When my brother and I were in elementary school, the PTA had a partnership with our local roller rink, Sparkles. Skate Night was usually held on either the last or second to last Thursday of the month, depending on school holiday schedules.
In the morning, the teachers would hand out coloring sheets with a seasonally appropriate image to color. The sheet was our admission ticket for the skating as well as an entry for the coloring contest. I think the prize may have been an accessory from the skate shop and we only had to pay two dollars for skate rental.
Parents liked Skate Night because nothing motivated us to complete our homework faster. There was always the threat of not being allowed to go to Skate Night if you didn’t finish your homework. Some of the teachers came to skate and if you saw your teacher at the rink but you didn’t finish the homework for their class, it made for an awkward situation.
After we finished our homework, but before the skating could start, we had to have dinner. Sometimes we went to McDonald’s, but the preference was Burger King, because Burger King had self-serve soda fountains. It was one of these nights that I learned about putting a little bit of several different flavors of soda in the same cup.
As you may remember from my softball article this past summer, I tend to have coordination issues, so the carpeted wall was my best friend. Especially when I attended my first few Skate Nights. It took a while to get used to the feeling of being on the skates.
The DJ at the rink played a lot of songs that were top forty hits at that time like New Kids on the Block’s “Hangin’ Tough” or “(You Got It) The Right Stuff”, Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”, and Salt and Pepa’s “Push It”. Looking back, the lyrics of the Salt ‘N Pepa song makes it a strange choice for elementary schoolers.
There were two essential staples that happened every month without fail:
1. The Hokey Pokey
Have you ever done the Hokey Pokey while you were on roller skates? Even the kids who had perfect coordination had problems with this because when you’re lifting one roller skate clad-foot to only stand on the other, you’re a little bit wobbly.
They also had us yell the “That’s what it’s all about!” For many of us, that meant laryngitis the next day. The teachers could always tell which kids attended Skate Night the night before.
When the roller rink played the “Ghostbusters” theme, they pulled out all the stops. They brought the big overhead lights down and got the multicolored lights going. Everybody came out onto the floor to skate to “Ghostbusters”, no matter where they were in the rink.
By the end of the night, we were all exhausted from the skating. If it was just my brother and me, we usually fell asleep in the car and took a nap until we got home. If it was a month where my mom was asked to drive other kids, we would stay awake and entertain our friends until we dropped them off.
The VCR would usually be running, taping whatever was on that night. Usually, we had been having too much fun skating with our friends to care about what was on television. Skate Night did not coincide with any television specials that I remember. It was its own wonderful thing. Sparkles was also a popular birthday party venue, right up there with McDonald’s, Chuck E. Cheese, and mini-golf courses.
Our Sparkles was gone sometime in the early 2000’s. There’s another rink with the same name and signage on another side of town. I’m not sure if they rebuilt the rink there or if there were always two locations and we just went to the one closest to our school. There may not be a physical location to go to, but I can always revisit Sparkles and Skate Night in my memories.