Barb Keeling, Blade-funner

(interns at A Word with You Press on a roll)


This just in from Barb Keeling: her second entry into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest.

Accompanying her entry was this note:

“Being a new kid on the block  I did not know how often there is a gathered here of creative play, In case it is not often, I decided to once again step up to the plate. I have rolled out more light hearted patter of remembrances that hold importance in my heart. ”

Here is


By Barb Keeling

In 1935 my parents gave me a pair of roller-skates for my third birthday. I sat on the linoleum floor in the kitchen while daddy put them on my shoes. He picked me up so I was standing up on the skates. This looked easy enough, rolling wheels under feet, moves body. I held onto the edge of kitchen sink carefully moving along. When the sink edge ended, I automatically continued rolling forward, this time, unaided. How awesome it was learning to roller-skate right in the kitchen.

I had not yet thought of how to STOP the rolling part of roller-skating. However a solution was forth coming, as I crashed into a kitchen chair. See, that worked; I did STOP, but fell on my butt. It dawned on me, that falling down each time I wanted to stop might not be practical. I best  make a better plan for coming to a halt.

Before doing that my next issue was how to get back up.

I was not doing well getting up with roller skates toggled to my shoes. So, I simply took off one skate and put that skate-less foot on the kitchen floor and got myself right up. One skate, skating would work fine for now. This was the beginning day of many years of skating enjoyment.

This process was part of growing up. The sidewalks rang out the sounds of metal skates clattering up and down the streets. Every kid owned a pair.

Roller-skating was not all we did with these rolling wonders. Using just a skate key, we’d sit on some ones front lawn taking a pair apart. A search would follow for a two by four, a yardstick, a wood orange crate, a few nails and a hammer. We’d divide up the wheels into a front and a back set. These would go on the bottom of the two by four, with the wood crate sitting on top and the yardstick went across the wood box top as a steering wheel. After a day of creative concentrations and collective collaboration of an unsupervised clusters of kids, a roller-skate SCOOTER would be born. It was like a “hot rod” to all of us.

Roller-skating was a social thing when I was a teenager. We would hang out at the Roller-Rink.  It was a cool place to go on a date. Renting skates was part of date night expense.  The banging of the wood wheels was on going and the organ music set the pace of how we skated.  There were games and contests.  Some skaters could dance and twirl, others had a white-knuckle grip holding onto the wall to stay upright and there were thumping sounds of the fallen. Coming home severely bruised after a roller-rink date was never questioned.

Years passed and roller-skating as an activity dimmed from my thoughts. I grew up, went to college, and a career was part of the focus of life.  I was an actor in New York, in the 1960-70’s doing T. V. commercials. One time my agent called and asked if I knew how to roller-skate?  I told him yes, I HAD BEEN really good at it.  “It is a housewife roller-skating around her kitchen, can you handle that?” he asked. “Sure” I said with confidence. I was to take skates and go do the audition the next day.

I hung up the phone and made a mad dash to the store and purchased some metal clamp on roller-skates. I spent the rest of the day roller-skating around the wood floors of the apartment. Skill and confidence returned. The next day I went to the audition. My agent called in a week saying I had gotten the job.

The commercial was for Campbell’s Pork and Beans. I was to skate as fast as I could around the kitchen and pretend to make dinner, feed the baby in a high-chair, get things in and out of the refrigerator and check food cooking on the stove. Also I needed to jump over the long legs of the camera tripod, which was in the middle of the kitchen set.  It was a hard day of skating. Long unused muscles ached as the day went on. I thought how funny, years later here I am skating in a kitchen again. This time I was getting paid to do it.

On my 40th birthday my husband gave me a pair of white leather high top skates with bright red hard rubber wheels. I had never had my own shoe-skates and I was thrilled.  We lived in Santa Barbara by the beach. I skated each day, jumping curbs, over concrete parking lot dividers and bolted down the bike path at seeming break neck speed. This was a joyful blast of the beginning departure of youthfulness.

Many years later we moved into a Senior Park in Oceanside, CA.

