Tag Archive | Jim Croce

Roller Skates

‘Rinkmania’ was all the craze in Victorian England

January 4, 2022

There are days in history on which an invention so novel arrives, that it becomes all the rage – at least for a time.

An early ‘concept’ of a roller skate as well as a quite humorous interpretation.

One such invention was the four wheeled roller-skate, patented on January 4, 1863 by American James Plimpton.

Unlike an ice skate, the wheeled variety did not require a flat frozen surface and could be enjoyed in a variety of settings.

During the late 1800’s, it also was the catalyst for a ‘sexual revolution’ of sorts.

The roller skates story begins in 1743 when a pair was used in the theatre in Great Britain. John Joseph Merlin patented his version of the skate in 1760. But they were difficult to steer and, because there was no braking system, stopping at will was problematic.

It was Plimpton’s 1863 design which proved to be commercially successful. The Infallible Wikipedia informs us that Plimpton invented what was known as a rocking skate:

“… (He) used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design, one that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity of roller skating, dubbed ‘rinkomania’ in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.

1950’s era roller skaters

Eventually, roller skating evolved from just a pastime to a competitive sport; speed skating, racing on skates, and inline figure skating, very similar to what can be seen in the Olympics on ice. In the mid 1990s roller hockey, played with a ball rather than a puck, became so popular that it even made an appearance in the Olympics in 1992. The National Sporting Goods Association statistics showed, from a 1999 study, that 2.5 million people played roller hockey. Roller skating was considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but has never become an Olympic event. Other roller skating sports include jam skating and roller derby.

Roller skating popularity exploded during the disco era but tapered off in the 1980s and 1990s. Sales of roller skates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought safe outdoor activities.

Roller skating saw a revival in the late 2010s and early 2020s, spurred on by a number of viral videos on the popular video sharing app TikTok. Many popular brands sold out to the point of back-order, with many people taking up the hobby during COVID-19 quarantines across the globe.”

One aspect of the roller skates history which intrigued was the claim that it inspired a sexual revolution back in the 1860’s.  This is attributable to the stodgy Victorian moral codes of the day in Great Britain.

I’m not quite sure what the heck was going on here… but everything about this photo is intriguing!

According to one article, the skating rink proved to be the one place where romantically inclined young Brit’s could meet other young people.

“By the mid-1870s, a craze for indoor rollerskating had come to Britain, with 50 rinks in place in London at one point. The press dubbed the phenomenon ‘rinkomania’, but the healthy exercise that Plimpton had boasted of was not all that attracted the young ‘rinkers’.

‘The skating rink is the neutral ground on which the sexes may meet,’ reported Australia’s Port Macquarie News of goings-on in London and elsewhere, ‘without all the pomp and circumstances of society. The rink knows no Mother Grundy, with her eagle eye and sharp tongue, for Mother Grundy dare not trust herself on skates, and so the rinker is happier than the horseman of whom Horace sang.’

Holding hands and whispering sweet nothings became easier without Mother Grundy – a contemporary term for a stern matriarch – and her ilk tagging along. Prolonged eye contact with one’s intended replaced stolen glances.”

Skating rinks were also built all across the United States and remained wildly popular for one hundred years. In the late 1990’s and into the early part of the 21st Century, many were shuttered.

1960’s era metal roller skates. Very adjustable, you could make them fit your tennis shoes exactly.

But thanks to the global pandemic of 2020, roller skating has emerged as a great way to get exercise. Roller rinks are seeing a revival in popularity.

I must admit that when I came across this topic, it produced nostalgia. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve been out roller skating. A fear of falling and breaking something keeps me from pursuing this particular activity.

But as a child, I was fearless. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t roller skate. It was in 1966 when my parents did a home remodel and our carport was converted to a family room. The driveway was relocated and became a large, flat expanse of concrete. It was perfect for a child with a pair of all metal roller skates which attached to her shoes. I spent many hours in the driveway skating around. No doubt I skinned my knees dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But I was undaunted.

When the weather turned inclement I’d sometimes get to go to my Aunt’s house a couple blocks away and skate in circles around their basement.

The current exterior of Yakima’s Skateland

But the holy grail of experiences was on the days when I got to go to Skateland, Yakima’s very own roller rink. I loved everything about Skateland. How it smelled. The wood cubbies where one stored their shoes and coat. The flashing lights suspended over the rink. The planked floor with numbers painted on it for when they had a contest. The sound of hundreds of wheels rolling across it. The impossibly loud music. Dancing the hokey pokey.

September 2001 was the last time I went skating at Skateland in Yakima. The occasion was my niece’s ninth birthday. We are pictured skating together at the left side of the photo.

I feel quite confident that roller skating is in my rear view mirror but I wonder if there is some inventor out there who could create a contraption that would allow all us Baby Boomers to skate once again. Places like Skateland in Yakima, or Skagit Skate not too far from where I currently live, could make it a real thing.

