Sheriff!

Special parties like our class’ skating nights called for even more restrictions on the type of skating you could do at certain times.  In fact, everything was on a strict schedule.  We had this lighted signboard straight out of Orwell’s “1984”…

Deputy Fife never let us race...

Deputy Fife never let us race…

Yes, once a night you had to skate the opposite way around the rink.  After making only left turns for over an hour, that’s like moving to England and getting a crash course in driving on the wrong side of the road.  Then there was Couples Only…. wonderful, this is a group full of sixth graders.  Sixth graders might end up on Maury Povich nowadays, but back in the 80’s most 6th graders still didn’t know what a hormone was.  And besides, why just skate with one pretty girl in the Couples segment when you can wait for a menage a trois when the board lit up “TRIOS”.

This group might get a little rowdy.  Better get the flashlight ready, Barn..

This trio might get a little rowdy. Better get the flashlight ready, Barn..

And yes, we did the hokey pokey.  The hokey pokey is stupid enough to do when you don’t have eight slippery wheels of hell attached to your feet.  Try shaking your right foot all about without falling on your ass…

That's what it's all about...

That’s what it’s all about…

And yes, that’s the Limbo on that sign up there.  We did the limbo at every skating party.  Not the way you would normally do the limbo, of course, that would be just asking for head trauma.  No, we did it bending forward like this…

We may have rode in the beds of pickup trucks back in my day, but we weren't fucking crazy...

We may have rode in the beds of pickup trucks back in my day, but we weren’t fucking crazy…

And we did the limbo every time to the same two songs.  “Break My Stride” and “The Curly Shuffle“.  I’m not kidding… and the rest of the music that was played throughout the night was just as cheesy and totally 80’s as those two songs.  We whizzed around the rink to Juice Newton, Wang Chung, and pretty much any other record the owner could find in the bargain bin at K-Mart.  They could have played MacArthur Park for all we cared… we just wanted to skate…

Oh, that sweet green icing...

Oh, that sweet green icing…

Well, the Session Closed sign is flashing, and that means The Nest’s little 80’s skating party we threw for you has come to an end.  We hope you enjoyed the exercise, the bumps and bruises, the hokey pokeying, and the endless parade of one hit wonders.  And if you didn’t have a good time, well, don’t worry.  Pretty soon the more serious 90’s will come around, and we’re going to regret the fact that we were ever a part of the flashy, colorful 80’s…. at least until we grow up and yearn for those younger days again.  Uh oh, look out.  Barney and his flashlight are coming our way!

STOP!  Grab a pole this instant!  You can't outskate the fashion police!!!

STOP! Grab a pole this instant! You can’t outskate the fashion police!!!

About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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34 Responses to Skate Or Die

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    The Curly Shuffle? Break My Stride? Are you trying to dare me into downloading bad songs?

    Now, after the limbo and sock races they do the Cupid Shuffle or the Cha Cha Slide. Or so I have been told.

  2. markbialczak says:

    Yes, the comfort and relative safety of the four-wheeled skates sure made more sense to me than the roller blades that came after. My daughter got caught up in the roller blade craze in the 1990s. By that time, I was way past considering even the old skate. It’s for the youth of America. I remember the sign fliashing, couples, trios, and then the chaos of “all skate.” Thanks for the memories, Evil Squirrel.

    • You’re welcome! And thank you for filling out the top section on the sign… I couldn’t remember what the general skating session was called, and couldn’t read it in the picture since it was lit up…

      • markbialczak says:

        When you’re a kid too young and shy for couples and trios — things were different back then, for sure — all-skate was the saving session, I do believe.

  3. Mental Mama says:

    OMG, that was like, totally rad and junk! I used to go skating every Sunday afternoon with my best friend. I was actually very good at it back then. The last time I tried to skate – last fall – it was with my little nieces and I was petrified of falling on them. Classy, totally classy.

