(edited because I remembered more)

This week’s memory challenge is inspired by the Olympics.

Many kids are naturally competitive. I don’t know how much it was about the competition for me as it was to prove to someone in authority (teacher/parent/etc) that I was the best and therefore “worthy” of something. (I had a lot of self-esteem issues as a kid and brought a few of them forward with me into adulthood.) So this week I’m going to try and remember all the various athletic competitions I have been involved in. Academic ones I’ll save for another time.

My very first experience with athletics was dance class with the Art Linkletter Dance Studio. The little studio bus would come pick me up and take me to class. I tolerated ballet but I loved tap. There was some dance to a song that had “duck” in it – I can’t remember.

I played on girl’s softball team in 6th grade but wasn’t super good at it so I quit. I played 3rd and someone stole my brand new mitt. I never played softball again.

I started riding horses in the 5th or 6th grade, not mine at first. I helped a friend keep Lady, her husband’s horse, well exercised.

One day Lady horse took off with me high in the hills of Martinez on day. I slipped from the saddle, my foot caught in the stirrup and I was drug for who knows how long before I fell loose. As if that wasn’t enough I rolled down the side of a really muddy hill. That was the day of my first and only ride in an ambulance. I was sore, of course, yet no broken bones. What was the most scary was that I couldn’t see. I opened my eyes and saw absolutely nothing. At the hospital it turned out that I just had scads of mud in my eyes and once they were flushed out, I could see again.

After that my mom decided if I was going to get hurt on a horse it should be a horse of my very own. Enter Sparky, half Clydesdale and half Quarter Horse.

He had no personality and was used to at 6’5″ 50-year-old man riding him all the time. The perfect horse for a 12 year old kid, right? Not. He wouldn’t even get in the trailer for us to take him to his new home and he wouldn’t let me ride him so I walked him, and I mean WALK as in holding his lead, from Martinez to Concord (with a stopover in my grandmother’s backyard.) He threw me more times than I can remember when I was being ditzy about him, not paying attention, and he’d grab the bit and haul butt from wherever we were.
I had him until we were hit by a car walking down Clayton Road. A girl had just gotten her driver’s license and freaked out at seeing a horse on the road. She hit us and we just happened to be in the small unincorporated section which meant there was a long block of barbed wire. I went over Sparky’s head into the dirt lot but he fell into the wire and wrapped it across one hip and around the other side.

It would have been months and months of therapy before I could ride him again and we didn’t have that kind of money. And truly, we had no connection at all. My mom gave him to a place in Davis that taught vaulting. His big back was perfect for 2-3 kids work off of at the same time. The horse of my heart of was Sheikh, an older Arab that came into my life as an adult. With him I played with barrel racing and pole bending (our favorite.) Man I loved that horse.

At Mt. Diablo I was on the track team. I think the coach was a Mrs. Armstrong. I was pretty fast, loved to run sprints, but Susan Hewlett was faster. For the one year I went Ygnacio Valley I got a girls track team started over there too.

I was also on the tennis team for one year. (How could I forget that?)

But that athletic event that occupied most of my childhood was roller skating.

I roller skated competitively (that’s back when roller skates had 4 wheels, 2 on each side not in a straight line.) I skated at Skate Haven Roller Rink in Walnut Creek, CA. The rink is long gone ( I think there’s a Jiffy Lube or some such thing there now.) I started skating in the 5th grade. I went to a skate party that one of my teachers had organized and really wanted to start taking lessons. My mother said no.
I was a child with constant stomach aches and an intense fear of the family doctor. They wanted to take x-rays of my stomach. I said no.

My mother finally bribed me with some skating lessons if I went to the doctor. They didn’t figure out anything wrong (and I drank gallons of Mylanta all through childhood) but I did get my lessons. My goal was to learn how to do the “shoot the duck” move. After that I was pretty much hooked on skating. I took Saturday morning lessons and then stayed at the rink the rest of the day. It was a while before I was old enough for my mom to leave me there for the Saturday evening sessions. She thought they were too “rough” with all those hippie type teenagers hanging around.

Soon I joined the rink’s skating club and that meant getting to attend that Tuesday night club class. There was a uniform for the class and I remember being so excited when I got mine for the first time. Classes were taught by George Hammond and Peggy Harden. Soon Peggy became my personal skating pro and I was taking private lessons. In exchange for some lessons I cleaned her house and exercised her husband’s horse Lady. For all of Junior High and the first 3 years of high school I pretty much lived at the rink. Once I was a member of the club there were skating tests you could take. Every couple of months there would be a test center at our rink and if you were ready to go to the next level, you could pay a fee and try to pass. There were tests for figures, freestyle and dance. Figures and freestyle were individual events for dance you needed a partner. If you weren’t already assigned a partner you could get paired with a total stranger on test night. That was hard! There was an older gentleman, I don’t remember his name, but he was always a great partner for me because helped me keep my nerves under control. I still have the little metal pins they awarded us when we passed a test.

Before long it was time to compete. I started off competing in figures, which is a single event. If you’ve ever been to a roller rink and seen those big circles painted on the floor, that’s what you use for figure skating. There were various figures you had to learn to trace and, of course, stay on the line. Forward, backward, changing feet at the intersection of the circle, three-turns at a specific spot. I was good but not great though I did like the challenge.

Next Peggy started looking around for a dance partner for me. There really weren’t that many boys my age at the rink so for a while she tried pairing me with her husband Fred. Soon another skater came along that was a better match for him. (Mercury Morden) and I ended up with another man nearly twice my age, Dan Alley. Mercury and I were on again off again good friends at that time, always depending on whether or not we had a crush on the same guy.

Things I remember most about roller skating:

Dan picking me up after school and taking me right to the rink for lessons.
Skating at the rink in Santa Cruz where the floor was warped.
Having to wear nylons for competition and how much they burned when you feel on the floor.
Locking wheels with a partner which always resulted in a really bad fall.
Meeting Kevin Wilson, first real boyfriend, at the rink.
Walking up to Foster Freeze for snacks in-between skate times.
Having a wheel come loose and roll across the rink….worse yet, having the ball bearings come out.
Buying Reva’s old skating costumes.

I never was a shining star at roller skating but days spent at that rink are some of my most favorite memories.

Your turn. Tell me about athletics in your childhood.