A couple of weeks ago, my 17-year-old daughter surprised me with the announcement that she’d found a new passion: roller disco. Yowza. A 2018 roller disco queen! When she showed me the snazzy new periwinkle skates she’d just bought with some of her summer ice cream shop earnings to prove it, I knew that my mothering skills had finally double-axled to new heights. Although she’d never admit it, I knew that my kid had ACTUALLY LISTENED to me talk about my days as a weekend roller disco queen and how video games and Instagram couldn’t come close to the fun I had at the roller rink with my friends as a teenager.
From age 12 to 15 in the mid-1970s, everyone always knew where to find me on a Friday or Saturday night. If I was at home with my dad in Midvale, he’d drop me and one or two school friends off at the Murray Roller Rink on State Street in old downtown Murray to skate around an authentic hardwood maple floor. And if I was spending the weekend with my mom, I’d take a quick walk up the railroad tracks with my two brothers from our apartment to the Ritz Classic Skating Rink in South Salt Lake, where for $1.75, we could zip around beneath a giant disco ball for more than four hours, breaking only for cheese pizza and cherry-lime slushies.
After my first year of skating, I became so comfortable on wheels that I could skate backwards blindfolded, “shoot the duck” on one skate and land a single axle with the ease of an alley cat, barely putting a ripple in my long feathered shag. In my baby-blue satin bellbottoms and watermelon-flavored Lip Smackers, I confidently asked boys to skate during “girl’s choice” and tried not to whip them around the floor, roller-derby style, as we skated hand-in-(sweaty)-hand.
As a regular at both rinks, the disc jockeys soon came to know all of my favorite skating requests, from “Pick Up the Pieces” by The Average White Band and “The Hustle” by Van McCoy to “The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk Railroad and “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. Probably the most popular song at the time, though, was “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks.
What did a depressing song about death have in common with the vibrant young lives circling around and around a room splashed with shards of silver light? Who knew? But whenever that song came through the loudspeaker during guys’ choice in 1974, my friends and I swooned and sighed and made eye contact with any available boys hanging on the rails (shoulder-length hair, Angel Flight pants and Elsha cologne a plus), silently praying that we’d be asked to take a slow spin.
My daughter tells me that many of these old songs have now made a comeback at the rink in Sandy where she’s secretly been skating on weekends with her boyfriend. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked her. Of course, I already know the answer. She’s afraid I’ll want to come along, and she’s right. With a laugh, she tells me now that she’s mastered a few new moves, I’m welcome to tag along sometime.
“But there’s no way you’re borrowing my skates, Mom. These beauties are mine.” : )