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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, February 25, 1906, Image 11

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Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1906-02-25/ed-1/seq-11/

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WHEN THE WORLD TAKES TO WHEELS
-— - — — - AD I been a visitor
A^ / j\T JI/T' Jk from Mars I am sure
HE«f jj I would have thought
y K| I was lookinr upon
s 3!H |H the performance cf
S Ha some solemn rite.
' fj] some mystic ' cere
/ \u25a0 I mony, as . the Person
* I] ally' Conducted •when
I B seeking strange lands
I if are? treated to the
HI jl Snake Dance on the
** *Vf* \ I desert and the Whirl
| \u25a0\u25a0\u25a0*«™ ing Dervish on tha
m sands ° f Afrlca - at
NnT/\y/Cl the usual,.very small
kljf fcjf MZ\ additional' expense.;
Surely nothing else 'could set adult
human beings to going round and round
and round like this, singly and in pairs.
In a sort of speechless ocstacy., • .
Round and round and round — thslr
bodies swaying this way and that in a
strange rhythmic motion.
Round and round and round— sometimes
faltering, staggering, clutching frantically
at thin air. from fatigue or excess of emo
tion, no doubt.
Round and round and round— sometimes
suddenly falling with a crash or a thump
—according to the meagerness or ampli
tude of the structure of the beings—mo
mentarily overcome by exhaustion or
fervor perhaps; then struggling to their
feet again with wild gestures and frantic
efforts, unheeded by the speeding throng.
Devil-driven can they be, these madly
hurrying, swiftly gliding beings?
Round and round and round— urged ever
onward when their spirits seem to flag
and their limbs to las by the intoxicating
plinky-planky-plunk of the piano that
must be devil-played, even as the beings
are devil-firlven. for no visible fingers
press the keys that are uncannily lifting
up and dropping down, striking the notes
to which the hurrying throng; keep time.
Round and round and round— the young
and the old at»d those of middle life, never
speaking, never smiling, never laughing,
their eyes fixed In rapf gaze, perhaps
of adoration, or. celestial" contemplation ;
one or another now whirling and rushing
backward, as if taken with sudden vertigo
or touched with madness of despair or
joy. then whirling again and going for
ward as before, ever on and on and on.
As I sit at one side, alone, upon a chair,
among the tiers of empty chairs, alone
and unheeded by the speeding throng that
iaoks never to the right nor the left, but
ever Into some dim beyond. . I note that
the" came ' beings flash past my vision
again and again, -on an endless, :#mle33
journey, some steadily like the planets
ir: their orbits, others spasmodically dash
ing In and out among the rest. In erratic
course like comets.
I note, too, that when indeed brtngs
that have become familiar drop out, new
beings appear and the throng hurries on.
ever on and on and on, without diminu
tion of members or of speed.
Round and round and round they go
youths and maidens clasping hands and
swaying in unison; youths and maidens
gliding singly and seemingly unconscious
of each other; youths and maidens pursu
ing each other, overtaking and capturing
each other without losing one single
rhythmic beat of the curious gliding mo
tion.
Roi:nd and round and round they go —
the beings of middle life, male and fe
male, finely, with arms crossed behind
then or hands thrust deep into their
pockets, lost In meditation or the deli
rious joy of motion; fla pairs, supporting
each other In the onward struggle, mak
ing mighty effort and but small and tor
tuous progress.
Round and round and round they go—
even. the aged, the patriarchal males with
ba!d her ?s or white beards, the females
stout but determined, or those luckier'
ones whose gray locks and wrinkles must
be marked to belle the slendcrness of
their waists.
Round and round anG round they go— .
and darting In and out among them, with
waving arms and legs and a port of stud
led malice in their movements, are these
imps .sent' to iotment them, to lmp«-de
prnjrress and endanger limb and life, to
afflict them and make their penance more
real, or are they, indeed, as an extraor^ .
dinary indulgence and toleration would
fee-em to indicate, mercy the young of
Ihtir kind — the exub«rar»i. undisciplined
male young?
I note— irom my chair among the tiers
of empty chairs— that a. strange rumbling
accompanies the movement of these be
inc?. Even as I reared the great build
ing—can anything co hideous be a tem
ple?—l noted It and wondered.
Is it an undertone of groans and lamen
tations?
I look more closely. .
