South Suburbs See Roller-Skating Subculture

South Suburbs See Roller-Skating Subculture
A couple takes the floor at Glenwood Roller Rink.
South Suburbs See Roller-Skating Subculture
A couple takes the floor at Glenwood Roller Rink.

South Suburbs See Roller-Skating Subculture

When you think of roller skating, what comes to mind is middle-school boys chasing each other, and girls striking poses. But there’s another demographic that’s formed its own skating subculture in the southern suburbs and northwest Indiana. These folks say skating’s given them new life and renewed health, and it’s not just reserved for kids.

Ambi: sounds of skates/organ

A dozen people whiz around the roller rink at the Lynwood Sports Center. Some glide by backwards, and others execute graceful turns. One man does several tricky jumps, falls, then tries again.

Lynwood is exactly what you’d expect of a roller rink. There’s a disco ball and brightly colored lights. Except the skaters are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

RODRIAN: I’m addicted to roller skating. It’s social, it’s the music, it’s the movement, the endorphins you build. It just exercises your whole body. You feel like you’re flying.

Carol Rodrian lives in Tinley Park. Rodrian quickly weaves between the other skaters, then swings a foot out in a gentle kick and speeds by on one leg. She’s 68, but she looks a good decade or two younger.

KALSNES: Now I have to admire the sparkly tights you’re wearing here. Tell me about your outfit.
RODRIAN: I have about 64 skating outfits, and probably 40 pairs of different colors of tights. But I can’t skate in pants. It’s too binding, too confining, too restrictive. I have to have shorts or a short skirt.

Rodrian is part of an informal group of roller-skating seniors. They skate to organ music at a half dozen rinks in the southern part of the region.

Like Loretta Galovich, most skated as kids and stopped when they got married.

GALOVICH: Then I got 60 and fat and high cholesterol, and was told I had to lose weight, get more exercise. And I said to the doctor, how’s about roller skating? He says, that is wonderful, that’s equivalent to running, it’s very good.

At 75, Galovich doesn’t do any fancy turns or jumps. But she skates briskly, and after just a few minutes of talking, she’s eager to get back at it.Galovich learned to skate as a kid growing up in the streets near the steel mills.

GALOVICH: You went to Goldblatt’s, and you bought a pair of metal skates that you clamped onto your shoes for a dollar 59 cents and you got the skate key free, and you didn’t go anywhere without those. And we played in the street, didn’t have any money, and I think we were happier now than these kids are today. And we didn’t give our mothers any trouble.

For many, skating is nostalgic. During World War II, Santo Dughetti served in the Navy, and he brought his skates with him. Skating is how Dughetti, who’s 83, met his wife after the war.

DUGHETTI: I was skating at the armory, didn’t know her from Adam. And as I was coming out of the rink, I ran into this young lady, knocked her down, she tore her stockings, bruised her knee. And she got mad at me. She told me I had to take her home and pay for her stockings and her everything else. From then on, I started dating her, and before I knew it, I ended up marrying her. That was through skating. Ain’t that something?

For other skaters, skating can be like therapy. That’s what helped Bonnie Demas deal with her grief after her husband died. She had friends she’d skated with as a teen, and they dragged her back out to the roller rink in her mid-60s.

DEMAS: They said, what are you doing with your life, why don’t you come back and join us? So I did.

That’s not to say those first cautious steps back into the rink were easy.

DEMAS: Scary. Very. They skated with me, one on one side, one on the other side, for probably three or four weeks. Then they said OK, now you’re on your own.
KALSNES: As far as skating, what is your repertoire?
DEMAS: Just going around and staying on my feet.

Ambi: sound at roller rink.

At the nearby Glenwood Roller Rink, a DJ calls out dance numbers. The circling couples waltz, tango and polka on roller skates. They swing their legs out in unison, then lean deeply into their turns, holding the position as they cut across the rink.

Not everybody dances. Carolyn Stadt’s recovering from a fall, so she’s a bit tentative on her wheels. She skates slowly around the rink, and her husband is right behind her.

CAROLYN STADT: My children think it’s time for me to stop skating at this age. Not my children, as much as my sisters. Don’t you think it’s time? And I’d say, it’s no different, I fell down at home, what’s the difference? You’re going to hurt yourself, you’re going to hurt yourself. It’s too much fun, I don’t want to stop.

That’s how Carol Goldsmith feels too. It was here, at Glenwood, 23 years ago, that she met her husband, Oliver.

CAROL GOLDSMITH: I was always afraid of getting old. I was 43, and when I saw those lights go down and everybody waltzing around, I thought, if this is what getting old’s about, I’m ready.

Her husband is 83, and he’s had some health problems. But he still joins her from time to time. This afternoon, they sit in the snack bar, and she helps him lace up his skates. Then they slowly enter the rink, holding hands.