To our (s)quad:
Roller skating has been around for centuries, constantly evolving and changing. But despite its regular presence in societies around the globe, even those who roller skate regularly hardly know its origins.
With a lifespan centuries old, the sport has had its fair share of drama, comedy, and peculiarities.
These seven weird facts about roller skating are totally unexpected.
1. The inventor of roller skates made an unforgettable entrance.
John Joseph Merlin, an entrepreneur in the late 18th century, debuted his latest invention (which had already been invented 50 years earlier) at a grand masquerade party. Unfortunately, he hadn’t quite got the hang of the skill, and he went crashing into the floor-length mirrors that lined the ballroom.
2. Roller skating is practiced by many Olympian athletes.
Although roller skating hasn’t made its way to the Olympics yet, most ice skaters started out on wheels. In fact, more than half of the 2014 Olympic speed skating team started out on roller skates.
3. It took 100 years to come up with trucks.
After Merlin’s fiasco at the masquerade ball, many other inventors would attempt similar contraptions. The only problem was: they could never turn. Roller skates only moved in a straight line for this entire century, until a man named James Plimpton attached what are now known as trucks to the bottom of the skates, changing the sport for good.
4. Many make their vows on roller skates.
You read that right. The first recorded marriage on roller skates was in 1912 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin between a Miss Hattie Baldwin and Mr. W. McGrath. Since then, countless couples get married on roller rinks, paying homage to their favorite pastime.
5. Roller skates brought the first meals on wheels.
In the 1950s and 1960s, roller skating carhops were common at drive-in restaurants. Today, Sonic carries the tradition onward and even hosts its annual Sonic Skate-Off to find the best carhop among its 3,500 locations in the U.S.
6. Roller skating became a geographical trait.
During the height of roller skating in the 1970s, styles of roller skating began to emerge in different cities. Chicago, for example, became home to the iconic “JB style” of skating, named after musician James Brown. A skater in a new city could be recognized for his unique style that he brought to the rink.
7. Amish youth used roller skates despite elder disapproval.
While these communities have traditionally avoided cars, motorcycles, and even bikes, Amish youth took hold of rollerblading in the 1990s as a regular mode of transportation. Many of the elders disapproved of the new activity, but the sport remains in many Amish communities today.