Chicago Rink Rats
The Roller Capital in Its Heyday
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By 1950, roller skating had emerged as the number-one participatory sport in America. Ironically, the war years launched the Golden Age of Roller Skating. Soldiers serving overseas pleaded for skates along with their usual requests for cigarettes and letters from home. Stateside, skating uplifted morale and kept war factory workers exercising. By the end of the decade, five thousand rinks operated across the country. Its epicenter: Chicago! And no one was left behind! The Blink Bats, a group of Braille Center skaters, held their own at the huge Broadway Armory rink. Meanwhile, the Swank drew South Side crowds to its knee-action floor and stocked jukebox. Eighteen celebrated rinks are now gone, but rinks that remain honor the traditions of the sport's glory years. Author Tom Russo scoured newspaper archives and interviewed skaters of the roller capital's heyday to reveal the enduring legacy of Chicago's rink rats.