Family day happens in Ontario in February, landing between the Christmas and Easter holidays giving families a small mid-winter break. Kids welcome the day away from school. Parents search for things to do, places to go, and people to see. I guess anything that gets everyone out of the house. This family day, our big idea was introducing the kids to something we hadn’t done in decades. Something nostalgic. Something we could say we were good at back in the day, at some point in our lives, and they would have zero proof otherwise, even if we weren’t that good at it now. That something was roller skating.
Finding a Place to Roller Skate
The first obstacle was finding a place to go. It turned out that we had a couple of options. The one we settled on looked a lot like the one we’d been to the last time we went, in 1984, or was it 1986? The year didn’t matter. In the pictures it looked exactly like we wanted it to look like. It looked exactly the way we wanted to remember it. The kids looked unsure. We looked like we’d found the fountain of youth. In my head, those pictures brought back memories of me doing one skate wheelies while bopping to “Push It” by Salt N’ Peppa, or leaps and back-twirls to Van Halen’s “Jump”, before “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel sent us all into a hand-clapping rhythm. 1986 was a long time ago and those memories might not be exactly how the skating part of the experience went. The kids were probably a little bit worried about how it might go as they listened with one eyebrow raised.
Getting Inside the Roller Skate Rink
We packed the van and headed off to Mississauga, Ontario, a short 45-minute drive. Mississauga hosts Canada’s busiest airport, commonly known as Toronto Pearson, and we always look forward to watching the planes fly overhead. As roller skating memories and travel transitioned us to present day, we arrived at Scooters. There was already a line formed outside the building as we joined. I couldn’t make out the songs, but I could hear the bass beat through the concrete walls. As we waited for our turn to pay, the door into the rink area would periodically open as others went through and the music volume would go up, kind of like watching tv and the commercial level goes up a notch to get your attention. The door was a solid, one-way gateway that made sure nostalgia was protected until you were ready to pay to walk through it. As we waited for our turn, I was slowly going, “Back To The Future”.
Time Had Stood Still
Admission was $20 per person, including skate rental for which we received a reusable paper ticket stub to claim them. As we walked through the protected passageway to the Narnia of roller skating that awaited, the music was now clearer. Greeting us on the other side was the end of Doja Cat’s “Woman” as it blended to Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers”. As we walked through, I saw the flashing ceiling lights, the music speakers lined up over the skating floor, the disco sequins, the concession stand, the lockers, and the skate rentals, along with a Lysol spray bottle next to them. It looked exactly liked we’d left it, almost 40 years ago.
It felt familiar, comfortable, exciting. I looked back at the kids, and they too were taking it all in and mixed with the uncertainty of standing on skates with four wheels was also that look of doing something exciting for the first time.
Skating and Slushies
With our laces tied, boots tucked away in the locker, and the DJ shouting out rink rules we all cautiously stepped onto the rink. We made our way around, following the others in a circle as Abba’s “Dancing Queen” moved everyone forward. We watched small children weaving in between their parents. We saw some people falling, some people dancing, some laughing, and some running on skates with their arms flailing about them like spaghetti strings. As the moments turned to minutes and the minutes turned to an hour, we decided to take a break and enjoy some slushies. You know, flavored crushed ice in a cup with a straw that has a little split at the end to make it spoon like so you can scoop up the ice. There were three flavours to choose from: Raspberry, Cherry, and Banana. Those and all concessions could be purchased using “Cash Only” as the sign on the counter politely advised. I was so excited I got a brain-freeze as I scooped my cherry slushie up into my mouth too fast.
Music Brought It All Together
As we enjoyed our treat the DJ continued to play music, this time it was “Happier Than Ever” by Billy Eilish. By the time we were ready to head back for more skating, “Made You Look” by Meghan Trainer was welcoming us onto the floor. As we resumed our skating and I looked around, it became apparent that every aspect of this fun day was bound together by music. The moments we would remember today, much like the ones I remember from 1986 would be tied to a song, a beat, a lyric, or an artist.
Let’s Do It Again
The last song we skated to was “Macarena” by Los del Rio. I’ll remember that not only because I have a video of us moving to the rhythm of the song as we performed its routines, but because everyone was happy, smiling, and laughing. When we were taking off our skates, we started talking about the next time we’d come back, how much fun it was, how bad we were, how good we got, and how much we loved the music.
I don’t know if Scooters will be around by the next time that we have a chance to go back. The property is slated to be torn down to make room for condos and transit access. I hope it doesn’t happen, I hope it gets to survive. I hope more generations get to enjoy the nostalgia of roller skating, along with the music that gives it life. If it does though, if the day comes that the building must come down, I hope they play a song while it happens. Maybe a little “Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses, “Don’t ever leave me, Say You’ll always be there, All I ever wanted was for you to know that I care. “
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