Monday, April 4, 2011

My Derby Journey, Part 1

Hello again! Menoclaws here.

To me, finding out the how’s and why’s of people’s interest in Derby makes for great conversation, and good reading, too. I mentioned in my last post that I found Derby through a televised game – and thus began the love affair!

I think a big influence for me regarding Derby’s “draw” was the image of the women of Derby versus society’s image of women in the 1970’s. Women’s Lib was still a fairly new phenomenon – ironically, much like today’s Derby! Quite frankly, a large majority of women were still assuming the more traditional roles, and certainly not choosing to live on their own – if they did, many people viewed that with either pity at best, or suspicion at worst. But in Roller Derby, women played a competitive sport alongside men, followed the same rules and got penalized for the same infractions (despite popular belief, the “Old Derby” I watched actually had rules!). Yes, there were the Pretty Blonde Heroines – but there were also brash, outspoken skaters, itty-bitty jammers, big ol’ blockers, the steady-as-she-goes pivots . . . I mean, what better mould-buster role models for a shy, quiet kid who daydreamed a lot, read tons of books, and always had an extra #2 pencil to lend out for a math test??

After subscribing to Roller Derby Illustrated, the game’s official newspaper, I learned that while many skaters actually were accomplished athletes, a number of them had never played organized sports, and many found out about Derby by seeing the game on T.V. Hmmmm . . . So, with that, I visited Levittown Roller Rink every Saturday (a memory for all of you Old Timers out there!), attended games at the Commack Arena and Nassau Coliseum when the Chiefs were in town, and wrote to the Bank Track Skating Center in Philly for an application to train as a skater. Since I knew my parents would never sign for me, I waited for that magic day when I’d turn 18, sign the papers myself, and head west to make my Derby dream come true.

Ah, but Fate played a cruel trick on me. The International Roller Derby League was eventually sold to another Derby syndicate called Roller Games, and within a few years, Roller Derby on the East Coast basically disappeared . . . one lousy year before my 18th birthday, too! I was totally devastated by this one-two punch. Now, I’d have to make my Plan B my Plan A . . . ugh. I just couldn’t believe that my shot at Derby was gone forever . . . or was it?

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