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Amy O’Leary

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Growing up, every Sunday morning meant going to church, which I loved. But because I was an early riser, up and dressed in my Sunday best and all set to go, I had to wait for everyone else in the house to get ready before I could go and worship. So I would turn on the little black & white television with the tin foil on the rabbit ears to pass the time.

We only got two stations, and Sunday morning TV was more reserved than Saturday morning cartoons, but I would watch the kid shows first; Davey and Goliath, Gumby, and Jonny Quest, after which the religious shows came on; Oral Roberts Presents (Something GOOD is going to happen to you!) and Kathryn Kuhlman (“I beeee-leeeeve…... in miracles!) Those religious programs were nothing like my little Episcopal church, so I was mesmerized by the huge, slick services I watched.

But the program that followed really got my blood pumping. It was roller derby. Nothing like a little pushing and shoving on wheels to start off the day of worship. Holy rollers indeed!

The LA T-Birds and the San Francisco Bay Bombers were teams that I remember watching. These women were fearless, and make no mistake, they were broads and dames, no shrinking violets amongst them. The sport consisted of two opposing teams — 5 skaters on each team skating on a banked oval track, scoring a point when a “jammer” would skate a lap past the opposing team or pack. Penalties were also given out for unnecessary roughness. These “rollergirls” would put any NFL defensive line to shame. Those women were tough — cheap shots, elbows to the belly, tripping, pushing into, or over the railing was common practice.

These gals must have had regular day jobs as secretaries, bank tellers, etc., but they looked more like dock workers. Their uniforms were satin shorts and jerseys, black tights, helmets and they had a thirst for the worst. If women weren’t allowed to box back in the 1960’s and early 70’s, then this was the next best thing. Hallelujah!

It has been said that Roller Derby back in the 1960’s and ‘70’s and before was scripted, faked, if you will. They would play up on grudges and rivalries to get the crowd going, and the skaters had names like Ma, Toughie or Cookie. Nowadays, it’s more serious — more sport than spectacle. And the skaters have great names like Susan B. Agony, Pippi Longstompings, and Beverly Killbillies.

When my daughter Mia was young, a friend gave her a t-shirt from a modern day roller derby queen. She signed it “Mia Wallops,” which I still call my daughter from time to time. I think we all need alter egos. When I’ve had a rough day, I know that I would love to skate a few laps and let out some aggression. Just call me “Mama Llama Ding Dong” or “Amyteville Horror” or“O’Bleary Eyes.”

Can I get an ‘Amen?’

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