By Wendy Schreiner
A recent trip down Transit Road in Depew led my eyes to a gutted-out building. No! It was my old hangout – Regal Roller Rink. Back in the early 1980s, I lived to roller skate – forward, backward, round and round, nonstop.
Our grade school would give out free passes to skate on Sunday afternoons. These were the good old days and literally brought reality to the saying, “let the good times roll.” I never wanted to miss those free skate afternoons and I don’t think I ever did.
The lights were turned off. The disco ball glittered high above the rink. Colorful lights bounced all around. Now those same rainbow effects would drive me crazy and probably bring on a migraine. (My age is showing.) I’m also pretty sure my back couldn’t handle a few minutes around the rink, let alone the few hours that used to pass by in a heartbeat while I wished the day would never end.
The music was cool. “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang was a standard song always played by the DJ in the dark corner. “Celebrate good times, come on!” Styx, Journey, Night Ranger, Foreigner, Pet Shop Boys, REO Speedwagon, Hall & Oates, Duran Duran, Men at Work and Starship (my first concert) were all rocking the rink.
As these popular bands’ songs played, we skated along without a care. I always requested my favorite songs to the DJ, including some “slow songs.”
My brother’s friend wanted to know why I always asked him to skate during the “couple skate.” Thirty-plus years later, I still remember telling him, “It’s because I like the songs.” I couldn’t admit to him out loud that I liked him.
Oh, the young and innocent days of my adolescence in the ’80s at the Regal Roller Rink. I slow skated with a lot of boys back then. I never dated any of them. I just enjoyed the fun time skating.
They were all too cool – with their combs sticking out of their back pockets of their tight-fitting Jordache jeans or corduroys. That comb was needed to slick back their sweaty hair after too many times speeding around the rink to impress us girls.
I remember hanging out at the snack bar during intermission or a quick break to catch our breath between rounds of skating. We enjoyed the popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, pizza and pop for sale.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, however, I think I could draft a pretty good sketch of the building’s layout almost perfectly from my memory.
I can still see the bright orange locker keys, and I picture myself locking up my shoes, coat and purse for safekeeping while I hadn’t a care in the world.
I remember waiting in the long line outside on cold winter days to get in to skate. We were all giddy with excitement.
My friends and I had our own skates. Mine usually sported pompoms. My last pair was white skates with red wheels. I also had a pair with bright pink wheels and big, fuzzy pink pompoms.
My first pair of skates actually had metal wheels, and somewhere there’s a picture of me standing in them in my pajamas on a Christmas morning. Those skates went up and down the driveway and sidewalks of my West Seneca home for countless miles. I still have scars on my knees from some early skating injuries.
I guess that’s the reason I haven’t skated in a long time. I certainly don’t need any more scars.
But I still daydream about one day being back on the rink, rolling around, skating free and happy, being in great shape and letting the good times roll. For now, the memories will have to do.