Photo courtesy Flickr
Koberg and Bagnall nail the Gyro Gearloose syndrome in their introduction to The Universal Traveler, a pillar of popular design instruction. They point out that since “conformity is the shortest route to acceptance in a mass society, behaving uniquely is a sure way to become an outcast.” They go on to say that “acceptable unique behavior is possible for anyone...who has interest in resolving problematic conditions.”
That academic mouthful made sense of a war story that lodged in the back of my brain in the Fifties. Now and then when my parents and their friends were partying someone would bring up Davey and his roller skates.
One of the three or four main streets in Port Angeles, Washington, is called Race Street. I’ve visited PA off and on all my life, and not too long ago, I came through town with a skater in the back seat. Race Street seemed made to bomb, and I observed that the street had been laid out to support the only big summer game in town, the soap box derby. I watched orange crates rocket down the hill, as I white-knuckle watch skaters streaking down John Street.
My father, his friend Jared, and Davey were posted to the Port Angeles Coast Guard station during World War Two, not bad duty, considering. My sense of their mission was that it was fairly boring. Dave Gn. lived in base housing at the top of Race Street and grew impatient with the walk to work. One day, he fastened a pair of roller skates to his regulation oxfords and skated down the hill in uniform, his middy collar presumably flapping behind him.
It took several days for the commanding officer to get wind of Davey’s shortcut. He was called onto the carpet and told to cut it out because he was compromising the dignity of the service. It’s hard to suppress a good idea, though. Somebody in LA pulled a pair of metal street skates apart, nailed the wheels to a piece of orange crate, and there’s a skate park on Race Street now, in the town where Tony Hawk's mother grew up.