Re: The Most Fun 11 year Old Kids Could Have

02/12/17 - posted by John Martini

Skateboards with steel wheels, the predecessor to clay wheels, were a compound-fracture-making technology. They were barely a notch above a plank with a roller skate nailed to the underside. The wheels had zero traction, so if you tried to take a corner too quickly, the board skedaddled sideways out from under you.

I bought my first board in 1963 or '64 at King Norman's in the Westlake Shopping Center, a nasty red plank with "Roller Derby Skateboard" stenciled on the slick top surface.

There was a real widow-maker corner at Westbrook and Clifton Drives in Westlake where I must have taken a half dozen spills trying to make it safely around the curve. It was the stupidest, self-imposed challenge I had as a kid. Tried it over and over and over again. (What do they say about the definition of madness?)

The steel wheel boards featured an additional hazard; since the wheels had no give to them they were unable to absorb irregularities in the sidewalk, so even a pinhead-sized piece of gravel brought the board to an immediate stop. The rider kept going forward, of course, and then assumed the glide pattern of a set of car keys, likely doing a face plant on the sidewalk.

And god forbid you tried to ride on asphalt streets with steel wheels. The vibration could shatter your teeth, let alone the omnipresent danger of encountered a manhole cover.

Stupidest ride I ever took followed my acquisition of my first pair of clay wheels -- downhill on the Point Lobos Avenue sidewalk from Sutro's to Playland. Got up so much momentum it probably took me to Fulton Street to come to a stop.

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