I can still remember the dark buildings, the skates with huge rubber nobs in front, doing the hokey pokey, couples skate and reverse skate. While there are still a few roller skating rinks here and there, they are not near as abundant as they were 20 plus years ago. If you can find one, make sure to go. Roller skating is a blast, and it’s a great way to burn off some energy. As usual, I was thinking about roller skating and I got to wondering where it came from. I wonderedwho thought to put some wheels on a pair of shoes and go scooting around.
A Belgian inventor named Joseph Merlin introduced the first patented roller skate in 1760. His design more resembled the in-line skates that are popular today. He wore his new skates to a party in London, where he promptly crashed into a very expensive mirror. While he was probably not invited back to any parties at that house, the roller skates were born.
In 1863, James Plimpton, a businessman from Massachusetts invented a roller skate that could turn. It was called a “rocking” skate and was the first one that really let people skate curves and turn. Plimpton opened a skating club in New York where gentlemen enjoyed showing off for the ladies by doing fancy figures, steps and turns.
Within 20 years, roller skating had become a popular pastime for men and women. Roller skating contests began to increase. Wealthy gentlemen in Newport, Rhode Island played “roller polo,” a type of hockey game. Others held contests in dance, figure skating and speed skating. The more the public saw of roller skating, the more they wanted to try it themselves.
Over the course of the next several decades, roller skating’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds. By the 1970s, it was considered a great family activity. Improvements to the skates (plastic wheels, for example) and the rink floors made skating easier, safer and cheaper for everyone. The introduction of the plastic wheels also made it easier to skate outdoors, which would give way to skateboards and Rollerblades.
If you are ever in Lincoln, Nebraska, go check out the National Museum of Roller Skating! Until then, find a local rink, get out there and put you left foot in, put your left foot out…
Until next time,
Today’s Fun Fact: The average human produces a quart of saliva a day – that’s about 10,000 gallons in a lifetime! Gross!