Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, the absolute highlight of the week for me, my friends, and step silbings was a trip to the roller rink! We entered another world.
In my world, that special place was the Axle Roller Rink in Niles, IL. It may look like a dump on the outside when you see the picture now, but it was magical inside.
I heard the music and my heart started beating. Journey and Air Supply. Queen and Michael Jackson. Songs from Xanadu, Grease, and Fame! (Roller Skate Dad reminisces about the best skating songs here.) I'd reach for my dollars in the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and was lacing up in no time. Parents must have just given us a few dollars and dropped us off outside- I don't remember ANY of them ever hanging around in there. No helicoptering then - was not needed, and wasn't a thing. It was just about fun and freedom! And, maybe, finding love from a Couples skate.
My friends and I would skate for hours on a Saturday afternoon or at a birthday party. I went as fast as I could, and would need to catch my breath after a set of songs. That's when I would head to the snack bar to get a giant Coke. (I'll never forget the girl at the counter told me I had the longest lashes she'd ever seen, and I should go buy some mascara at Walgreens to "make the most of those." I did.) I played Frogger in the arcade room. When I ran out of coins in my pocket, it was over. Debit cards did not exist.
In my research around what ever happened to the roller rink, I found Excel Roller Rink Consultants had a lot to say about the rise and fall of the roller rink. I know we made our own fun there (not hard to do at all there!). Generation X was good at that! Excel notes: "As a whole, the Y and Z-Generations has little or no experience in playing and pretending by themselves. It has been reported that if a child were left alone with only a stick and a piece of string, they would remain frozen and do nothing but cry. Their entire world is based on the mass media and entertainment. When a child of this generation visits a roller-skating rink, they want to be entertained." Thus, the demise of the roller rink. Generations after us don't play that game.
That makes me sad (for them). And for us. Where can we find that feeling again? And why can't our kids know it? Please don't tell me seeing something cool on Snapchat packs the same punch.