Growing up in the 90s, just like any other era, middle school was an awkward time to be alive. Your hormones were raging, you were just discovering masturbation, and you had more free time than you knew what to do with. Your social life was thriving (unless you were a creepy loser) and you spent much of your time hanging out with friends and causing trouble, but there weren’t many places to go.
Your options were limited to how far your parents were willing to drive you and most of them included too much adult supervision to make out with strangers, huff paint, or set fire to flammable household chemicals. It was a real drag. Your choices were essentially the arcade (what a fucking anachronism), the movies, the mall, your house, a friend’s house, or the bowling alley. While these were fine in small doses, they could provide nowhere near the amount of freedom afforded to you like what you’d experience as the local roller skating rink.
Opened in 1955, the Warrington Skating rink was my palace of pre-teendom. Recently, I decided to do some internet research to see if anyone else has as many fond memories of the humble little warehouse turned fun zone as I do. In my search, I found some awesome pictures of Dick Clark and Bobby Rydell visiting the Warrington Skating Rink in the 50s, thanks to the owner of the establishment’s son, George Mekosh:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any photos of the establishment from the 90s when I religiously traveled their via my parents’ Toyota Camry backseat every Friday night.
The only photo I could find of the outside was from the 70s when it was still called “Warrington Roller Skating Club” instead of “Warrington Roller Skating Rink.”
Like any good skating rink, it had an amazing arcade and snack stand. Pretzel bites, nachos with cheese goop, hot dogs on rollers, giant pickles, and carbonated sports drinks called All Sport were all the rage in my heyday and kids gobbled up every one of them.
Their arcade was also nothing to sneeze at and included such classics as the Simpsons Arcade Game, 4-player X-Men arcade game, and one of those Neo Geo cabinets with Metal Slug and a bunch of other fucking awesome games. I have many memories of greasy joysticks and fistfuls of quarters spent on beating Mr. Burns, Magneto, and Hitler.
The best part of the entire experience, though, was being able to let your pre-teen hormones run wild on the floor of the rink. There were couples skates, backwards skates, limbos, chicken dances, disco balls, strobe lights, and a DJ spinning all the best 90s top 100 dance, rap, and alternative rock hits. You could show off your newest roller blades while skating up next to a cute girl in overalls and trying to hold her hand. Life didn’t get much better.
As an amazingly genius marketing twist, the last hour of the public-welcoming Friday night skate became a dance party. Everyone would remove their skates and the entire rink would become like a middle school dance floor. It’s where I had my first kiss to LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live.” We would dance spastically to “Firestarter” by Prodigy and “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex and then slow jam with hands on each other’s hips to some Mariah or Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna.”
My friends and I met this group of 3 girls and we’d all hang out at the skating rink. We 3 guys were from Hatboro and those 3 girls were from a trailer park somewhere in Bucks county. We affectionately referred to them as the trailer park trio and we’d meet them there every Friday night and talk to them on the phone on weekends when our parents allowed it. You’d always meet new and interesting people and it’s how I learned how to talk to the opposite sex beyond just chasing them around, teasing them, and throwing stuff at them in elementary school.
Many people have great stories to tell about their local roller skating rinks and I’d love to hear about them. There’s even a forum entirely dedicated to Memories of Closed Roller Skating Rinks with pictures of the rinks in their prime as well as after their demolition.
It’s sad that so many places kids and teens used to be able to frequent have disappeared. My local bowling alley closed last year, the local mall (the Village Mall) closed a long time ago and converted to a strip mall, the arcades are gone, and the skating rinks and Discovery Zones also weren’t immune to the decline of going outside.
It’s high time we put down our devices for a few hours each week, walk from under the shiny blue digital precipice, see the sun and meet some new people. All of the best moments of my life involved time spent with other people instead of alone.