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Skating through the war years

By JOL Admin | 19 April 2016

Just to the left of the ‘Drunkards cured secretly’ ad in the Brisbane Courier, the  Colosseum skating rink proudly announced its newly renovated floors.

The 1915 classified confidently predicated the new “flawless” floors would soon make the rink the most popular in Brisbane.

Now, roller-skating was around before the war. The Belgians came up with the amusing idea of putting wheels on shoes in the 1760s and rinks started operating in Queensland in the late 1800s.

But the war years brought a new need for respite from the brutalities of the overseas conflict. For many, roller-skating was just the ticket.

In 1914 the Queensland Times reported roller-skating had “caught on” in Ipswich.

“Last night every pair of skates available was in use, and the floor was full. Though there are some really good skaters in Ipswich, the majority, or the, greater number of the young people, are not established in the art. But they are taking to it with great keenness and perseverance, and the progress they are making is really surprising. The sport is an excellent one, and its acquirement is an accomplishment that will bring pleasure and exercise. "

Three years later, in June 1917, the Daily Mail in Brisbane noted the importance of appropriate skating attire.

“The popularity of roller-skating makes the question of appropriate dressing for this pastime an important one. The following suggestions as to suitable styles for skating, from the Hobart Mail are interesting and helpful: — Skaters have found that a specially-designed costume for this fashionable sport is really essential to comfort. Primarily this is because the season's, street skirt is not always cut with the required fullness, nor is it short enough. Picture a girl in a black and tan checked skirt, a tan silk sweater trimmed with dark brown fur at the collar, cuffs, and around the hem, and a jaunty little cap to complete this outfit."

Thankfully, those roller-skaters with newly purchased jaunty caps failed to heed the naysayers in The Telegraph few years before (13 November, 1911) who confidently confirmed the sport had “met the fate of all extravagantly boomed amusements”.

The article went on to detail the massive losses recorded by rinks throughout Britain.

“Although so many rinks have closed, there are still enthusiasts who contend that the sport is by no means dead, and that there will always be a steady interest in the amusement. But ‘these people’ are so few that the few rinks now open will afford them ample accommodation.”

But tell that to the folk in Warwick where the Grafton Street rink was “well occupied by a throng of merry rinkers".

The Warwick Examiner and Times (14 August, 1915) confirmed that roller skating was a “pleasurable and exhilarating pastime”, and one that continues to thrive today.

Incidentally, the ad that boasted of the “modern miracle-making medicine” to cure drunkenness could be sampled free of charge.

“No trouble, no inconvenience, no risk, may be given undetectable in any food or beverage,” that ad said.

In one joyful testimonial, Mrs S had clearly slipped some of the potion into her husband's meals with gratifying results.

“My husband has not tasted liquor since I gave him your remedy and I cannot express to you how happy and thankful I am.”

Hopefully her newly sober husband had acquired the necessary balance to take her for a spin around the local rink!

To discover more about Queensland during the First World War join us at the Q Anzac 100 2016 symposium, On the home front,  Tuesday 10 May and Wednesday 11 May 2016.  For more information go to State Library's website


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