Uptown Chicago History Correspondent
Roller skating at the Arcadia was what we all lived for: A Saturday afternoon skating on the new blue plastic floor with live pipe organ music.
I bought my first pair of shoe skates for $20, case included, at the Arcadia for a couple of bucks down and .50 cents per week. You could own your very own shoe skates; they would be kept at the rink until they were paid for.
Life was simple in those days; boys skates were black, girls were white. Now that I think of it our ice skates were the same
In my skate case I had two sets of wood wheels: regular wheels, two inch diameter and a one inch width, for normal rink skating and racing, and another set for dancing 1-1/2 inch diameter and a two inch length, also a small wrench for replacing the wheels and a spray container of dry graphite. I had another set of composition wheels for street skating.
Also in the case I had to have a decal of a pin up girl on the inside lid; these we bought at the dime store.
We would skate around in a clockwise rotation keeping to the tempo of the music, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. If we started skating too fast the organist would slow down the tempo, and at times we would have to skate counterclockwise.
Then we would have announcements over the speaker, "Ladies Choice" or "couples only." Now this was the fun part; we would have our "dancing wheels" on, find a girl to dance with, and then standing side by side put your right arm around the waist of the girl and her left hand in yours, skate around with the girl of your dreams. We would take turns skating backwards. First I would and she would steer me around then we would switch and she would skate backwards.
The center of the rink was left open for more advanced skaters and dancers, while the outer perimeter was left for beginners and novices. It was always a rite of passage to skate in the "inner circle."
In the early to mid 40's we skated on a hardwood floor. One day they closed the Arcadia down for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, and when it opened, we couldn't believe our eyes. A solid deep blue plastic floor; it was to us the same as when Dorothy opened the door and realized she wasn't in Kansas anymore.
We soon found out the if you skated fast and then touched someone they would get a static shock; we had fun with that caper.
My favorite skating music was "I'm Looking over a Four Leaf Clover" and "Pistol Packin Mama." I'm sure that I had others but they are long forgotten.
Every Friday after school a "hawker" from the Arcadia would give out discount passes; we could skate all day noon to 5pm for 12 cents. They would hold races before closing and the winners would win a free pass for the next week. I would win because I would enter a younger age bracket; I did this until they got wise to me.
I skated there until I went high school in 1950. The Arcadia burned down somewhere in the mid 1950's, and a lot of old memories went up in smoke.
Ah yes the good old days; do kids roller skate today?