Surely these are little wheels, little sets
of wheels s'-'ch as are used for moving
about th<; furniture indwellings, the. tittle
t\ heels called casters, that are :fasiened
to their feet, even as- they! are .to th*.
icn oi beds and tables, and. desks and
particularly heavy chairs. It is these.llttle
wheels, 1 note, that make .the strange
Tumbling sound, and send* the. beings on
their eliding., curving dashes with which
thty s,wrep along annihilating distance. -
Wonderful! " Wonderful!
What can • thUs weird ' ceremony, this
m; r stic rite be? ' »
Is ,It that these beings of all ages and
conditions— for, I note the great and lowly
mingling here, even clutching at each
other— are doomed to glide In an eternal
rc.ee? V, ..". '': \u0084
Is it expiation or adoration. that drives
them round ' and round \u25a0 and round ? -..
. Could they slop if, they .would? »
Would they if they could r
This I «ay, would have been the form
my musings would nave taken, as I sat
lonely upon my chair. In -that wilderness
of «mpty chairs had I been a' visitor from"
Mars.
- But— not being a visitor • from Mars— l
am, even as ycu are, "wise to the game,"
and 1 know perfectly well that these, my^
ordinarily sane,' sound' and 'pfactfcal" fel
low beinre. somo of whom are the bank--
ers we leave our .money with for safe- %
keeping, others of whom . are the mer
chants and. the merchants' .clerks, we
spend our money with, are merely roller
skaters, reveling in ' the latest," maddest
f*d of a mad, mad world.
lam ncit, I say,' a victor from Mars,
yet so long as I remain on the side, stick
ing to ray chair in that wilderness v of .
empty chairs— and it takes both hands to
hold on and resist the tempiatJ6n of that
vortex-this !s what roller, skating looks
like to ny. and I haven't se<jn the weird-,
est of It yet.
1 haven't seen the Beginners' Pens!
I haven't hung over the rail and
watched the male beings initiated Into'
the first degree. •
I haven't sat on! a footstool and peeked
through the bars at the female novitiates
undergoing the ' trials cf the preliminary
ordeal.
Why 'is roller skating?
, Now that th\> question is popped at you,
you' can no more answer, it, I'm sure;
than -you, can answer that other profound
fjucry that Is' chiefly used to break .the
fbc-ial ice: ;
I Why Is an oyster?
Acd" what It is is as great a mystery as
why it is. \u25a0 >
- Roller skating in surely not a sport.
This going round and round and round
on little wheels In "a circumscribed, In
clcscu area Is.no more .like ice skating,
with Us freedom, and possibilities-, and
surprises and tingling exhilaration,' than ;
that mild nursery : concoction. called "canv"
brie tea is like the beverage that chee,rs. •
It surely. is not an athletic exercise/ for
\u25a0 !t combines .the maximum of speed with
*tbe. , . minimum of . exertion-^xcept, of '
course, in .the initiatory stages, where the
reverse i« true. ,' '. \ .' , : •
It surely.'is not a social pastime, for it
eeeins to even. the most unprejudiced 6pec-|
tator a solitary pleasure, or at.best.a
speechless ecstacy. for' two. "... '\u25a0'.\u25a0'•
It may encourage sc^l communion,, but
It certainly does . not seem to : be - r a ; pro- .
inoter 'of conversation t for I have seen In
the rinks the most susceptible beaux;- old .
and '" y'oung^ gb.\ round and round and:
round, doing the^Dutch^ roll, cutting' figure 1
eights'' and' other didoes, with their hands
'. in their ' Dockets ' and : their" eves • rolled to .
: -- \u25a0 \u25a0\u25a0-\u25a0•-. . \u25a0\u25a0\u25a0\u25a0•-\u25a0\u25a0. \u25a0'\u25a0:• -\ \u25a0-.*:.\u25a0\u25a0 ,t, t \u25a0,• _, \u25a0-•.\u25a0\u25a0,"..«\u25a0\u25a0.\u25a0.\u25a0»;\u25a0..\u25a0:\u25a0 -_ *\u25a0: -\u25a0.-. -'..^ V j- . . ;.\u25a0
£~ the-^san- - era^gisgoS-sundXy;
the rafterc, end never a glance for the
distractingly praty.' girls cutting past
'.Jhrrn. ,;v . ' . "•"', '.: ' f' '\u25a0'- ,- ;'..;
And to match them,; l've seen "the di3
tractlngjy pretty girls, past mistresses -of
the art , of flirtation, \u25a0'_ glide' and sway- and
sway and glide a'whole atternoon cr even-
Ing away in aj moon-eyed 'abandonment* to
the motion that can only be equaled by
theinsfdious whiffs of opium or the sor
ceries of hasheesh? : ; - '
That's it! . . '. ' \u0084".\u25a0
If roller skating isn't a sport nor an ex
ercise, nor yeta diversion. It Is an intoxl
cant.iand that is why the whole world
has taken -to it— perhaps.
