Lehman
Lehman

Madison Park teenagers in the early '50s were constantly conceiving new entertainment possibilities to be enjoyed outside. Lingering too long indoors denoted a long list of chores devised by our ever-diligent parental figures.

A popular pursuit allowing us to show off was roller-skating. Sidewalks and streets were OK surfaces but smooth cement was the best. The area of desire was the tennis courts. When the adults got into their game, we would skate the sides and were eventually run off.

Just about all skaters had the skate key hanging from their jackets. The skates were affixed to any shoe or boot, and a skate key tightened the wheels via clamps. When the clamps wore out, we nailed the wheels to the bottom of apple boxes, which then became scooters.

If we had only figured out how to affix the wheels to 3-by10-inch boards, we would have all rights to the skate board and be rich!

The time came when this sport needed more exposure and better surfaces. A friend mentioned a roller-skating rink on 85th and Greenwood called the Ridge Roller Skating Rink. I joined three of my best friends—one with a car—on a Friday night and drove out to the rink. This place was huge, and you could hear it before you saw it. A loud Hammond organ played, creating smiles all around; an event to be remembered.

Once inside, we rented skates with boots. What a thrill! Smooth floors, great tunes and GIRLS! A refreshment bar was also popular with GIRLS!

It was showtime, so with our jeans rolled to the latest length trend, we hit the floor. A few attempted skating backward, but the smoothness of the floors, and the accompanying speed, gave us a real close view of said floor. Yes, a few bruises, but we didn’t give up.

The man behind a wire screen announced in various time frames: “Family Skate, Kids under 12, Couples Only, Women Only and Men Only.”

So, after some 100 laps, my friends and I were pro in the forward style but somewhat lacking in the backward skill.

Men-only was much faster, and so was the music. I could feel the air zooming by and always smiled for the female factor as we flew by. On one long run I could almost keep up, but the corners were a hazard. Right around 80 mph, some guy almost cut me off. I glared at him but he didn’t even look back. All I remember was the music got really loud and, in front of me and my near-breaking-sound-barrier speed, I approached the wire screen like a nearsighted housefly.

Wham!

At least that area was way across the rink from the refreshment area where PEOPLE were. None of that mattered, it was still a blast even with a wire mesh tattoo on my larger-than-average forehead. That smashup alone would cause serious hair loss.

Time for a well-deserved break.

The scent of hotdogs roasting filled the air, beckoning us along with large Green River sodas and other healthy treats.

We joined in conversation with other kids from the area and mentioned Garfield High and Edmond Meany, and were told we were known as “The Tough Kids.” It was great skating with the girls during “Couples Only.” Some even acquired phone numbers.

The Big Time

There was a rink with quite the reputation, called “The Renton Bowl.” It was just south of town, which consisted of a string of shops and some outlying streets; a very small area. Ever improving our style, we were ready for the big time, so we drove to a large area of nothing and found the roller-skating rink.

In the days of old, the term “Rink” was a male who styled his hair to the max with the popular “Duck’s Ass” (DA) haircut. He wore Levi’s with a large belt buckle that said, “I’m not to be reckoned with.” The white T-shirt with Lucky Strike cigarettes rolled into the sleeves and the logo showing finished the look. At the refreshment stand were the Rinks and girls who wore makeup and smoked cigarettes.

The girls seemed friendly as they skated with us during the “Couple’s” interval. Things were going well, so we joined the friendly group in a big booth. Roller skating was becoming a close second in enjoyable pastimes.

Apparently, these desirable girls were not meant to be of any outsider group. A few exchanges on the roller-skating floor proved it.

There we were way out in the sticks, in the dark, and the odds not in our favor. We devised a plan. One friend, the driver of the car, turned his skates in and idled just outside. One by one, we secretly turned our skates in. Then, with a horn honk, we egressed in well-rehearsed military fashion and aimed to home turf — Madison Park. That ended our roller-skating exploit.

Now to ice skate the Arboretum one exceptionally frozen winter.