HIGH ROLLERS

In 1936, Dallas teenagers had two options for a Saturday night on the town. They could hop a streetcar to the brand new Centennial Exposition Park, where the Midway’s first all-nude cabaret featured “The Amazing Nudena – wearing only a pint of olive oil!” More timid souls could pile into dad’s DeSoto and speed down the Greenville Pike, past miles of tiny tourist courts, to the first permanent skating hall in town, Deuback’s Skating Rink. For 25 cents they skated arm in arm around John Deuback’s maple rink, while the jukebox played Clyde McCoy’s “Sugar Blues.” For most, the innocent thrill of

skating won.

Today, parks and rinks throughout the city are once again reporting record crowds. Outdoor skating found its way to Dallas from California. There, off-season surfers pulled the fat, spongy wheels off their skateboards and stuck them on skates. The sport caught on, and skates had to be prohibited from certain stretches of boardwalk after terror-stricken retirees complained to police. Dallas skaters are no less enthusiastic, just a little late in discovering the fun. At White Rock and Bachman Lakes, they’re making joggers share the trails, and some pioneers are using skates to jazz up the trip to the laundromat.

Roller disco, the indoor skating rage, allegedly began at the Empire Roller Disco in Brooklyn and the Markham Skating Rink in Chicago, both black. The Shamrock Skating Rink in Lancaster, also black, was the first in the Dallas area to install a complete disco sound and light system. No more deejays announcing five minutes of speed skating, then ladies’ choice, then the Hokey Pokey, then couples only, then “Okay, now everybody skate the other way.” At the Shamrock, regulars have formed skating gangs that perform boogie routines on wheels. The Funk Gang, The Soul City Skaters or The Midnight Rollers, dressed in their personalized team tee-shirts, line up in rows of three to twelve. In sync, they skate “the stroll,” a smooth, arm-swinging forward skate; “the scissor step,” a sideways straddle; “the bowlegged dance,” which resembles “the funky chicken” on wheels; and “the white boy walk,” a slow, forward step where you drag your feet. The music has changed, too: Mike Stanglin, a self-proclaimed roller disco authority, breezed into a Dallas recording studio and put on wax a disco version of “Hokey Pokey,” the traditional rink’s anthem. Old Man Deuback would have wept.

But there are still folks around who would no more listen to some out-of-towner in a three-piece suit tell them what their rink needs than they would start serving frozen daiquiris from the Slurpee machine. Dick Thompson, owner of Garland Skateland, subscribes to the old school of rink design. “This kind of disco stuff I’ve seen, we just don’t allow it. We do the same thing we’ve been doing for eight years and my customers like it fine.”

When you buy a new car, you check out the upholstery, look at the chassis, test the shocks and kick the wheels. Skates are the same way. Although no mileage estimates are possible (that would depend on what you had for lunch and the shape your legs were in), the parts of a skate to examine before buying can be divided into four similar categories: the shoe, the chassis or plate, the trucks, and the wheels.

First, be sure the skate shoe is leather so your foot can breathe. If you can afford an extra $15-20, a lined boot will discourage chafing and feel twice as soft as an unlined. Ridell, Hyde, and Oberhamer all make good boots.

In outdoor shoes, you can choose a regular boot style or the “Jogger,” basically a jogging shoe riveted onto a skate. Many outdoor skaters are choosing the Jogger, from $65-80, because it doesn’t bind the feet or make them sweat as much as a boot skate. In other words – two laps around Bachman Lake under the Texas sun in a high-top boot will make feet feel like they’re laced in roller saunas.

Indoors, the choice between a low- or a high-top boot comes down to personal preference. Skating requires more balance than ankle support, so the leather laced tightly around your ankle provides a sense of security rather than a hedge against sprains. Most indoor skaters still choose boots, because Joggers have been known to slip off the feet of high-stepping disco skaters. Boot skates run from $48-110, depending on the quality of leather and bearings; most cost $80-95.

The chassis is a metal plate, usually aluminum alloy, to which the shoe and wheels are bolted. Sure-Grip, Chicago, and Roller Derby are the Fords, Chevys, and Dodges of the skate business. They make sturdy, dependable chassis, and replacement parts can be found at most rinks. Beware of “revolutionary designs.” A hard nylon chassis with three wheels is actually being tested somewhere in California, but it hasn’t outperformed the traditional design.

The truck holds the wheels onto the skate and acts like a shock absorber and steering column. Be sure the skate has a double-action truck – two rubber grom-mets instead of one – which is sturdier than single action. In an outdoor skate, the axle should be longer and thicker to accommodate larger wheels. Ball bearings in the wheels should be “precision” or sealed, even though these cost about $10 as much as a boot skate. In other words – two laps around Bachman Lake under (As one rink placard reads, “Old skaters never die, they just lose their bearings.”)

The urethane roller-skating wheel, actually a skateboard wheel, is the basis of sidewalk skating. In contrast to the old steel and hard-fiber wheels, these soft, over-sized wheels roll over pebbles, twigs, and cement seams with hardly a bump. Take them inside, however, and they stick to a plastic-coated rink floor like rubber cement. If you want a versatile indoor/outdoor skate, you’ll have to buy either an extra set of indoor wheels, about $14, or a set of special compound indoor/outdoor wheels, around $25.

Just remember that outdoor skating is rough on equipment. It’s better to buy a pair of outdoor skates with durable shoes and reinforced chassis and switch wheels for the rink than to take an indoor skate out on the streets. After all, you’d rather drive a jeep on the highway than take a Lincoln across the desert. (Outdoor skates generally cost $15-25 more than indoor skates.)

Since skates are such hot items, everybody’s selling them nowadays, but only a few may know the difference between a jogger shoe and a jogger skate. Discount centers, sporting goods shops, and department stores can sell good skates for $10 less than a skating rink can, but when it comes to adjusting them the salesman may claim his specialty is golf clubs.

At a skating rink pro shop, chances are the guy behind the counter was tinkering with his first pair of skates before he ever learned to ride a bicycle. A pro shop can adjust or repair your skates and, with a larger variety in stock, can probably sell you a skate suited to your specific needs.

“Hot shoe” skaters know how to show off with finesse. They stake a claim in the center of the rink and perform leaps, spins, squats, handstands, and skating acrobatics like the “skating compass” – drawing a circle with the skates while doing the splits.

But probably the most complicated of any move on the skating scene is the “spectate,” which is practiced by all who are experiencing or have survived puberty. The spectate involves watching thecrowd closely, choosing a prospect forconversation and couples’ skating, thenapproaching him or her. Methods vary.According to an informal survey at a localrink, female beginner skaters are mostoften the objects of the spectate. Maleskaters simply sidle up and offer skatinginstruction. “If she’s a good skater, it’stougher,” one rink vet remarked. “Thenyou have to watch what she’s watching. Ifshe’s watching skaters, you have to knowa move she can’t do, then skate it in frontof her.”

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