As a member of what the nation has collectively branded as the "millennials," I’ll be the first to admit that no other generation takes more unabashed pride in the trends and nuances associated with its designated age group.
This media-hyped “millennial” label gets an unfortunate rep as self-entitled, arrogant, lazy....the list goes on. But regardless of the ego-damaging stereotypes, those from this age group--and, in particular, those who grew up in the nineties--still manage to possess an unwavering sense of self-righteousness deeply embedded in their decade's pop culture.
In fact, one of this group's absolute favorite pastimes is rambling about the endless reasons that make their era the epitome of greatness--why everything from the music and television to the food and style are still the match to beat.
Quite honestly, if you ask a 90s kid exactly what made their decade superior, they will very likely unravel into a nostalgic monologue of Beanie Baby-Backstreet bliss--a sentimental discourse woven together with Aguilera hit singles and Nickelodeon theme song throwbacks.
And if you're lucky enough to meet one of these folks in Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley, you can almost guarantee a shoutout to one of their most popular hangout destinations: Moulton's Skate America located on Eau Claire’s Melby Street.
Very few things in life could top a Saturday afternoon at the roller rink. As soon as Mom and Dad pulled off the Melby Street exit, you knew the destination was just a couple miles away. When you finally strutted over the threshold into that dank, dimly-lit lobby, welcoming wafts of preteen sock and pepperoni would flock your nostrils like bees to spilled Kool-Aid--a familiar aroma that signaled the hours of fun ahead. You'd charge to the roller blade rental counter and strap on your gear as fast as possible--no helmets or pads, of course--the crusty constellation of scabs on your kneecaps were crimson badges of toughness, which you could only hope multiplied throughout the day.
The non-stop plastic purr of wheels on the marinara-stained carpet effectively muffled out any of the Z-100 pop tunes creeping from the speakers. From roller limbo to air hockey, Moulton’s became the go-to for endless entertainment--the only pause in the action being to recharge with a fistful of Gushers and swig from your carton of Hi-C to wash down all the sugary, artificial goo.
For so many 90s cribbers, this was "the place." This was the place where 13-year-olds brought first dates, laced fingers and puckered lips in those shadowy, rope swing perches; where elementary kiddos hosted their enviable birthday bashes complete with Dew-and-pizza smorgasbords in one of the themed party rooms; where endless multicolor tickets spilled from the rows of tacky, blinking arcade contraptions--all, of course, to be exchanged for less-than-satisfactory prizes and trinkets that fell apart before you got home.
And for those of you on the older end of the Moulton’s-era spectrum, you’ll probably remember those late-night band battles, where young, area artists got to show off their talent, while their friends received their weekly dose of amped electric and metalcore before the rink returned to its elementary-friendly aura the next morning.
This 40-year-old eye-sore on Melby Street holds a special place in the hearts of Chippewa Valley's current 20-somethings...and although the days of scooter races and skee ball will nestle in our memory vaults among their Betty Spaghetti and Furby friends, they will always remain as vivid in our minds as the neon arcade games themselves.
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