Skateboard Scooters and Big Sister Justice: Maybe a Vivid Memory


Big sister Helen and little brother me at our Chino home so many years ago.

I remember it well.  At least I thought I did – until I talked to my sister on the phone today.  Of course, accurately remembering something that took place over 60 years ago is a bit tricky even if it has always seemed so vivid in my mind. And to have more than one person agree on the details of the memory is even trickier.  (To help understand why this can be so tricky, check out the three very cool sources dealing with memory that we just posted in Food for Thought).

Some context is necessary.   This memory was triggered a while back by something I uncovered while digging in our garden. I have actually used the photo of this thing in my social psych classes to illustrate the importance of naming “things”.  Most students were baffled.  Let’s see if you can do better than my former students in identifying this thing.


Found in our flower bed, obviously quite old.  Do you know what this thing is and  how it was used?

If those of you under 50 are having a problem, this is a roller skate key.  Almost all kids in my growing-up era carried them – often on a string around the neck.   The metal-wheeled sidewalk roller skates were ubiquitous in those days.  It’s interesting that these skates had to be attached to the soles of hard leather shoes; tennis shoes were pretty much a thing of the future.

old skates.jpg

To get you into the proper mood for this trip down roller skate nostalgia, I have included this number-one song hit by Melanie Safka: I love it!  Be sure to listen to the lyrics.  It’s quite a sad love song, really.

I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I roller skated to your door at day light
It almost seems like you’re avoiding me
I’m okay alone, but you got something I need
Well, 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, you see
I been looking around awhile, you got something for me
Oh, I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

Skates were not only the rage, but in the 50’s using old skates to create skate board scooters was almost mandatory for young boys.  So I made my own skate board scooter and was very proud of it (truth be known, my father probably made most of it – but I don’t recall that detail).


The skateboard scooters of the 1950s.  Mine was much more rustic than these fancy ones.

Now back to my skate board memory.   It goes like this.  I must have been about 7 or 8 when a friend and I had taken our scooters to the nearby high school outdoor basketball courts to shoot some hoops.   Then, as I recall,  this older neighborhood kid, Buddy,  showed up and “borrowed” my scooter and would not let me have it back.  I remember running home in tears and finding my older sister Helen at home.  When I sobbed my story to her about this bully she jumped on her bike and headed out to the school. 

Helen on Bike and Me

Meanwhile, my mom had come home and when I told her what was happening, she got in the car and drove to the scene of the crime.  By the time my mom got to the basketball courts Helen had confronted Buddy and – as my memory has it – had grabbed him by the shirt collar and slapped him so hard that it left a welted hand print on his face.  He was crying and blubbering to my mom that Helen didn’t give him a chance to explain that it was his twin bother who had taken my scooter (just for the record, he had no twin brother).

When I asked Helen in our phone conversation today about what she recalled about the incident,  she said that the shirt-grabbing and slapping was pretty much on target,  but she thought it was for a different bullying incident.   Buddy had once forced me to eat spider webs in a neighbor’s garage (as an aside for those who have not had the pleasure –  spider webs are sort of like unsweetened cotton candy; this is a food blog after all).  Maybe it really was after the web-eating episode that Helen intervened but that is not how I remember it.  Regardless, it is pretty clear that Helen did smack Buddy the bully.  But what really counts is that I will always remember that she ferociously defended her little brother (despite being the “pain in the ass” that little brothers often are).  Isn’t that what big sisters are all about?


  1. David Ewing says:

    I immediately recognized the skate key, and I’ve always loved that song–but am I the only one who reads it as innuendo? I guess we hear what we hope for. about this one?

    As for big sisters–in my case it was my little sister. I don’t remember him being a bully, but I went home bruised and. bloody after another boy had whipped me pretty good one time when I was about nine. My seven-year-old sister found out who it was and without another word hunted him down and beat the bejeezus out of him. I guess that’s what little sisters are for, too.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for sharing this. I have to admit that lyrics about skate keys are less innuendoish than those about a sledge hammer. And, to have such a tiger for a little sister must have been cool (unless she went after you too).


  2. Helen Weaver says:

    well Andy, that was a great story & the roller skate song I loved too. I went up & down the sidewalk so much on my skates that I actually wore my wheels out & dad just replaced the wheels for me. Oh the good old days. And by the way, I would jump up from my chair, grab my walker & defend you again if you needed me. I don’t think I can ever eat cotton candy again without thinking about spider webs. Love ya little brother.


  3. Pat Angell says:

    Now I have an ear worm for that song, but that’s OK. I remember it and love it. I grew up on a ranch, so obviously no sidewalks, but we had a basement with a cement floor, and my brothers and I could roller skate round and round down there. Whenever a skate came off your shoe (and it always did), it was a big crash. Many a skinned knee.


    • theRaggedys says:

      I get the “ear worm” comment – Ann and I have been singing this to ourselves constantly since we posted it. You must have had a large basement, but all things seemed extra large when we were kids. Thanks for sharing this. Ann told me what a great time you all had at the Colorado “girls” reunion.


  4. David Berry says:

    That is what big sisters are for and I miss mine dearly – keep calling yours often and revisiting these old memories. Great meeting you Fri at the GE Cafe bike stop – Go RAMS!


    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for the comment David. It indeed was great to meet you and Susan in Glen Ellen. Small world for sure. I am sure you do miss your sister; I didn’t hear all of the details, but it sounded like you were there for her to the end.

      I have relayed your story about doing Cavedale 14 times in a month to a number of friends. They were impressed. Good luck in meeting your target (and be careful of the trucks on that road during harvest).


  5. Rich Froid says:

    I sure do remember that song. Never had roller skates though. After seeing a friend break a leg skating I thought there was no point in it.


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