Sometime around 73 a new recreational facility opened in Erlanger, my mom’s hometown. It was a two-story building called the Roll ‘n’ Bowl, and as you might suspect, one floor (the upper, as it happens) was a roller rink and the other a bowling alley.
Amy and I both were interested in roller skating as kids. At some point, we had each received a pair of clamp-on skates, though I don’t know that we ventured all that far in them. The road directly in front of our house was gravel, part of a long driveway that led to a local attorney’s abode, about a quarter-mile away—we couldn’t skate out directly to our street if we’d wanted (and Mom had let us).
But our parents did drive the dozen or so miles from Walton to take us to the Roll ‘n’ Bowl on a few occasions. On the whole I was a tentative, uncoordinated skater. I wiped out often enough and wasn’t good at all at stopping—usually, I’d just allow myself to run into something and hope I didn’t get hurt. Nonetheless, I always had a good time and was more than willing to return. Amy, ever the athlete, was much more comfortable on wheels, and certainly more of a daredevil, than I.
There was always music blaring over the in-house audio system. Much like the dances I’d go to a few years later in junior high and high school, they’d occasionally “slow things down” so that couples could skate together, holding hands, without being swarmed by unruly pre-teens. Mostly, though, it was the hits de jour. Even though it’s neither a slow-skate song nor an up-tempo number, there’s an association in my mind between being at the R’n’B in early 74 and hearing David Essex sing about Jimmy Dean (James Dean)—memory sure is a funny thing sometimes. “Rock On” (#17 this week, climbing toward a #5 peak) was absolutely one of the coolest songs on the radio at the time. Seems like I hardly heard it after it fell off the charts, which looking back is a distinct disappointment. I can’t say much at all for Michael Damian’s chart-topping remake in 89.
By the late 70s, the owners of the Roll ‘n’ Bowl had shut down the “roll” part of their business, converting the top floor to additional bowling lanes and rechristening it as the Super Bowl (appropriate to bring that up this weekend, no?). It’s still thriving today.
I went through a big bowling phase late in high school, but that’s a story for another time.