In for the rides of his life

The boys of Madison Park were beginning to outgrow Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, cap guns, Red Ryder BB guns, Captain Midnight Signet rings and Hopalong Cassidy lunch pales. A new interest was piquing, but the slow aging process kept us from fulfilling it: namely, driving a car. Luckily, friends with cars shared their rides until we were able to afford them on our own.

A good friend bought his first car, a 1928 Chevrolet four-door with a green, black and rust finish; a canvas roof; and side curtains.

When it rained, some of the water stayed out, but much of it came up through the gaps from the missing floor boards. A great deal of water also came from the condensation blown through the manifold heater.

We struggled with the manual windshield wiper and stayed warm and steamy from the heater.

The big ol' Chevy was a great ride, but it took three guys to operate it. It needed one to steer and shift gears, the front passenger to operate the windshield wiper and the person in the back seat to wipe the windows clear of condensation and to torque the emergency brake when going downhill.

The Rink

We began to venture out of Madison Park. On a friend's recommendation that roller skating was a fun thing to do, we found ourselves at the Ridgemont Rink near 85th and Greenwood.

Our first experience at this certified skating establishment with wood floors promised to be a good time, as falling on the sidewalks at warp speed in Madison Park required a lot of bandages and gauze.

A big pipe organ in the corner of the rink provided music. All of the elements of the organ were exposed for maximum sound and completely covered with chicken wire.

There was a snack bar with hot dogs and beverages, but just in case there was a shortage, we packed in our own "skate bag" filled with extra goodies.

One of my buddies motioned toward the snack bar: "Girls!" he said, "Lots of them."

There seemed to be two distinct groups. Some girls had homemade costumes that matched perfectly, with not a hair out of place. The others were a little flashy as they smoked cigarettes and snapped gum. These girls were definitely worlds apart.

We rented our skates and made the first attempt to stand on real lace-up shoe skates. Skating on smooth wood floors in professional skates was going to be a far cry from the metal clamp on skates we used on the rough sidewalks of Madison Park.

I slowly skated toward the rest of the guys already sitting with our newfound friends, the gum snappers, offering them beverages from our skate bag. They weren't exactly girls we could take home to Mom, but it was all part of the roller skating experience.

As the gentleman behind the pipe organ played a peppy tune, we and our new friends headed for the big rink. It was uneasy going at first, but soon everyone was going a little faster to keep up with the regulars.

After a few times around and a few times on our back sides, we got the hang of it.

The 'Rinks'

The adventure was going better than expected, except for one thing. In a corner by the refreshment stand was a group of guys who didn't seem friendly toward us. They wore white T-shirts with cigarette packs tucked into one sleeve and had sideburns and clean haircuts.

These were the "Rinks," the so-called kings of the skating arena. They didn't like the connection we were making with the girls.

It was time for only the men to skate. The speed picked up as the organ played a fast tune, and I noticed the "Rinks" were skating by me, some even going backward.

Soon I found myself in one part of the rink going way too fast and suddenly smashed right into the chicken wire on one side of the organ, leaving an imprint of my face.

There was some more pushing while skating back to the rental area.

These guys were older and towered above us, so it seemed an opportune time to leave with all of our parts in tact.

The great escape

A buddy had left earlier and started the car. One by one, we left the skating rink to the sound of the "a-oouga" car horn. We ran and piled in.

From that point on it was pedal to the metal, leaving a cloud of gas and oil behind us.

We didn't curtail our skating, but we did change go instead to a rink in Renton where another group of diversified individuals hung out; but that's another story.

Richard Carl Lehman is a Madison Park resident. Send e-mail to him at

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