Figure Skaters Can Be More Dangerous Than They Appear…

I Was Always the One Underneath, Doing the Work
(and no, this isn’t me)

Few living in Los Angeles then knew there was an ice rink in Hollywood, just next door to a movie studio on a side street. Nothing could have been more remote from southern California living in those days except maybe, space travel. Teen age guys with too little to do decided to try this outlandish thing one Friday night (there might be girls there!).

Of our little group, one put on his rented skates and–just skated off. Me. The others struggled and straggled while I even skated a “couples only” with a cute girl who, I suppose now, was less impressed with me than with someone who looked like she could hang onto safely. After that, my friends found other activities but I was hooked; returning regularly to skate on smooth, shiny ice; it cost only 75 cents for the evening, same as a movie. (Yeah, I’m not talking yesterday here.)

They rented four sorts of skates: ‘pleasure’ skates, hockey skates, speed skates and figure skates. A teen aged boy could make only one decision: speed skates! These were 16 inch knife blades fixed to the bottom of a low boot. Cool! And there hadn’t been any hockey but NHL farm teams on the Pacific Coast since the famous (then) riot after the Loyola-USC game circa 1936 ended hockey on the Coast in a telephone conference between all the Pacific Coast League members’ Presidents. Rioting simply wasn’t sportsmanlike! Then, anyway…

Speed skaters liked to go fast; one would come up behind you and slide by unexpectedly about a micrometer from your side, the breeze from his unexpected passage tilting you as he quite literally, blew by. When it became crowded, this was frowned upon; rink ‘Guards’ would warn the speeders to slow it down. Such behavior was of course, a magnet for any teen aged boy with a reasonable supply of red blood cells. I imagined how romantic and powerful I appeared to the girls as they traveled more sedately or even in evident terror when I swooshed past. I now realize they likely considered me an immature idiot, but this was then, not now.

As I got acquainted with my fellow regulars on speed skates however, something became too obvious to ignore. The girls who also selected speed skates weren’t much like the cute ones on center ice in short skirts wearing figure skates. Racing on ice then was called: “pack racing” and is now called: “short track racing,” A small mob of you started off together and used every corner to elbow, trip or otherwise commit enough mayhem on your competitors to eliminate as many as you could before the race ended. And to be honest, some of those speed skating girls scared me more than the guys did. I noticed that those figure skaters were not only often cute, but also tended to be small rather than frightening.  Propinquity did its magic; I became acquainted with some of them, discovering that they also tended to be smart, something not as noticeable among the racing group. Hmnn…

The first time I told the skate rental folks I wanted figure skates was a milestone. They knew me by then and the shock was mutual; they were astounded that a known speed skater would do that, and so was I. And if I’d known what a real figure skater thought of someone on rented figure skates I would never have done that, but ignorance is often invincible, right? And that is how a teen-aged American boy became a figure skater without a clue. But who needs a clue when the center ice is full of cute girls in short skirts? I was a sort of mobile gland that had learned to navigate ice and all else was details… a future encompassing regional figure skating titles and national competition was much less comprehensible than space travel but with time, both those things were to come to pass…

About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much)
This entry was posted in Culture, Figure Skating, Riots, Sport and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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