Skating Through Life

I got a brand new pair of roller skates,
You got a brand new key.
I think that we should get together and try them out, to see … –
song and lyrics by Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk

The roller skates in question would have been children’s quad skates, like those in today’s photo, which were clamped to the soles of ordinary shoes. The clamps were tightened with a special “key” that was basically a very simple socket wrench. If the key was lost or misplaced, a screwdriver or other tool could usually substitute, though at some inconvenience. Although the lyrics claim that the roller skates are “brand new,” the girl has presumably either lost her key, or the boy of the song is now in possession of it.

In an interview with classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho on July 22, 2013, Melanie describes the inspiration behind Brand New Key … “I was fasting with a twenty-seven day fast on water. I broke the fast and went back to my life living in New Jersey and we were going to a flea market around six in the morning. On the way back …and I had just broken the fast, from the flea market, we passed a McDonald’s and the aroma hit me, and I had been a vegetarian before the fast. So we pulled into the McDonald’s and I got the whole works … the burger, the shake and the fries … and no sooner after I finished that last bite of my burger …that song was in my head. The aroma brought back memories of roller skating and learning to ride a bike and the vision of my dad holding the back fender of the tire. And me saying to my dad …“You’re holding, you’re holding, you’re holding, right? Then I’d look back and he wasn’t holding and I’d fall. So that whole thing came back to me and came out in this song.”

The pop song became a novelty hit in 1971-72. It was her biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1971 and January 1972 and it reached No. 1 in Canada and Australia and No. 4 in the UK charts.

These were the first kind of skates I ever had…and come to think of it, the only skates I ever had.  When I was a kid in Iowa, every Friday night all the farmers from the area would bring their kids into the tiny hamlet of Churdan where there was a concrete “skating rink” where we’d strap on our skates and go round and round for what seemed to be hours.  I remember in the summer it could get pretty hot, and in the late fall it could be pretty cold.  Of course, once the snow fell, the skating was over for the season.  So, when I saw these at the Treasure Island Flea Market, I just had to take their picture for old time’s sake!

_MG_4916ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1869, convinced they would have a better chance of surviving the desert than the raging rapids that lay ahead, three men left John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the Grand Canyon to scale the cliffs to the plateau above.

Though it turned out the men had made a serious mistake, they can hardly be faulted for believing that Powell’s plan to float the brutal rapids was suicidal. Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran and self-trained naturalist, had embarked on his daring descent of the mighty Colorado River three months earlier. Accompanied by 11 men in four wooden boats, he led the expedition through the Grand Canyon and over punishing rapids that many would hesitate to run even with modern rafts.

The worst was yet to come. Near the lower end of the canyon, the party heard the roar of giant rapids. Moving to shore, they explored on foot and saw, in the words of one man, “the worst rapids yet.” Powell agreed, writing that, “The billows are huge and I fear our boats could not ride them…There is discontent in the camp tonight and I fear some of the party will take to the mountains but hope not.”

The next day, three of Powell’s men did leave. Convinced that the rapids were impassable, they decided to take their chances crossing the harsh desert lands above the canyon rims. On this day in 1869, Seneca Howland, O.G. Howland, and William H. Dunn said goodbye to Powell and the other men and began the long climb up out of the Grand Canyon. The remaining members of the party steeled themselves, climbed into boats, and pushed off into the wild rapids.

Amazingly, all of them survived and the expedition emerged from the canyon the next day. When he reached the nearest settlement, Powell learned that the three men who left had been less fortunate–they encountered a war party of Shivwit Indians and were killed. Ironically, the three murders were initially seen as more newsworthy than Powell’s feat and the expedition gained valuable publicity. When Powell embarked on his second trip through the Grand Canyon in 1871, the publicity from the first trip had insured that the second voyage was far better financed than the first.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Associated Press reported in December 1985, in Eugene, Oregon, a 6-month-old kitten set a Christmas tree on fire while batting at the lighted bulbs. The heat of the fire cracked a nearby fishbowl, and water from the bowl doused some of the fire. Firefighters arrived within minutes of the fire starting and put out the fire, which had spread to the carpet. A goldfish named Clyde was found lying prone in the cracked bowl, and when put into another bowl with water, was quickly revived and survived the ordeal. The water in Clyde’s bowl had prevented the fire from getting out of control.

 

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