\u25a0 That Is, why the papa and the grandpapa
'of .the .small bojr l who "makes a^perllous
dash down-hill^ with one, roller-skate.un
der the elbow of 'his; trousles; are. going
round;ahd. round- and "round in the roller:
skating rink, ; or taking ; surreptitious : les- ">
«6ns In secluded halls at a^dollar per, pre
paratory to the round-and-rouhd d«but.
.. That is why themamma and; the;auntie
\ and the big sisUr— yes.Vand • the physical
cultured grandmamma— of ! the' -little girl
who divides 'ber; pair *of roller skates with
: her chum; and becomes a'sldewalk'rnenace'
to slow-moving,' shoft-"slghted r pedestrians, ;
have alltaken to, the Beginners- Pens and.
the : dangerous % fascinations \u25a0 "of
instructors, who fascinate— no, I . mean In;
struct : at'a;dol!arper. hour, v'!,u '!, 1. '. • » -
/ There's : no ', use Vdenyiiig "it, the /roller
skating ' craze, ls' rampant, 1 and . everybody." •
is r* either •skating "or - learning -to skate,
while rinks . and •. schools," for "skating '-are
cropping" out upon* th"e!city;s "surf i«" like
chickeripox on a« schoolboy.; > v \u25a0'; ; \u0084,\u25a0\u25a0
Somebody - has • .called i it^a revival of -
, rollerskatlng," but 'if isn't/ any more :than ;
this year's' prairie fire Is', a revival *6f, (the'
prairie , fire of ten \u25a0 years "ago.v if* is *just" a':
;fresh°'outbr€akr.but' a "deal'; more ', virulent •
than it was before, attackiiuc " ail raaka. j
ages, and : conditions, in no sense .a ; re- >
specter of persons. - ; , :. „...\u25a0
Indeed,.soclety leaders, and belles and
.beaiix, society; matrons'and society in- .
• fants. have fallen vlctim-to it as readily
as Ithe pretty^ girls in the rcandy stores".
and * the husky \ youths who .come up "out '
of i; ; the] foundries : - with'- their sweaters ,
and' never-shovf-dirt S shirts to wrestle t
\u25a0jwith: its % Intricacies in ' the •Beginners'.'"
Pen^: ••'\u0084'\u25a0".; vV-^ . -.\u25a0'" \u25a0\u25a0. -' ; : •'\u25a0,; ' \u0084" t\- \u25a0 \u25a0")' ' '
.: With '\u25a0 my.wn 'wondering. 'eyes : l ,' saw,
leading^llghts" from the; lawTassoclatibh,'
grave medicos, and \u0084> astute*;'',; financiers -
winding their way in and" oiit ; among
\u25a0.grocery". clerk's;' and . butcher j boys. v cdl-* t
\\ege-- and "high^school Vstiidents. I,^1 ,^ giddy, :
gum-che wing and '^otherwise so-
: dateahd well-regulated on;
the if asclnatinis">: little wheels. ; - ; And', I ".
HELEN DARE
,^aw-^^ould^you / believe.'it-^one^ywun'g
• clergyfnani the very pattern of ;a young
clergyman, .\u25a0 i,plnk '' and : white, well
groomed and 'decorously; - coated, in
black, who . was tasting the 'incipient
pleasures of this innocent; * intoxicant,
?ln -fact, ; still waving : his -arm's
; to 'maintain^: his": , balance." -."swirnrnlh'
: rouii 1 i I he ; rI n k."; ast h e rude : II t tie- boy s
describe -it; '-"throw, ; actually throw, ?« his
clerical arms around' an ' unregenerate
black T sheep • \u25a0/' gambling] - mjan, ' not .'to
snatch Thhn.asia brand -fromt the. burn-.
