Most of the roughly 25 members of the Sweethearts Roller...

Most of the roughly 25 members of the Sweethearts Roller Skating Club in 1950. The writer is in the front row, third from the right.  Credit: Calderone Family Photo

No stopping us once we started rolling along

It’s been quite a ride. I was born at home, not in a hospital, in 1933 and grew up in Freeport. We were the younger members of the “Greatest Generation.” We lived through the Great Depression and World War II along with ration stamp books, blackout curtains and air raid wardens.

Growing up, my friends and I looked for pleasure in small ways. I received my first pair of roller skates at the age of 8, probably a hand-me-down from my sister Ethel. They were metal and could be adjusted to my foot length. They had a clamp on each side. With the help of a roller-skate key, which I wore around my neck, the skates could be tightened if they became loose.

My neighborhood friends, classmates and I skated to friends’ nearby homes and along Main Street in Freeport Village. Randall Park was open at night only once a year, in July, and we took advantage of it, skating on the cement basketball court. As we grew older, we continued our love of skating and gravitated on Friday nights to the Mineola Roller Skating Rink, home of the Earl Van Horn Dance and Figure Skating Club.

Kids came from near and far, riding public buses that cost 25 cents each way to the rink. We were met at the entrance to be “measured.” Our skirts could be no more than two inches above the knee, or we were not admitted. Once inside, you brought your own shoe skates or rented a pair. The counterman kept all the skates in perfect condition. I owned my own, as did most of my friends. Beginners used the small rink, and the larger rink was for everyone else. Four floor guards skated backward all night in case someone fell. No speeding was allowed.

Bobbie Weedon played a large organ encased in glass as we skated round and round. We glided to dance music such as straight and circle waltzes. Couples skated to the Collegiate Shag and Fourteen Step. Twenty-one numbers were announced by a neon sign, some for ladies only, men only or couples. They also had “trio,” when either two girls and one boy or two boys and one girl would skate together.

The guys bought us girls candy bars, such as Milky Ways, and soft drinks. Each week, the rink owners produced a newsletter, “Bumps and Falls.”

We had a girls’ skating club with about 25 members called the “Sweethearts Roller Skating Club.” Our outfits were handmade. As club president, I bought bright red pinwheel corduroy material, which I brought to a seamstress. We were all measured, and the girls paid $5 for each outfit, including the seamstress’ work.

The rink was a mecca for teenagers, adults and servicemen from Mitchel Field. We also traveled to other rinks such as Wal-Cliffe on Johnson Avenue in Elmont and one on Staten Island, but Mineola was the queen rink and home to us. In summer, we changed our wooden wheels to metal ones made for the cement floor at Jones Beach Roller Skating.

Many a romance blossomed with neighborhood boys at the Mineola rink. Several skating couples went on to long, happy marriages. I invited my future husband one night, but his buddies thought it was a racetrack rather than a skating dance hall, and I never asked him to skate again.

Overall, it was a peaceful time, one to remember for creating lifelong friendships and memories.

Reader Norma Larsen Calderone lives in Centerport.

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