Anybody who grew up in Goree in the 40's, 50's and 60's has memories of the skating rink. Uncle John and Aunt Annie Coffman were the proprietors. I don't know if they were actually the relatives of any of the hundreds of kids who skated there two or three nights each week, but they were "Uncle John" and "Aunt Annie" to all of us. Many of the kids had 'shoe skates' that were white and cute and laced up the leg. I didn't have any and the skates that were for rent adjusted around a loafer or a saddle oxford with a key. Uncle John fitted a pair of skates to my saddle oxfords perfectly and he put them way back under the counter so nobody else would use them. The rink was a large, oval shaped structure with poles through the middle. In the spring and summer, there was a huge old water cooler right at the back of the rink that blew out little streams of water where a red-faced kid stopped to cool off for a minute.
Uncle John had a whistle that he blew when anybody was skating recklessly past beginners, when there was a lot of shoving or other horse play going on---even if a couple tried to stop in the dark recesses at the back of the rink for one small kiss. When the shrill sound of Uncle John's whistle sounded, everybody quickly looked for the unlucky culprits. Sometimes, some slightly inebriated out of Towner would get past Aunt Annie, but Uncle John would soon spot him and here he'd come out onto the rink floor, little khaki colored hat pulled down on his head, whistle in hand and the offender was given the price of his admission back and sent out the door. One night, a guy managed to slip by with several drinks under his belt--actually, drunk as a skunk comes to mind. He fell several times, but we thought he just didn't know how to skate. Soon, however, he had the audacity to begin making passes at some of the girls right under Uncle John's nose. We were all waiting for the whistle and we weren't disappointed. Uncle John was not a very big man, but that rink was his domain and nobody disrespected "his kids" when we were in his care. The big, drunk guy was unceremoniously shoved out the door after he had his skates jerked off his feet. Uncle John never needed help throwing somebody out, but he always had several big shouldered football players who would have been glad to assist him.
The old skating rink held especially fond memories for me because it was there where Jackie (Latham) Styles and I sat playing a game of "coke hop" on one especially warm evening in 1953. (For all you youngsters who never heard of coke hop: Cokes used to come in glass bottles with the location where they were bottled stamped on the bottom. If your bottle was from farther away than your friend's bottle, you were the winner. The winner didn't really "win" anything. You just had the distinction of being "the winner".) As Jackie and I sat playing, four boys walked into the rink wearing boots and western hats. They stood out from everybody else, because at that time, rolled up jeans and loafers were what boys usually wore.
"Wonder who left the door to the old bunkhouse open?" Jackie remarked.
"I don't know, but the short one on the end is kind of cute," I answered.
When we returned to the floor and started to skate, I looked up at the "cute one on the end" who had pushed his hat back, exposing black curly hair. He smiled at me and when I went around the second time, he winked at me with the most beautiful pair of gray-green eyes I had ever seen. Three weeks later, I was introduced to him and fifty three years ago, I married him.
I think often of the Goree of the 1950's and of Uncle John and Aunt Annie's skating rink. They were living examples of the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. We respected their rules because we knew they cared about us. If we were reprimanded for something, our parents didn't have a fit and go down threatening to sue them. They all knew if we were chastised, we deserved it.
It was a simpler time--a time when a kid could be a kid without a lot of competition and adult rules and interference. Somehow, seems like we've lost something along the way. But, oh! What wonderful memories were made!
Just another old woman's ramblings, but remember--you asked for it!