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Roller Skating

Roller Skating

by Charles F. Sullivan

            When just a child, I saw a picture of a man skating upon wheels in the Scientific American, a paper published in New York, and his skates were very different than anything I have ever seen at any time.

            There were two wheels, one on each side of each foot about ten inches in diameter, and a small one in the rear, probably not over three inches. In the center was a place to set the foot and straps to hold it fast, but it looked awkward to me and as I have never seen one like it, it probably did not prove a success.

            A year or two later, the Gebhart Theatre, now the Mayfair, was leased for a skating rink, and it was a very popular place for some time. There was a wooden floor, and the proprietor had skates to rent to all and it was filled with skaters and visitors also.

            It was always fun to see a person learn to skate, and see them go through all kinds of antics before falling, and then may be a dozen fall upon the first one. As this was a wood floor, it made quite a good deal of noise and there was considerable objection to the noise in that neighborhood.

            A new place was found, where the Steele High school now stands, and a large building was erected, with large windows up high for ventilation and a floor of probably asphalt which was smooth but not slick. All around this floor was a raised space for visitors and it was frequently filled to over flowing. The skating floor was large and fine and for quite a while it was filled.

            Elmer Estabrook, now dead, developed into a fine fancy skater, and almost every evening he would take a special part. To advertise this, a horse drawn wagon was driven all over town with a banner around it, telling of Estabrooks part in it. Also there was a large farm dinner bell upon the wagon which was rung continuously as it went around over the streets of the city.

            This continued for many years, until the city began laying asphalt on some of the streets and the sidewalks of cement, and then all the children got skates and they are still at it after all these years.

            This left the rink with no use for it, and it was rented out for conventions and other large meetings. George Barnes a southern evangelist held a revival meeting there for several weeks. Then the state rented it for an armory and it was fine for that purpose, for there was plenty of room for a whole company to drill in all kinds of weather, and as I was one of them, I am speaking from experience.

            About 1888 the school board began looking for a new site for the central High school and this place was chosen and the rink torn down.

            Since then, there have been attempts made to operate a rink but they have not been successful. All children like to skate and with the cement walks they nearly drive us to distraction for the noise when a bunch of them skate by on a hot evening in summer.

            If that noise bothers us we should just remember the amount of noise we made when we were youngsters, and think they are now getting even with us for those early days. We forget that these children need the exercise and that they are growing up continually and will only be children once and we should assist them in their sports as much as possible.

            It seems strange that roller skating should be the rage for a while and then die out, yet that is like all amusements they come and go, they are very popular for a while and then are gone forever.