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Freewheelin’

Roller skating goes all the way back to the 1700s. The first recorded use of roller skates was in 1743 for a theatrical performance. No one remembers the inventor’s name, but the invention caught on.

In 1819 the first patent for roller skates was granted in France. They looked more like the inline skates in use today. The four-wheel skate was introduced in 1863. They were such a big hit that a skating rink was opened that same year in New York City.

Roller skating became wildly popular in the 1950s, and skating rinks became common. Drive-in restaurants featured waitresses on roller skates.

The roller skating fad began to fade, but in 1986, Rollerblade Incorporated. began to market inline skates. These skates had four wheels in a single row and resembled ice skates. InLine Magazine began publishing in 1991, and in 1992, USA Roller Skating added an inline division to its speed skating competition.

North Dakota was not immune to the roller skating craze. By 1901, it was embedded in popular culture. A prairie fire was described as going through “northwestern North Dakota like grandpa on roller skates.” On September 25th, 1911, the Evening Times of Grand Forks advertised skating every Saturday evening at Jack’s Roller Rink. A few years later in 1919, a roller rink opened in Devils Lake with skating every afternoon and evening. It was advertised as the “largest and finest” rink in North Dakota with orchestra music every evening.

On this date in 1911, an editorial in the Ward County Independent brought attention to the damage caused by roller skates on cement sidewalks. The newspaper said steel wheels broke the edges of sidewalk blocks and damaged the finish, which left the sidewalks vulnerable to the elements, causing the concrete to break down. Replacing sidewalks was an expensive proposition. The newspaper hoped that city officials would take the matter under consideration and develop a solution.

Today, this is not as much of a problem. Skates have suitable wheels for various surfaces. Harder wheels are designed for roller rinks and rubberized gym floors, while softer wheels are used for concrete or asphalt. So, communities no longer have to worry about roller skate damage.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.

Sources:

Independent. “Editorial Comment.” Minot ND. 27 April 1911. Page 2.

Evening Times. Advertisement. Devils Lake ND. 17 September 1919. Page 8.

Minneapolis Journal. “Prairie Fire.” Minneapolis MN. 23 October 1901. Page 4.

KidzWorld. “The History of Roller Skating.” http://www.kidzworld.com/article/27422-the-history-of-roller-skating  Access 17 March 2018.

National Museum of Roller Skating. “The History of Inline Skating.” http://rollerskatingmuseum.com/inline.html  Accessed 17 March 2018.

Skates Emporium. “Top 10 Tips for Buying the Perfect Roller Skate Wheels.” http://www.skatesemporium.com/10-tips-for-buying-the-perfect-roller-skate-wheels/  Accessed 17 March 2018.

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