• Suzanne Norquist

Roller Skating in the ‘80s – The 1880s

Updated: Jul 13

Apparently, roller skating was a big thing in the metropolous of Leadville, Colorado in the 1880s.


Who knew? With all of the historical novels I read, I should have run across this before.

But, there it is, in black and white.


After a little research, I learned that roller skating was a big thing in all major U.S. cities in the 1880’s. Roller skates had been invented about twenty years before and the technology had improved enough for mass adaptation.


Roller skating provided an alternative to saloons and dance halls. Just like in the 1980’s, where the roller rink was one of the few places I could hang out with my friends without parental supervision..

Our roller rink wasn’t first class like the one in Leadville. The ladie’s restroom would never have passed for a “large ladies’ reception room.” And anyone caught smoking in the men’s room would have been kicked out.

And, no brass band in the 1980’s. We skated to tunes like Roller Skating Mate and Disco Duck.


I tried to imagine skating in a long dress and old time clothing. Even looked it up on YouTube. This is what I found. Don’t know if it is historically accurate or just fun. Click on the picture to watch.

Roller rinks offered games and prizes.

Notice that the main prize is for most popular men and women, not the best skaters. Just like in the 1980’s, it wasn’t about skating at all. Although, the article above does offer a silver cup for actual skating ability.


Over time, the competitions evolved. Note the article below.

Now the prize is for most awkward skater. A prize I could win.

The makers of St. Jacob’s Oil hoped to profit from the dangers of roller skating in their 1883 advertisement.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be an enemy of St. Jacob’s oil if I were to get a cut nose or bruised body.


Here’s a poem about someone falling in their roller skates.

I didn’t think anyone used the term “dude” back then. And “dudely.” Oh, my.

And, finally, something that I could see in a viral video on social media.

The cymbals crash every time this man falls down. I’m sure he was mad.  It would have made for great video.


Some things never change.

#rollerskating #OldNewspapers #History #entertainment #disco

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