  4. C.K. Hope says:

    Believe it or not, I learned to use rollerblades. I couldn’t stop in them but I could stay upright!

    I was better at ice skating than roller skating, I could actually do jumps and spins on ice, and that cool sideways sliding stop thing; trying that on roller skates? Kinda like that Hokey Pokey pic you got up there 😉

  5. 1jaded1 says:

    We would go to the rolladium. It was early 80s but most of the adventures were the same.

  6. Scout Paget says:

    For me, learning how to skate was like a baptism through fire. When I was six or seven I asked my mum if I could get some skates. She broke out these old steel kind that clamped on your shoe – you needed to size them with a key. At first my whole body rattled going over the concrete sidewalks and the cracks that never seemed to end. But I got used to it and soon I was flying. When the time came to finally try the booted skates with polyurethane wheels – well, let’s just say the thrill was gone. After my first experience at the rink, I politely declined my pals’ invites to go again. Gliding over a smooth oval just didn’t seem to compare with the rush of conquering the concrete jungle on those primitive steel skates. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t my mum’s plan from the beginning.

    • And thus explains the song “Brand New Key”….

      I never saw a set of the skates you put on the bottom of your shoes before, though I knew they were the precursors to what i skated with as a kid. Roller rinks were good for skating fast… but I did enjoy navigating the uneven sidewalks in my neighborhood as well…

  7. Twindaddy says:

    I tried roller skating once. ONCE!!

  8. merbear74 says:

    “Ain’t nothin’ gonna breaka my stride.” Thanks, ES…LOL…
    I was never able to learn how to skate, but I did learn how to ride a bike. I went to some of the monthly skating parties, but I never moved much farther than the wall. Great post, man.

  9. draliman says:

    I’m not sure roller skating was ever as big over here, fortunately (my balance isn’t all that great).
    And I’ll have you know, it’s Americans who drive on the wrong side of the road 🙂

    • Reminds me of an old puzzle about two brothers Ned and Ted who lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Ned wanted them to move to Birmingham, but Ted protested that if they moved to Birmingham, he would have to drive all the time. Ned countered with the fact that the reason he wanted to move to Birmingham is because in Montgomery, he has to drive all the time. Why is this?

      The answer: Ned and Ted are Siamese twins, and the Birmingham being referred to is the city in England! 🙂

  10. The Cutter says:

    My elementary school would run after school trips to the rink every other Monday. Of course, being in elementary school, couples skate usually involved two guys or two girls skating together. If I recall, this particular rink’s go to songs were “We Built this City” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

    Man, I really miss those trips.

    • I recall the couples largely being girl/girl, with a few more mature girl/guy combos. I believe that was largely due to a hand holding requirement…

      Well, and my 6th grade class had about 16 girls and only 8 boys….

  11. Never conquered roller skates and not for want of trying. Many skinned knees and bruises did I get in pursuit of just being able to stay upright, but alas, it was not to be. I suffer from terminal clumsiness and lack of balance.

  12. Oh the memories! I had a birthday party at the local skating rink one year and we all dressed in our pajamas. Totally weird looking back on it, but I know I must’ve had a great time. And thanks btw — I have Break My Stride stuck in my head now.

  13. Youth for Christ used to hold all-nighters twice a year…roller skating, all night…it was awesome! And if you got bored, there was always the bowling alley on the other side… I was a figure skater on ice, but never mastered stopping in roller skates. I just aimed for the boards and hoped for the best! 🙂

  14. Ah those 80s fashions!!! Lovely seeing them again.

  15. Dylan Dailey says:

    Certain songs just bring back the skating memories for me. Tainted Love by Soft Cell, Let’s Go by the Cars, Rock Me by Michael Jackson. (I’m a few years older than you). I did most of my roller skating between ’78 and ’83. I was never any good at it, most of the time I was a total rail-holder and wall-clinger! You remember those kids? Other kids would literally have to yank me out into the center of the rink…

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