Remembering New Year's Eve, circa 1959
On the last night of 1959, the weather was icy and cold with no moon when my friend Jane and I found ourselves stranded at the Rossford, Ohio Roller Skating Rink. Our parents were off partying and forgot all about needing to retrieve us. Cell phones were yet to be invented and there wasn't a trusty telephone booth in sight. Now what? We stamped our freezing feet and stared at each other. These were innocent times, but not that innocent. It was pretty unnerving standing around that unlit parking lot at 11 p.m. on a moonless night.
The evening leading up to our predicament had actually been entertaining. I don't know if roller rinks even still exist, but back in the 50s and 60s, they were popular. The skating began in the early evening and lasted until the All-Skate Finale at 10:30. The crowd was a conglomeration of teenagers who came in from the surrounding farm communities where there was literally nothing to do on a Saturday night except go skating, go bowling or go crazy.
I'm sure that the sound of organ music will forever remind me of those raucous Saturday nights when we flew around the roller rink for hours on end. Sometimes, when the announcer called out "Couples only," a bashful boy would ask one of us to skate. One boy who sticks out in my memory was a tall, lanky fellow who seemed to be there every time I was. We would skate together with one arm around each other's waists and our hands clasped together in front of us. It was awkward, to say the least, and the challenge was not to get hopelessly tangled and fall. We never did, thankfully, but we also never said a word to each other — ever.
The grand finale of the evening consisted of everyone joining hands and forming a long line. The skaters in the middle skated in place, while the skaters on the ends raced forward and the momentum built. Finally, with all the pressure, the center would finally break and skaters would fly off at breakneck speed in all directions. It was the skater's version of "Crack the Whip." It was as dangerous as could be, and sometimes resulted in a few people sporting slings and casts on their arms.
Jane and I eventually did get out of that spooky parking lot, but we weren't rescued until after midnight, when, having welcomed in the New Year, it occurred to our parents that they had forgotten us. Despite it being an unnerving experience, it did cement my relationship with my friend Jane. We had other harrowing experiences that we shared, to include stealing her parents' car and going for a joy ride years before obtaining our licenses, watching our siblings marry and then divorce each other, commiserating over cheating boyfriends, mourning lost family members, and generally surviving the angst of growing up and growing old together.
Friendships formed in adversity are often lasting ones. Ours has lasted over sixty years, and I am grateful for every one of them.
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