by Melinda Lyttle
My name is Melinda Lyttle, I'm 60 years old. I think that I was one of the first people to use grip tape on a skateboard.
You may think this sounds silly but I'll explain a little about my skateboarding days and then tell you the story about the grip tape. I grew up in a town called Santa Paula, CA. Back in 1963 though 1967 I was the skateboard Queen! I was a very mechanically inclined little tomboy.
You'll have to excuse me because I don't know the terms for certain maneuvers made on the skateboards today and can't remember what the wheels were made of in my day. I called them bubble gum wheels because they just reminded me of bubble gum stuck together. All I know is that they wore down fast and I was replacing them all the time. The worst part was that everytime I hit a little pebble or any type of small debris, I would end up stopping abruptly, hit the pavement and add to the numerous abrasions I had on my body.
I loved skateboarding more then life itself!
I made all of my skateboards; I had to make several because I would grind the back down to a sharp point from all the wheelies I did. I always kept by boards in good shape--I would take the wheels off, clean the ball bearings and put them back together so I would have a smooth ride. When I got a new set of wheels and trucks, I would take the fat rubber washer out so the the skateboard would turn easier.
I was so good on a skateboard that people, and even cops, would pull over to the curb and watch me skate.
One day, in 1964, I kept slipping off the back of the board. I was pounding my brain wondering what I could do to keep from slipping. The next day, in my PE class, we had swimming. I was standing on the diving board and it hit me--the non slip stuff that was on the diving board was it, this would be perfect on my skateboard! Then I thought, "Where am I going to get this stuff?" I was on a mission. As soon as class was over, I found my favorite custodian, Mr. Kirska. I explained my story and he said, "I have some extra pieces in the warehouse, because we just repaired the diving board." I was so happy, I couldn't wait to get some. He said "Wait here." I was late for my class, but I could care less about that. When he brought me that tape I was in heaven! I was the only one I knew that had some non slip tape in town! He gave me enough to get me through several skateboards. I had the hottest skateboard in town!
There weren't very many skaters in town and certainly none into it as much as I was. I lived 3 miles from town and would ride my skateboard all over our town. Down Main St., in the middle of the shoppers. I didn't care. When the song "Bust Your Buns" by Jan and Dean came out, of course that was my theme song.
One day I inherited a scooter. This scooter was made of heavy metal, it had a long metal stick that you were supposed to hang on and steer with. The wheels were about 6" round. It was heavy but I had this idea about how I could modify it and make it into a skateboard! So I took the steering stick off, pulled the fat rubber washers out of the trucks and "Voila" I had the coolest skateboard that you could ride on dirt roads. It was the best thing ever!! Then one day I was riding down Main St., on the sidewalk, and the cops nailed me. They said that's too big to be riding on the sidewalk.
I was bummed!
I continued riding skateboards until 1967 at which time I got married. I never rode again until one night, after drinking a bit, a friend returned from Vietnam in the early 70's. He asked if I still had my skateboard. I told him I did but it's been laying out the the rain. He said "lets go ride it." So we decided to ride tandem down the big high school hill. Now this guy was about 6-4 and I'm 5-3. We took off down this hill and we were flying! The skateboard was making all kinds of weird noises. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we tumbled on a friends front lawn, laughing like crazy. When I went to retrieve the skateboard, I picked it up and the front wheels fell off.
So we were pretty lucky. I haven't skated since. But I wish I could!!!
This story was submitted as part of our How Do You Skate the City? contest. Although the contest has closed, you can continue to tell us your stories via the contest pages. We will be publishing the best stories here on our site. So keep them coming!