Roller skating was a thing back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.
Growing up, yes I spent some time learning to bicycle, but my father was more interested in roller skating. I too grew interested over time. I remember having a birthday party or two at a skating rink.
On weekends, when I was visiting him, my father would put on his own skates and he’d be listening to music, riding backwards around Greenlake on weekends, shaking his booty and whatnot. As for me, I wasn’t really that good, despite all the time spent at various rinks. At least I graduated from hugging the wall and could go fast and stop well.
Skate King in Bellevue was our regular spot.
Things I recall about Skate King:
- The smell. The place always smelled like a gym with bad ventilation. Add in the smells of popcorn, cheap hot dogs, pizza, and pretzels being kept warm, musty shag carpet, and years of smoking before it was banned and you get the general idea.
- The sounds. 80’s pop rock, wheels and brakes on concrete, metal locker doors slamming, the chatter of kids and parents, the DJ announcing games: “Four Corners”, “Red Light Green Light”, etc.
- Sights: Benches for large numbers of skaters to lace in and out. Again, red shag carpet. Round couches to take a break on. A suspended white ceiling with fluorescent lighting. A large neon mural that would glow under the black lights. Old arcade cabinets in attract mode. A wall for kids and beginner skaters to hold on to as they went around. A DJ booth with hundreds of vinyl records and plexiglass to contain the sound around the mike. A snack bar area. (I don’t think I ever ate there; we packed our own food I’m pretty sure.)
- Putting on old skates and getting them to fit. Skates where the foot bed was worn through and you’d feel the frame, the wheels were worn funny on one side (because you’d always be going counter-clockwise 95% of the time). The sensation of falling and flailing suddenly. The sensation of being hit or run into by falling skaters. Going from the safe and slow surface of the carpet to the fast smooth surface of the rink.
My Dad, bless him, taught me patiently to skate backwards but I never figured it out. But really what it was all about was at least finding something physical to do that I enjoyed. I never got the hang of team sports, unfortunately.
Skate King is closing at the end of May (2015), which is sad, but given I haven’t been back there in years, perhaps it is time for it to pass on.