Editorial: Last Skate in Enfield?

Friday, March 24, 2017

We don’t place roller skating in the category of fads, but the Great View Roller Skating rink in Enfield was aided by one — disco. For reasons we leave to others to explain, the disco craze drove many to lace up their skates and dance the night away on skates, aided and abetted by pulsing music and the flash of a disco ball.

Those associated with Great View recall feverish Saturday nights when the place was packed with up to 200 people. According to a recent story by staff writer John Lippman, crowds are a little less than half that now. The rink has been put up for sale for $850,000 and devotees worry that a new owner will convert the building to other uses. A long-shot GoFundMe campaign to help the manager purchase it had raised about $500 as of Friday, with $499,500 to go.

To be sure, the Upper Valley would miss what Great View offers: a night out, exercise (the International Roller Skating Association says skating burns 600 calories an hour — as much as jogging with half the stress on joints — and what used to be called good, clean fun.

But trends, like fads, come and go. Consider the long view: A 2014 story in the Atlantic magazine said that four-wheel skates were perfected in the post-Civil War era but roller skating didn’t become widely popular until labor laws eliminated 12- to 14-hour work days. Workers were simply too tired for much recreation before then. The National Museum of Roller Skating — yes, there is one, in Lincoln, Neb. — recalls the glory days, the first two decades of the 20th century, when professional speed skating was one of the most popular spectator sports. “Attendance often reached well above 14,000. Sporting pages of all metropolitan dailies carried accounts of meets, as well as information on skaters,” a museum history says. Skating slumped in the years that followed, but disco revived it.

Until things changed again. Those involved in the business say inline skates, which don’t require a rink, and the ascent of skateboards drew young people away. They think families don’t go out together as much — we note that families always varied widely on this — and that kids nowadays spend too much time staring at smartphones and tablets. If that’s true about families and kids, it’s unfortunate, because enjoying events communally does more for individuals, families and society than the loneliness of the glowing touch screen.

Recalling the demise of the Upper Valley Lanes and Games bowling alley in White River Junction two years ago, leaving many bowlers bereft, we point to the recognition that too many things are valued most in retrospect, that is, when they’re gone. The Great View rink is the last one in New Hampshire. As the DJ plays current hits, old-time rock ‘n’ roll and even novelty songs like the Macarena, skaters are still on the move. Join the Chicken Dance while you can, because you never know if it’s coming around again.