Knowing more about the types of interests and sources of entertainment for our ancestors really adds to getting to know our relatives. One very popular and fashionable form of entertainment actually came about due to the improvement in 1884 of ball-bearing roller skates.
With superior development in the skates, the public roller or skating rinks started springing up all across the United States and other nations. The rinks became the social meeting place for friends, relatives, neighbors in large cities or small towns. Admission to the rinks was reasonable, anywhere from 15 cents to 50 cents per person, with many of the rinks offering specials throughout the week. Music, with live bands featured, was also an important part of the skating rink in which the public love to skate to the music.
By the 1880s, the roller rinks were everywhere and became the showplace for competitions and expert skaters to demonstrate their skills. The downside was that many times our ancestors were even discouraged from participating at the roller rink because they were so tired the next day at work.
The term ‘rinkulate’ came into fashion in the mid-1880s as illustrated with a reference to it in the Fulton Times newspaper of New York in 1885. It stated a polite inquire would be, “Do you rinkulate this evening?”
For our ancestors, this new fun activity was referred to as a form poetry in motion. Besides the shear joy of roller skating and having fun as couples or in groups, special songs and music became popular all centered around skating. New songs such as “Roller Waltz”, “Fun On Roller Skates – Polka”, “Roller Skate Gallop”, “Roller Skaters – The Gallopade Racket“ and “Girl On The Roller Skates” were samples of the type of music and lyrics that were all the rage in the 1880s.
The owners of the rinks tried to come up with new ideas to keep the public’s interest. Beside the professionals putting on skating shows, there were special themes. One night might be carnival night, where the public skater came dressed wearing marks and costumes.
In nearly every large or small community, some type of skating rink was constructed. Some more elaborate than others, but welcomed by the public, whether you watched or were a skater. Some businessmen saw another market in the African-Americans population and constructed rinks just for the black community. For the mid-1880s, there many have been over 20 millions dollars spent in building and running these rinks with over 3,000 rinks across America.
Just like fads today, the popularity of roller skating declined as the improvements were made to bicycles, and everyone loved riding a bike.
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