Monday, May 8, 2017

Skating and Playing Outside in the 1950's

Skating and Playing Outside in the 1950's
In the 1950’s when I got a brand new pair of roller skates, so did my sisters! Actually, it was the same pair because we could share the skates.  A 1971 song was named Brand New Key and started with these lines:
“I got a brand new pair of roller skates,
You got a brand new key.”
Skating and Playing Outside in the 1950's blog post story
So, skates that clipped on to shoes were around for many years. The reason for the key was the skates were adjustable, thus fitting all three girls in the family. We wore the key on a shoe lace around our necks and if anyone lost it, oh dear! However, the keys were all the same so we could share with a friend. The skates could be pulled longer or shorter to fit over our shoes before being locked in a size.  It took organization for everyone to take turns with the newest pair we owned. We skated around the block in our south Minneapolis neighborhood. The skates were made of metal and are now considered to be vintage.  Boys also had such skates.
metal roller skates with straps from the 1950's
Once in a great while we were overjoyed to get a chance go to an indoor roller rink where we rented skates with laces. However, they still had four wheels (two on the front, two on the back).  We thought the roller rink skates were so wonderful, and couldn’t image ever being able to have anything like this ourselves. Skates today also have four wheels, but they are in a straight line.

In the winter, our father built an ice skating rink for us of snow and water in the backyard. Our first ice skates were also metal and adjustable. They strapped over our shoes or boots. I remember all of us three girls skated together. When we finally got shoe skates with single runners, we were given ones that were too big so we could “grow” into them. That meant we had to wear two or three pairs of socks the first year, and fewer the next year.
Skating and Playing Outside in the 1950's

We walked to and from school each morning and afternoon as our school had no lunch program.  It was about a mile one way. During winter, we would play in the snowbanks along the way and still usually be on time for class.  We might get a ride if it was below zero. The neighbors took turns driving. At that time there were no seat-belts or car seats, so as many children as possible could get in one car.

During summer, the neighborhood kids would organize themselves to play baseball or kickball.  Kids would run races to see who could run the fastest. We had our own contests to see who could throw a ball the furthest.  Winners were admired.

When we went to the beach we could use air mattresses and other toys not allowed today. My parents liked to go to Cedar Lake, which was the coldest one of the Minneapolis lakes. We preferred Lake Nokomis and Lake Harriet as they were warm enough to run right in and start playing in the water. The older kids could swim to the floating dock and drive in the water. My father swam with me the first time I went to the dock. I might have been twelve or so. A big treat was going to the drive-in on the way home for a nickel pop such as a lemon-lime. 

A game I really liked was about throwing the ball over the roof of the house. Some kids stood in the front lawn and some in the backyard, making two teams. I am not sure why but we yelled Ollie Ollie Over (or Ante Over) when we threw the ball.  When one team had everyone on both teams, they won. I do not remember who won or lost, but I remember having lots of fun.

I liked playing Statue Maker. The statue maker twirled us in a circle and we froze in a pose to make a museum. I think we gave creative names to our statues. We had to stay “frozen” for awhile as part of the game.  Four square was another fun game and that is still played today.  It marked on playgrounds with a square divided in four parts with one part designated for the highest player.  Bouncing the ball and following rules, we played to eliminate people in higher squares to advance in the game.

Children often rode their bikes. A bike was a prized possession. The bikes were only one speed. A topic of debate was whether bicycles should be red or blue. Green bikes were out of the question! It was a big deal to have a bell and a basket. All the bicycles were single speed. My first bike was 24” and I was only five, but I was able to ride it standing up. Fourth graders and up could ride bikes to school when the weather was good, and it felt like freedom. My father would go biking with me for miles. I would also ride my bike for miles, alone. Our parents thought exercise and fresh air was good for us.
Skating and Playing Outside in the 1950's

There were some woods by our house, and a few friends would go there and build forts with sticks. When we went back, the fort would be torn down, so we would build it again. We realized no one owned the woods and it was fair. In short, we played outside year round. Summer, winter, most kinds of weather -- we were playing. We were outside so our parents knew where we were!

Thank you for reading,
Carolyn Wilhelm, Wise Owl Factory

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