ing',";butj,to .keep from golng,;down: ker- y
' flump /himself; . : : ' •• '\u25a0\u25a0- \u25a0 \u25a0 ; •
;>Such,a"iev^ler. is- roller skating/ \u25a0 ' *
' 'The . craze"' t hat'^it . was ' t^v-enty- years
•'ago^was* nothings to the ; .craze^ it : is ion*
;; t his r second^ visitation.*,' •>" / .^'] !^
f Then Society 'frowned?:- it", down, and
ska.ted, If it skated at all, surreptitlous
'.}"— incqg.. as it-were."
was regarded as a cheap and some
whnt.vulgar amusement.,
- But now. Society, perhaps. because it
> less • strait-laced and more cheer
fully constituted than it was twenty
years ago, has taken to it with — well, to
he literal, wlt'i both feet.
Any morning, if you will take the
PROOF OF BILLY'S GENIUS
a W- ~N ORDWELL. told me yesterday
- - JJ-'iy - tl ? at he was Boln8 olng ' lnto the
JrV laundry business." said Hig
i ,@? J: gins, as he and Perkins were
,^*T - chatting in the elevated
'jmoker. en their way, home.
* "Bord well!** ejaculated Perkins. "What
ire you talking ; about?"
"He claims," -continued Higgins, "that
the' proprletcr of a suburban" laundry has
jpleridid'; opportunities for paying off
"grudges In ari innocent and unmaliclous
way, 'but that they must be seized by a
real genius In order to be made the most
of." .; 3£&83&*& l
", "But^l don't quite understand." said
Perkins. "Pray elucidate." wmM
"The] fellow, who runs the. mangling ap
paratus ; patronize d-.by r Bordwell,'" - ;.. said
Hlsglns, 5 ' "drives ; one.* of . his ' own wagons.
is ; a:soclable chap with every one. gossips
with h!s, customers freely and has 'come
to be ; familiar, with _ their, likes and dis
likes. :, ,The" r women. • w^io "'• see ' hlmj twice
a week/ stand -for 'his chatter on account
of^his^rare 'good nature: and confide in
him ; to r such , an i extent ". that there • Isn't \u25a0 a
private neighborly "opinion that Billy isn't
custodian 'ot. . ; -•" '.'\u25a0'\u25a0\u25a0.
:\u25a0» "There's : a Tamilyi in Bordwell's block—
I' 1 1 'call : . them the Van Sicklens-^-who have
ver> - ; artistic, ldeas of their ; own superior^
it^. , Bordwell- says they. are. a. lot of cads,
and ; that-they j snort'an up to.date* auto
mobile i and f.don'tjpay^ their bills. ; Their
condescension has been 'maddening.; Re
cently i&l scries of . sniibs \u25a0 administered to
several iof i their " plebeian neighbors * made
the*^ altuaUon V almost ** unbearable.^ when
trouble, you may see Society in any on©
of the Beginners' Pens of any one of
the rinks persevering side by side with
the hoi polloi. striking out as wildly
.•with arms and feet, going down a3
clumsily, all of a heap, grinning aa
sheepishly when struggling to the feet
that usually tread exclusive 'ways,
"Mixing" democratically, too. and not
a little selfishly, for one pretty bud go
ing to her Pacific Heights home in a
Larkin-street car artlessly confided to
a friend, and the rest of us:
"I've just had the loveliest time at
the rink. I skated most of the evening
with a riveter.* he called himself, front
the Iron works. He's a splendid skater
— and his hands are as rough as — as—
bark. Tehee r
"He said he'd look for me next time ha
came.. Just fancy! Tehee!"-;"
And it wasn't a snobbish tehe«»! at all,
let me tell you, 1 but just of girlish enjoy
ment, and we all teheed with her, at
least In sDirit.
What Is there in roller skating that
makes its victims willing to endure the
agonies of the Beginners' Pen?
One can understand the perseverance of
the boy in the' sweater who slides and
joggles and spraddles .and sprawls his
unruly way from one end of it to the
other, for in strenuoslty is joy for the
bor kind.
But the stouV and studious Individual,
professional by his spectacles and soft
white hand 3. sedentary by his rotundity—
what is there in this latest, maddest fad"
that sets him to struggling with those
fiendish little wheels that snatch his feet
from under him. that bump him. Into wall
and pillar and fence, that set him to wav
ing his -arms like a windmill gone mad.
that plump him flat upon the floor with
an impact that jars his teeth In their
sockets?
