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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

On A Roll!

On A Roll!

In 1916, Charlie Chaplin starred in the film The Rink, which showcased his undeniable roller skating skills, albeit in the great outdoors. People took notice.

Later on, in action-packed films like Roller Ball, Skatetown, USA, and Whip It, intrepid skaters wheeled and reeled and slayed the competition with all the right moves. In a big way the thrill of skating was no longer confined to the rocky, uneven streets, dirt roads, and sidewalks of the great outdoors, but executed in the thundering roller rinks we have come to know and appreciate in those times when a little exercise (and excitement!) is in order. August 11th is the official birthday of the roller rink!

In fact in 1863, American inventor James Plimpton revolutionized roller skating when he designed and patented rocker skates–a four-wheel turning roller skate also known as Quad skates made of boxwood and rubber springs. These facilitated pivoting, easier turns, and better maneuverability. According to records, because the sport of roller skating skyrocketed following this development, Plimpton was a catalyst in opening the first roller rink in Newport, Rhode Island in 1866.

In 1902, a public rink opened in Chicago’s coliseum, the opening attended by a crowd of more than 7,000 roller skating enthusiasts, and 1908 saw New York’s Madison Square Garden supporting a roller rink. The 1970s and 80s saw the evolution of traditional roller rinks into trendy, explosive, strobe- and-excitement-filled roller discos, with “be-wheeled” blade stars emerging much in the way John Travolta had in “Saturday Night Fever.” Extreme recreational roller skating in equal measure became both inspirational and aspirational for a whole new generation of blade-worshippers.

Today, roller revelers at all levels embrace skating as a fun form of exercise. With modern skates using in-line wheels (instead of Plimpton’s four-wheeled parallel design), and roller blading synonymous with iconic places like California’s Venice Beach Boardwalk, there’s no denying the health benefits (and cachet!) of strapping on a pair of K2’s or Tempest 90s and flying around the rink–or taking those first tentative but always fun and energizing steps (or rolls) against the rail. Most roller rinks average 20,000 square feet in size, though can be as large as 40,000 or as small as 8,000 square feet. With a skate floor that typically takes up 60% of the building, there’s more than enough room for fun!

It is said that Hawaii is the only U.S. state currently with a roller rink, but for the rest of us finding one is usually easy. In fact roller rinks are found everywhere from Australia to Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Ireland, New Zealand–even Pakistan. Here or there, there’s no excuse not to rock those blades and head for the rink on August 11th!

1 comment

1 Cindy { 08.11.13 at 12:25 pm }

25 years ago

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.