Roller-skating is a popular activity for all age groups. Seniors especially find it rewarding because it is such a complete form of exercise as well as a social and family pastime.
A Belgian inventor, by the name of Joseph Merlin, produced the first roller skates in 1760. It wasn't until 1819 that a patent was first granted, but those skates, registered to a Monsieur Petitbled, could do nothing but roll in a straight line. The formation of the skate prohibited turning corners.
By 1863 a Massachusetts businessman, James Plimpton, created the skate that could turn, the "rocking skate". A mere twenty years later and everyone was skating. It was very common at the turn of the century for a gentleman to try and impress a lady by the fancy turns and glides he could make on his skates.
Just before WWII an association of rink owners was formed, The Roller Skating Association International (RSA). They have actively promoted the sport ever since. A big improvement came to roller skates in the 1970's when plastic wheels became the standard, providing smoother skating. There is even a National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska.
But today, it's Senior Skate time at the Skateland Skating Rink on Kinsman and the history of roller-skating is not uppermost on these athletic seniors' minds. They are here for companionship, exercise and above all else - a good time!
Betty Spears is about to turn 79 years old. (Note - photos of the skaters are on the photo page.) She never skated as a child, but took it up as an adult and loves every minute of it. An operation kept her off her skates for nearly four years, but nothing could keep her away for good. She's out there today to get her legs back in shape, and then look out! She's ready to roll!
Roller-skating is also a good activity for husbands and wives to share. Alfred Cliette's wife, Andrea, started skating before he did. But in 1976 he decided the best way to spend more time with his wife was to take up this hobby she enjoyed so much. Now at 64, Alfred and Andrea (61) are on the rink doing tangos and waltzes together, and obviously loving every minute of it.
Today was a big day for Gloria DeLoach (52). She's taking her first steps back into the rink in forty years. She already swims at least once a week, now she's looking for a little more exercise to keep her in shape.
Jim Hayes (76) loves the people. He's got a smile and a nod for everyone who goes by. After three years of skating he still feels he's got a ways to go before he's as good as he'd like to be, but he's enjoying the time it takes to get there.
Carol Boddy (68) always liked skating as a child. Now she's back on skates, at least whenever she's in town long enough from her one day jaunts to the casinos. She has encouraging words for people like Shirley Hall (60) who held onto the wall for dear life. "This is only my second time back in 15 years" Carol advised " but I can tell you this. Once you let go and give it a try, you're gonna find you really love it. There's nothing like it." Shirley took her up on her advice and it's my guess she's going to be quite a good skater in a very short time.
"I remember skating as a child on Cedar and 107th at the Pla-Mor" says Judy Chapman (63). "We had the best times, all our friends would go there and we'd skate as long as we could. It was great". Now Judy's having a good time with new friends and keeping in shape at the same time. Her friend, Helen Rivers (50) also walks and swims, but finds the most camaraderie in skating. Like the other skaters here today they are anxious to get their skates on and start skating to the music.
Most are graceful, some less so than others. But to a person they are smiling, laughing and basically enjoying their morning out with their friends.
In addition to Skateland of Cleveland (921-0525) other rinks have senior skating specials as well and of course you can always join any public skating session. Senior Skating specials usually include reduced rates and are often on a weekday morning.
Additional rinks with senior specials include: United Skates of America (420-8821) and Brookpark Skateland (433-7349). All rinks have skates for rent, so there's nothing to hold you back. Give it a try; you'll be gliding to the skating rink music in no time.
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(Photos of the skaters are on the photo page.)
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