Street roller skating was big in the fifties, even bigger than roller blading is now. When our parents were around, we skated on the sidewalks. It was OK, but the rough surfaces and cracks literally made your teeth vibrate. When our parents weren't around we took to the streets....smooth sailing on those seamless asphalt surfaces. Jump the curb, whip around the green Chevy, and skate hell bent for Louie's candy store, where Louie's wife Esther had a fit if you came into the store on skates. While one of us argued with her, the rest of us were cleaning out the chocolate-covered jelly rolls and the Halavah Bars on the counter.
There were also indoor skating rinks like the Eastern Parkway Arena that had wooden floors, snack bars, and organ music so you and your date could skate-dance around the floor. They had a live organist (well, barely alive...she was in her eighties) who played all the familiar skater's waltzes for us young hoods in our pegged pants and D.A. haircuts. There was even a popular TV show called Roller Derby where teams of toothless guys and gals skated around an oval trying to get their skaters into the lead to win the race. They were very physical matches and often looked like a hockey game had broken out!
When your skates got worn out, they would begin their new life as your scooter wheels. The skate was taken apart so that front and rear wheels were now separate. These were attached to a two-by-four board front and back, and a wooden fruit crate nailed to the front of the two-by-four. Two sticks were fastened to the top of the crate to facilitate steering. This ingenious contraption is pictured at left. Can you even imagine a kid today doing this? It's what poor kids did to make the absolute most out of what they had. I honestly believe that we were all the better for it.
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