Roller Skating Then and Now
by Keli Gwyn
I grew up in the days when kids could play in the streets of my small town without a parent in sight. It wasn’t quite the Dark Ages. It was the 1960s.
One of the activities my childhood friends and I enjoyed was roller skating. We had heavy metal skates like those pictured. We’d slide our feet into them and use the skate key to crank them to our size. The skates had to fit snuggly, or they could separate from our shoes—with unpleasant consequences. I know because I kissed the pavement a few times.
I’d like to tell you that I zipped along the sidewalks with grace and ease, but that wasn’t the case. Those skates were heavy, and I wasn’t the bravest child on the block. A more honest description would be to say that I wobbled my way down the road, arms flailing as I fought to remain standing, wearing a goofy grin.
By the time I reached my teens, skates had improved. The wheels were attached to the boots, which provided a whole lot more support. Most of us rented our skates, not caring that countless others had worn them or that they smelled like a gym locker. We pretended that quick spritz of disinfectant spray the attendant shot into the boots worked wonders.
Skating had moved indoors to roller rinks with spinning disco balls splashing the walls with a rainbow of dancing lights. Music blared from the speakers, combining with the thunder of wheels rumbling over smooth wooden floors. The laughter of skaters whizzing past me bolstered my courage. If they could zip along, so could I. And I did, albeit a bit more tentatively. I still crashed on occasion, but I was conscious of those around me, so I’d hop back up, paste a smile on my face and keep on doing laps. Despite all my falls, I had a blast.
When I learned that roller skating was all the rage in the 1870s and that my historic Gold Rush-era town had a roller skating rink back then, I knew I had to have a skating party in one of my stories. Since Make-Believe Beau is my first story set in Placerville, I finally got to include a skate date, so-to-speak. I had such fun writing that scene.
I had some research to do in order to accurately portray an 1874 skating rink. As I expected, the floors were wooden. Since the phonograph wasn’t invented until three years later, the music would have been performed live. Women and men roller skated. Many rinks would hold classes for the ladies before the general skating sessions.
Surprisingly, the skates (similar to those in photo) weren’t too much different than those heavy, clunky models I wore as a girl. A skater slid her foot into the clamp at the toes and buckled the strap around the ankles, just as I did. Thanks to James Plimpton, who revolutionized roller skates in 1866 when he created the four-wheel model with turning capabilities that we’re used to, skaters could go in circles rather than being limited to straight lines as they had been until that time.
The hero and heroine of Make-Believe Beau, Flynt Kavanaugh and Jessie Sinclair, have a great time skating. As is often the case with couples in romance novels, things soon take a turn—for the worse. Not to worry, though. Flynt and Jessie may have to deal with all the difficulties I throw at them, but that just makes their hard-earned Happy Ever After that much sweeter.
Questions for You:
Did you enjoy roller skating when you were younger?
If you skated, were you on the timid side, like me, or did you race around the rink with flair?
As a draftswoman in a man’s world, Jessica Sinclair causes a stir as her new male colleagues vie for
her attention. And the company manager has an ultimatum: fake a courtship with her boss, Flynt Kavanaugh…or lose her job. But pretending to be smitten with the handsome engineer unleashes a real, complicated attraction—and could reveal the past she hoped to keep hidden.
Jessica is certainly the best person for the job. But as their make-believe romance escalates, Flynt knows that’s not the only reason he wants her on his team. However, with his past shrouded by a shameful secret, Flynt has always focused his ambitions on building a career, not a family. Now he has designs on Jessica’s heart, but can they trust each other with the truth?
Award-winning author Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains.
When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, other Gold Rush-era towns and historical museums. She loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her contact information.
Find Keli's books here.
(All images are from Wikimedia commons. Photo 1. Photo 2. Photo 3.)
Link to photo 1
Link to photo 2
Link to photo 3