Sunday, April 8, 2012

A bit of history at the rink

I was at the rink for afternoon public a while back, when I spotted a pair of wooden skate guards in the hands of a woman seated on the bottom row of the stands.

"Oh my god," I exclaimed, "Those are wood skate guards, where'd you get them?"

"They were my mother's; she gave them to my daughter."

The were made by the old Chicago firm of Nestor Johnson. A beautiful cream colored enamel over wood. They were so smooth they looked like plastic until you looked at a tiny spot on the end where the paint had chipped off. I've never seen any this good on ebay or any vintage site.

Then the daughter showed up in her grandmother's skates. They were just perfectly preserved. Five hooks, not four, and made from leather so soft you could have made gloves from them. They went up the girl's calf (she was my almost height). I looked at the blade and they weren't freestyle blades, or figures blades. So recreational in all probability. But those boots were definitely figures boot soft. All leather too, so from the days before plastic. (I rooted around online, and they may have been a version of Carol Heiss Recreational Skates--I found them with both 5 hooks and 6.)

Of course the mother and her daughter wanted to know if they were valuable. Certainly someone like me would like to have them, but I had to tell them there's not much market for used skating equipment.  She should treasure them for the memories of the grandmother who gave them to her.

I showed the girl how to tighten her laces and told the mother that if her daughter wanted to skate more she should get her new skates. Old leather can just give out if it's stressed, and new skates are designed differently.

"But," I told them, "If you show up at the rink with those blade guards, the old coaches will go just wild. Don't lose them. They're a piece of skating memoribilia."

(I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures. But I'm of the generation that doesn't think, "Oh, I have a phone I can take a picture.")

1928 (!) Nestor Johnson Speed Skate Ad

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