83-year-old man spends his birthday on roller skates - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

83-year-old man spends his birthday on roller skates

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An 83-year-old North Avondale, Ohio man is proving you are never too old to keep on rolling.

Thomas Crawford Sr. spent his birthday burning up the dance floor on his roller skates.

At 18-years-old, back in 1945, he was the first and perhaps the youngest African American entrepreneur in Cincinnati. He ran his own roller rink. So, it only seems fitting that he celebrate his 83rd birthday on his beloved skates.

The ballbearings make a familiar whirring sound on the wooden floor at The Fun Factory in Norwood. Just trying to keep up with Crawford is a workout.

He's been groovin' in the same pair of skates, bought at the old Shillito's Department store.

"In 1953 my wife bought them for me for my birthday and you know what she paid for them then? Nineteen dollars," Crawford said.

The wheels on his skates right now are only the 4th set that's been on them since 1953. He giggles, that they're just about broken in now.

Crawford grew up in Newport, Ky. Segregation meant driving 22 miles to a rink in Hamilton, Ohio, where he says African Americans could skate on Monday nights.

"I wanted a pair of skates but my parents wouldn't buy me a pair," he said.

At 13-years-old, Crawford said a kind lady bought him and his brother their very first skates for Christmas, but their mother couldn't believe it.

"My uncle carried us back up there, my brother and I, to prove to my mother that we didn't steal the skates, the lady bought the skates for us for Christmas," he said.

In 1945, at age 18, he opened his own roller rink at the then, Ritz Ballroom, at Central and Court Avenues in Cincinnati.

"I couldn't rent it because I wasn't 21 years old, you had to be 21 years old to rent a building," he said.

His Godmother signed the lease and he was in business three nights a week.

"Eight right here, and eight on this side," Crawford said as he pointed out the shiny ballbearings in his skate wheels.

There are 16 per wheel, times four wheels, which adds up to some serious speed.

"Stroke every time," he said waving his arms back and forth. "Like you're swimming, you float ya' know."

He said he has skated to everything from Patti Page, to B.B. King to Christian music.

This father of five shows no signs of slowing down. He said he'll keep on skating as long as his body holds up.

"God has really blessed him and kept him in immaculate health to even be able to stand up on skates, some people his age can't even walk or are in a wheelchair," said his son, Thomas Junior.

He is so proud of his father, who still takes time to school the younger skaters at the rink.

So what does Crawford plan to do next? He said as long as he still feels like he has good balance on the skates, he will keep on skating well into his 90's.

Crawford said he absolutely cannot dance at all when his skates are off, but when he puts them on and the music's playing - watch out!

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