Before the days of dimly lit roller rinks with disco music and rented wheels, University students took their skating skills to the streets.

In 1933, spring weather and newly-resurfaced roads propelled a roller-skating fad on campus. What began with a few bored students soon ballooned to hundreds within a week.

Students bought, rented or crafted their own roller skates to join in on the fun. Students cleaned out the local hardware stores looking for supplies like liniment and tape to fashion homemade skates.

Campus stores constantly restocked their shelves, unable to keep up with the demand. Local restaurants also began to sell skates, hoping to cash in on the craze.

Some restaurants encouraged patrons to, “skate right in,” while other shop owners were less receptive and complained about students skating through their stores.

Drivers also had to adjust to the skaters, who created a new road hazard. Campus Health Services reported an influx of scrapes bruises and sprains, which may explain why the trend didn’t last long. As final exams approached later that spring, the fad died out.

Many saw the roller-skating epidemic of 33′ as an answer to the transportation headaches in Ann Arbor. Articles from the time mention the reemergence` of bicycles among both professors and students as a cost effective alternative to cars.

Several years earlier, a similar craze made its way into campus life when the University imposed a ban on automobiles in 1927. Then-president Clarence Cook Little believed that cars distracted students from their studies. He proposed the ban to the University’s Board of Regents, and it soon went into effect. Only a limited number of permits were issued. Students and professors donned roller skates as a form of protest.

At the time, a vast roller skating trend had already emerged on college campuses across the U.S. When news of the ban hit Ann Arbor, it accelerated the city’s roller culture. While many glided their way to class, it was more of a recreational movement. Students came out in the afternoons and evenings to skate around campus, and organized roller meets on the weekends.

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