What we BB’s need would be akin to training wheels or even a walker like device. Something that would allow all the old fogies to stay upright and be able to recapture a few fleeting moments of our youth. Ah yes, those were the good old days.

A few links:

First up is Jim Croce’s classic ‘Roller Derby Queen’ – his explanation at the beginning is great!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_skates

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31831110

Jim Croce

Photographs and Memories

January 10, 2018

There are a handful of musical artists whose star flames brightly for a very short time before they are extinguished.

croce-13tflt2One such artist was Jim Croce.  Born on January 10, 1943, Croce wrote some two dozen songs which resonated with my generation: Time In a Bottle, I Have To Say I Love You in A Song, and I’ve got A Name are but three of the ballads he immortalized which spring immediately to mind.

Croce’s life path was not an easy one. No doubt he was driven to write his music despite gaining little traction with it until 1972 when his songs started to get airtime on commercial radio. His most successful single Bad, Bad Leroy Brown reached Number 1 on the Billboard Charts in July 1973. With that success came a series of appearances and, from all indications, he was on a trajectory to stardom.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

“Croce then began appearing on television, including his national debut on American Bandstand on August 12, 1972, The Tonight Show on August 14, 1972, The Dick Cavett Show on September 20/21 1972, The Helen Reddy Show airing July 19, 1973 and the newly launched The Midnight Special, which he co-hosted airing June 15. From July 16 through August 4, 1973, Croce and (Maury) Muehleisen returned to London and performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test where they sang ‘Lover’s Cross’ and ‘Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues’ from their upcoming album ‘I Got a Name’.”

Croce familyDespite the success he had grown increasingly homesick and wanted to return to San Diego to be with his wife, Ingrid, and their infant son. He wrote a letter to her telling her of his plans to pursue a career as a screen writer rather than a songwriter/musician. She would not receive that letter until after his death.

The plane in which he and his band were traveling crashed on takeoff:

“On Thursday, September 20, 1973, during Croce’s Life and Times tour and the day before his ABC single ‘I Got a Name’ was released, Croce and five others died when their chartered Beechcraft E18S crashed into a tree during take-off from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Others killed in the crash were pilot Robert N. Elliott, musician Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens, manager and booking agent Kenneth D. Cortose, and road manager Dennis Rast. Croce had just completed a concert at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches and was flying to Sherman, Texas, for a concert at Austin College. The plane crashed an hour after the concert. Croce was 30 years old.”

croce and muelheisin

One of the things which made Croce unique was that he was truly a storyteller. Each of his songs evoke powerful images of a particular event, person or place. I have often wondered if, had he not died, would he have been able to give up music? I like to think he would have realized his amazing gift and would have continued to write songs for a generation.

Instead, I will have to be satisfied with the songs he left behind. Whenever I drive solo someplace (usually across Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima) I have with me a shoebox full of CD’s. It contains two dozen of my favorite artists and also my next favorite artists. Jim Croce is part of the first group.

When I made the trek yesterday his music was one of the three artists I chose for my travels. In fact, it’s a rare trip when I don’t find myself seeking out at least a few Jim Croce songs.

It’s pretty impossible to pick my favorite of his… so I won’t. But I will share this performance of his.

And as always a link to more information on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Croce

Apparently I like Jim Croce so much that I published the article you just read a year after I also wrote the article below! I’ve left both up as I like both. How to choose between the two?

I’ve Got A Name

January 10, 2017

Welcome to my Blog. Tuesday’s are Writer’s Group day and a couple of years ago I took over as the communications czar for the group. Soon, however, I tired of the boring ‘meeting tomorrow’ sorts of emails and started sending out what I hoped were more interesting reminders.

Each week I scour the internet in search of something that tickles my fancy and piques my interest. Here you might discover some interesting historical event, a cultural connection, a biography for a writer (books, songs, poetry), or some random Geeky musing.

*It seems as if January 10th is the birth date for a whole slew of musical types including Jim CroceFrank Sinatra, Jr., Rod Stewart and Don Fagen (Steely Dan). But when I saw one particular name I decided to write about him. That would be Jim Croce who was born on this date in 1943. Jim Croce is on my top 10 list – maybe even my top five – of favorite musicians.

Like most of my favorites he was, first and foremost, a story teller. His songs run the gamut from humorous to quite introspective. They effectively capture time and place with their vivid imagery and effective metaphors and similes. A master songwriter can distill the human experience down to three minutes and leave all of us wishing for more. Croce did that in his songs.

Tragically, his life ended at age 30 when the private plane he and four others were in, crashed on takeoff in Natchitoches, Louisiana. In a letter to his wife – which she received after his death – he told her he had “decided to quit music and stick to writing short stories and movie scripts as a career, and withdraw from public life.”

I have always wondered if he really would have been able to walk away from the songwriting, though. Of course we will never know which is the real tragedy.

You can visit the Jim Croce website for more information: http://jimcroce.com/ and there’s always the infallible Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Croce

And, you can listen to the Song referenced in the subject line, I’ve Got A Name, here: