Did You Know? Roller Skate Edition

Roller skates were invented in 1760 by John Joseph Merlin (a young Belgian) who put wheels on his shoes to impress people at a masquerade party? Ice skates had already been around for quite a while, so watching people glide along on the ice probably gave Melin the idea.

I found this information in the Worldbook Encyclopedia 2020 edition entry on roller skates. It also tells us that there are three kinds of roller skates: quad skates with 4 wheels, in-line skates with the 4 wheels in a line, and clamp-on skates which were the original type. Competitive roller skating is common in the areas of artistic skating, speed skating and roller hockey.

One type of speed skating is roller derby, which definitely has its own artistic flair! Rollergirls: the Story of Flat Track Derby by Felicia Graham, Melissa Joulwan and Dennis Darling is all about the making of a new roller derby league: The Texas Rollergirls. The story is told mostly in photographs, but it is plain to see their passion and determination.

Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. Ice skates then cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 4,000 years ago. This was done to save time and energy during winter journeys.

The fundamental construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same since then, although differing greatly in the details: particularly in the method of binding and the shape and construction of the steel blades. In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many paintings from the time.

The book Ice Skating School by Naia Bray-Moffatt gives excellent directions and photographs of many of the basic skating techniques. A lot of the directions could be used for roller skating as well, especially if using rollerblades.

BUT – there is a fourth kind of skate! You can see these at an aquarium. They are members of the Chondrichthyan family which include more than 70 species of stingrays. The Stingray by Miriam J Gross has detailed information about these mysterious creatures.

Now, back to that masquerade party – – Imagine the surprise on people’s faces as our John Joseph Merlin rolled in and the spectacle that his outfit must have made! I imagine that was exactly what he wanted to happen.

Someone else that always set out to make a statement was Wladziu Valentino Liberace. The book Liberace Extravaganza by Connie Solomon and Jan Jewell shows you full color photographs of a lot of the costumes he wore, with close-up photos of the beaded work on them. Some of these suits were worth $24,000 or more.

We have a wide selection of books that will make it easy for you to plan your next costume for a masquerade ball or other fancy dress occasion. Start planning now and you can make a grand entrance as well!

Who to Be for Halloween

Do you dress up for Halloween?

I do, but it’s not always easy to think of a great costume, is it?

Stella Ehrhart, age 8, of Omaha, Nebraska, has no such trouble. She opens her book, 100 Most important Women of the 20th Century, then she opens her closet and poof! She is Oprah Winfrey! The next day she will be Joan Baez. This third grader has done this every single day of school since the start of second grade. Here is the article from the Omaha World Herald if you don’t believe me.

If all of this sounds like way too much work for you, why not read about these 100 most important women instead? I love a good biography because not only do you learn the facts about a person’s life, you get to know that person and open your mind to a bigger understanding of others. Sometimes you even learn a few juicy tidbits of shocking gossip.

One of the ‘most important women’ is Julia Child. I actually dressed up as Julia Child a few years ago when my book club read My Life in France, Julia’s autobiography.Written in her own words, this is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found her true calling.

Now I’m on to listening to the recently published account of Julia’s entire life, Dearie by Bob Spitz. This is a wonderful biography that brings the Julia we know and love to life.

Another of the 100 most important women, and one with a French connection like Julia, is Coco Channel. The recently published Sleeping with the Enemy by Hal Vaughan gives you a quick biography of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, but mostly deals with the details of her sympathizing with the Germans during the WWII occupation of Paris. Quite shocking.

A deeper, more in-depth, and I think, more interesting biography is Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney. Chanel revolutionized women’s dress. She came up with the ‘little black dress’ and who can live without that? She was the twentieth century’s most influential designer of clothes and perfume. Her fascinating and unconventional journey from poverty to a new kind of glamour helped define the modern woman. There are shocking details in this book also.

Reading about Julia and Coco is much easier and more interesting than dressing up like them. Just splash on a little Chanel #5, eat a baguette with lots of butter, and dig into these books.

Leslie