What Is there in it that inveigles the
matron out of her dignity into slipping
and; sliding about on <t couple of sets of
costers, clutching at men and women —
without the formality of an Introduction,
remember — whom she would scorn to put
on her visiting list?
Whatever it is. it's a very potent charm,
for from its first dtvotees— the merely
young and giddy and unclassified— lt has
spreaJ until there is no safety in age or
rank. From their first neadquarters,/ at
the large and necessarily democratic Me
chanics' Pavilion, they have overflowed
until there's a rink in every quarter.
Society, of course, cannot be democratic
long, and having fallen victim to the fad,
it soon organized itself into a club that
ei: joyed the privileges of the Pavilion
without the intrusion of the mob one
nisrht every week. It was the Monday
" Night Club, with a membership of 500. and
a list of patronesses that included the
names of the undisputed leaders— Mrs.
Kleanor Martin, for instance: Mr& Dow
ney Harvey, Mrs. Walter Hobart, Mre.
James Follia.. The club was organized
foi but four nights' skating, but so splen
didly did the finances and the enthusiasm
hold cut that its skating extended over
nine nights, and it has disbanded reluc
tantly oaly at the approach of Lent.
So potent is its charm that it has be
guiled not only the most unexpected
victims into skating, but hard-headed
business men into investing . their
money in leases, rink floors and skates.
The pavilion is frankly democratic,
advertising its masked skating carni
vals unbiushlngly with prizes for "a fat
ladles* race," "most comic lady's cos
tume" and "most comic gent's costume."
So. quite naturally. In the face of this
there has sprung up a new and exclu
sive rink on Pacific avenue. In the old
armory, that was once upon a time in
its history a riding school for fashion
also. Here all sweaters and never
show-dirt shirts are to be barred; no
"fat ladles* races" are to be contested:
no "genta" are to be on the list of eli
gibles. It is to be small and highly
select, and already its list of patrons
reads like a chapter from the Blue
Book.
Jewish society has made for itself
quite the most exclusive \u25a0 and hand
somest skatlnfe rink in the city by turn
ing the . spacious, lofty, well lighted,
beautifully floored ballroom of the
Concordia Club from its original pur
pose. There the 'club members practice
of mornings" with skilled instructors,
and there they have a ladies' night once
a week that is as well attended as tha
smartest dance or swcllest wedding.
Quite as naturally rinks sprang up or
are about to. spring up in the Mission,
in the Richmond district, south of
Market and— where do you think this
last one Is? — on' the Barbary Coast!
Yes, even those freebooters of the night
life are abandoning the waltz and the
two-step — -33 they practice it — and are
taking to the little wheels and going
round and round and round with the
rest of the World, fashionable and
otherwise. CfcJK \u25a0
What greater proof can there be of
the lure of the roller skate when in this
territory, already famous for its skates,
the denizens take to the new kind!
Billy, the laundryman. came to the res
"Some green hand in his establishment
made an awful mlxup and bits of the
Van Slcklen wearing apparel were dis
tributed throughout the community wher©
they would do the most good. The dilapi
dated condition of moat of the articles re
joiced the hearts of the recipients. Bord
well drew a dress shirt and a union suit
which he says he would have been
ashamed to send to a rummage sale.
"Every piece was plainly marked "Van
S..' so that there was no doubtabout It.
Several returned their finds directly^to tha
owners, and one aggressive lady . aug-;
gested a Joint note of sympathy and offe"r
of pecuniary assistance.
"It was evidently -most distressing to
the aristocracy, and Bordwell avers: that
the 'For . Rent* sign , now upon the Van
Slcklen bouse \u25a0is the direct result. ";Ha )
says that Billy's talent is certainly mar
velous, and in spite of; the laundryman's
protestations, he Insists that it was a.
beautifully worked out "plan from begin
ning to end. as Billy acknowledges that
the Van Sicklens .were three months be-,
hind on his books.
VBordwell says this la not the v only
-.proof 'of Billy's genius. Some months ago
the two had an argument over, prices, s and
the next weok .Bordwell's pajamas came
home' starchetl as stiff as .frozen flsh.
Billy almost wept tears of contrition over
'the incident, but Bordwell thinks it 1 was
a case of ; getting back at him just the
same. He says \u25a0 there is .no end of such
opportunities in the laundry business, and
the wonder is that more men ol hl*h abil
ities don't : so lato KIT

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