When we, the more mature baby boomers, were in our formative years, a gift often left by Santa, was an icon of our generation, and a symbol of countless memories, Union Hardware #5 steel skates. At the time, other adjustable skates were available but, if you were serious, you were “rollin’ the nickels!” Manufactured in Torrington, Connecticut, in a time when America was producing more, and importing less. From producing the best steel in the world, to textiles, from electronic innovations to Detroit’s supremacy. It’s a shame we’ve gotten so steel bite pro far away from the days when we led, to the current day of being led!
One thing that should be mentioned about the Union 5’s, was the trouble you would encounter when attempting to, “spark up the concrete”, in your sneakers! The soft materials and the “give” in this type of footwear, gave the skate little to “bite” into and still remain attached. We all tried tennis shoes, but they never really worked out. We were on a mission to “burn up the sidewalk”, every time we strapped ’em on, so hard sole shoes were mandatory.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about steel-wheeled skates, rollin’ on concrete, times eight! Talk about noise!! I loved the noise, and the speed we generated on those, “wheels of steel!” We were constantly wary of bumps, in the concrete. High speed headers were brutal! I’ve got leg scars, still visible from the times, when the concrete on 124th St., “wanted some skin” and I grudgingly, made several painful donations. And then, everyone following would either dive onto people’s grass or join the painful pile up.
Those who remember, we rolled in a line of arms and legs, movin’ in concert with the noise, and the thumping of the, “cracks in the crete”, and how, after building lots of speed, would get 45 degrees on the elbows, 30 on the the knees and “lay-down” for a brief period of stylin’ and profilin’! We had “the nickels” workin’ to their utmost! Sweet as half priced penny candy!!
What was quite ironic about those who strapped on the “fives”, was the special neck adornment, worn by practically all skaters, that has, in many ways, eclipsed the popularity of the skates themselves, and of course, I’m referring to the almost cult like status, of the, “skate key”. Even when not rollin’ on our nickels, many would keep their keys on a string around their necks. It didn’t take long for every skater to come to the realization, if you didn’t have your skate key, you better be skatin’ with someone who did!
From Christmas and into the spring of the new year, we rode those “nickels”, like we had a deadline. But in late spring, early summer, the skates “morphed” into new “concrete assassins”, but that’s a story for another time. Suffice to say, our creativity would be put on full display with the transformation!