Roller-skating is not allowed there. Good thing, for if it was I would surely want to hit the streets and give it a try.

I am in my 80’s now and still have those shoe skates. One day I decided to paint and decorate them. My idea was to turn these, reminders of long gone adventures, but previously enjoyed rolling wheels, into colorful wacky doorstops. Before doing that, I decided to try skating one more time.

I sat on a kitchen chair putting on my rollerskates. As I stood up I held onto the edge of the kitchen sink. Pushing off from there I glided past the refrigerator, stove, kitchen table and back to the sink. I did a graceful turn and sat back down in the chair. I was pleased I had not fallen, for getting up this time might be very challenging. I swear it’s never too late to roller-skate one more time in the kitchen. This will likely be my last…but maybe not.

(make sure you click on this link)


15 thoughts on “Barb Keeling, Blade-funner

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    I enjoyed the light hearted link of a lifetime repeating as wheels rolling in linear logic of aging and laces of time being tied together where childhood is never lost. There is a charming depth of the spirit of joy in living here which makes for a story worth reading. As much happiness as the generations of skates brought, so does the lady who puts them on. Thank you.

  2. Glclark says:

    Barb – what great memories as the wheels of time carry you from childhood to the present. This is one of the best tributes to Peggy Dobbs I’ve seen in this contest so far. This is exactly what Peggy was about and who she was – a simple story of something as simple as roller skates carrying you through your life. Thank you for this story. Your beautiful writing brought our friend back to us.

  3. barbkeeling says:

    Thank you so much. I am so sorry to have not met Peggy. Being here has made me feel as if I had known her. I am so honored to be a part of this frolic. Your lovely comments have brightened my spirit.

    • Thorn says:

      Hi Barb
      It has always been my style (or lack there-of!) to include something totally off the wall but somehow related to each story posted. This is in keeping in line with our mission statement: Putting Gravitas on a Lo-Carb Diet. The frivolous video on the end was not at all intended to diminish the very sweet nature of your story. Similarly, the graphics I choose are also outrageous for the most part. But I have to ask, in the photo on the top, is that you third from the left?

      Love your story, as do others judging from the comments. Sorry if I am annoying. Tis my job. I do it well!

      • barbkeeling says:

        You know that is me of course a hot babe for sure. No worry I am sometimes such a dingbat, was wondering where the video came from.Thought maybe I had posted it myself of one of my senior pole dancing classes. I know your humor and must say miss you being in our sunny neighborhood here in Calif.
        Ya gota remember I’z new here and just learning my way.. huggers back to you. barbk

  4. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    Your excellent flash too me back many years to my rollerskating days in Richmond Hill, NY. They were so much fun I still dream of it even now when rollerskating is included on my list of suicidal acts. Well done!

  5. Tiffany Monique says:

    Now I’ve got Charlie Brown music stuck in my head, and cartoon 2-d children on ice… it is a related thought, I promise!!! Your wonderful memories made me think of ice skating, and your description of falling and getting up made me think of Charlie Brown. How much fun to remember and imagine.

  6. Chuck Chuckerson says:

    I really enjoyed this. Skating was a part of my childhood as well (thought I used roller blades, not roller skates), and it was an absolute joy to read about it transcending that period of growth and being a part of so much of a life.

  7. KYLE Katz says:

    Oh Barb, you have just made my day. What a great read. I’m a roller bladder, still rollerblade on the boardwalk. Started out on the rollerskates. In Chicago the social aspects were huge. Every Wednesday you head out to the Savoy, dressed to impress, hoping the hot skater would choose you for couples only. I remebered everything you described and more.

  8. Diane Cresswell says:

    Barb this is such a wonderful story. I ice skated growing up but never roller skated. My best friend was a top notch rollerskater taking many titles in her day. However, when rollerblading came into being – created in Minnesota where I lived – I took that up and was like a duck taking to water. I have my ‘blades’ still and wish that I could have the room to blade again for the kitchen is NOT big enough. Great incentive to do this again.

  9. a says:

    Greetings! I’ve been following your blog for a
    long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

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