Once a year, our Phy Ed teacher does a unit on roller skating. We have a local rink nearby in Burnsville, and they are kind enough to rent out the skates to our school for the month. Each class gets one week to learn how to skate. I am with the first graders this year for phy ed and was this ever fun to watch. I don’t think any of these kids have ever seen a pair of roller skates, much less put a pair on.
In America, this hobby was most popular, first between 1935 and the early 1960s and then in the 1970s, when polyurethane wheels were created and “Disco” oriented roller rinks were the rage and then again in the 1990s when in-line outdoor roller skating became popular.
- In 1863, the four-wheeled turning roller skate, or quad skate, with four wheels set in two side-by-side pairs( front and rear ), was first designed, in New York City by James Leonard Plimpton in an attempt to improve upon previous designs. The skate contained a pivoting action using a rubber cushion that allowed the skater to skate a curve just by pressing his weight to one side or the other, most commonly by leaning to one side. It was a huge success, so much so that the first public roller skating rinks were opened in 1866, first in New York City by Plimpton in his furniture store. The design of the quad skate allowed easier turns and maneuverability, and the quad skate came to dominate the industry for more than a century.
- During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Rollerblade-branded skates became so successful that they inspired many other companies to create similar inline skates, and the inline design became more popular than the traditional quads. The Rollerblade skates became synonymous in the minds of many with “inline skates” and skating, so much so that many people came to call any form of skating “Rollerblading,” thus making it a trademark.
Our students did not wear rollerblades, but put on the actual roller skates that we grew up with, with four wheels. The only difference between the skates now and back when we wore them…is Velcro, rather than all that tying up the skate. I’m sure the bigger shoe sizes still have shoelaces, but for first grade purposes, it’s all about Velcro. Getting started on the first day was a bit tricky because what first grader knows his/her shoe size? So it was a lot of trial and error and stinky feet for awhile. I made sure to memorize what size my two guys wore for the following week, so we didn’t have to go through this again. ha~
Once everyone had on skates, the first rule was to sit on the mat and don’t move. Rules were made and they all need to learn the correct way to stand back up after a fall. Very important, because it happened a lot!
After going through all the safety rules, it was time to try this activity out. Mr. Ceola, (gym teacher) announced…”okay, you may begin.” Everyone stood up, took one step off the mat, and it was like dominoes…everyone fell! One by one, down they went. We never laughed so hard. The music teacher was in their video taping. She does this on the first day, then again on the last day, so they can see how much they’ve improved. I thought she was going to drop her iPad. It was hilarious to watch, but the kids we having a ball and nobody was crying. They have no fear at this age. They just got right back up, and fell down over and over.
As the week went on, we really noticed the difference and how quickly they adapted to their roller skates. At the beginning, they were just sort of walking and stepping and by the end, they were pushing off and gliding. Going much faster and less falling.
On their last day, Mr. Ceola does a fun thing. He turns out the lights in the gym and has his “disco” lights going. Throughout the week, he also plays “disco music” while they skate. I know you’re having flashbacks right now of the roller rink and maybe that “snowball” dance with someone special. The kids let out a scream and couldn’t wait to skate in the dark. It was so darn cute. They really enjoyed it.
Some movies were made in the 70’s and 80’s about rollerskating and roller derbys. See if any of these bring back memories.
Roller Boogie with Linda Blair, Xanadu, with Olivia Newton-John, and Rollerball – A dystopian SciFi centered on a roller skate based tournament. Even as far back as 1916 – there was a Charlie Chaplin film called “The Rink” which is partially set at a roller skating rink & roller skating party. Gene Kelly used roller skates as part of a dance routine in It’s Always Fair Weather. I may have to check those out sometime.
It sure was a fun time in the gym this past week. I hope the kids will ask their parents to take them to the local roller rink (Skateville) this summer or even on a weekend because they had so much fun and it’s a great, inexpensive activity that they can do with their friends or even have a birthday party at the rink. Who knows…maybe their parents will put on a pair as well and daydream of their youth.