Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Skating Rink

This is what used to be the Old Mill Skating Rink in Gloucester, our neighboring county. The rink closed years ago, and the building changed hands several times. It's been used commercially ever since. The upper portion was the actual rink. Even today the disco lights and the bumpy old wooden floors are still intact. But just don't go up there nosin' around. That would be trespassing. Trust me.

Some of my fondest memories are from the skating rink in Gloucester. It was one of the few places my mother would allow me to go as an unchaperoned teenager. I was allowed to go there before I could date, but in reality it was practically the same thing, just in a controlled environment. Well, somewhat controlled. Partially?

My grandmother skated here, and she was born in the early 1900's. My mother skated here. I skated here. Unfortunately, my children will never skate here since it no longer operates, but they would if they could. I take comfort in the fact that a place exists that my favorite grandmother frequented, no doubt with the same zeal and ardor that I did as a young girl.
I must press pause for one minute and clarify something I've taken for granted. Kids? I am not talking about roller blading or skate boarding or dip-sticking. (OK, rip stick, but I like to call it dip stick.) I am talking about roller skating. Roller skates were a primitive form of entertainment that involved lacing your feet up in a boot with wheels; two wheels up front, two in the back. There was no such thing as helmets, knee pads, elbow pads or safety precautions other than prayers. You fell down and you got hurt. You then got back up, kept going and even if you had shattered your tibia you would never let on.

Then you did the Hokey Pokey and turned yourself around, 'cause that's what it's all about--even though you hated doing it. Next you bit your nails at the "Couple's Skate" and prayed The Cute Boy you liked would ask you to skate with him. He didn't, but The Guy You Were Avoiding did. After skating with him, you hid in a corner and pretended to be sick so he'd leave you alone. Then you went back out and stalked The Cute One. The End.
As you can tell, the skating rink (or ring as some people who also say chimbleys instead of chimneys would say) was less about skating and all about teenagers co-mingling. I will confess, though, that as much as I loved the boy-girl thing, I was also daydreaming about being in the roller derby.

I swear I could have been in that movie Kansas City Bomber. Anyone see that? I'm not surprised. I remember it for two reasons: my father was GLUED to the screen, and so was I. He was riveted for entirely different reasons than I was, and it entailed the following: Raquel Welch and Raquel Welch. For me, it was all about racing around and skating fast and pushing people out of my way. Even thinking about it gives me the chills...I really believe I could be the first 43-year-old Roller Derby Champion if only I were given the opportunity....but I digress.

I will tell more skating rink stories as I remember them.

In the meantime if any of my 3 readers, one of which is local, would like to contribute their memories of this wonderland of the past, please do so.

There are so many stories to tell. Too many.


Grandma J said...

What nice memories! I loved rollerskating. My kids did too. We all took lessons so we could do fancy footwork..and dancing backwards..blah blah. It was a great way for us to have family time without fights.
And I also remember the Kansas City Bombers! Of course being a CA girl I preferred the Los Angeles Thunderbirds. I think Roller Derby is making a comeback! Grab your skates and practice for the tryouts...Start a team. The Chesapeake Bay Fiddler Crabs.

Living on the Spit said...

What a wonderful story and told so beautifully. I loved rollerskating to at the now defunct Plaza Roller Skating Center in Virginia is now a Bingo Palace. I earned my Girl Scout Roller Skating Badge there and learned how to do "shoot the moon" and to play limbo on roller skates. I was never good at it. My grand parents came to see the final show and bought me the cutest pair of white hightop skates and made puffy pink pom poms for the laces. I was in heaven.

Mental P Mama said...

Oh the memories...the first time I was asked to skate with a cute boy, I fell flat on my chin and split it open. The resulting scar now grows a fine little hair that must be tweezed regularly.

Big Hair Envy said...

I used to go to the Old Mill rink from time to time. I had friends in Middlesex, and they preferred it. It was a nice change of pace from the Armory rink in Stinky Town.

My sisters and I used to go to the Armory every Friday and Saturday night. Dad went to Marie's! I wore my Levi's cords with a big comb in the back pocket, a satin jacket, and skates with pom-poms. As with most rinks, the disco lights were dim, so you had to play pinball to check the guys out up close!

BTW - Are you going to forget about us now that Bossy has left a comment on your site??

Keeper Of All Things said...

Ahhh that does bring back memories.....My mom used the skating rink as a babysitter........9yrs-13yrs old....almost every sat. night!
We used to have all night skates and we'd hide alcohol in our hairspay bottles!!!
Apparently the skating rink was such a good babysitter!!!

Anonymous said...

I would officially like to apologize to all individuals who frequented this rink from 1976 - 1986 and who have twisted, crushed, and gnarled up phalanges. I was personally responsible for this because I only knew one speed : FAST. And, I didn't really try to avoid rolling over body parts if one fell in front of me. Thank you I feel much better now.
Little Sis to CBW and current roller blader.

Anonymous said...

Also,to mental p mama: That is the funniest thing I have ever read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Little Sis

foolery said...

" . . . as some people who also say chimbleys instead of chimneys would say . . . " I made a sound I think I've never made before as I read this. At least I hope I've never made it before.

My skating days at Flaherty Hall (it of the concrete floor whose yellow paint circles are faint but still visible) were in my tween years. I was never very good, never owned my own skates, but loved to spend half of Saturday there. It was the one place I could get candy (Chick-O-Sticks, Abba Zabbas, apple sticks).

No boyfriends, but there was Jamie, the one child I can say without hesitation who KNEW from birth that he was gay (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT). He used to steal my poncho -- remember those? -- and wear it around the skating rink. A purple poncho is a difficult thing for a 12-year-old boy to pull off without getting the snot beat outta him.

Sorry to write a book. Still laughing about the chimbley.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, did you say, "PONCHO"?
I believe CBW has quite the poncho story. However, middle sis may not want that posted....let's just say it involves a swinging poncho, a sister sachaying out of the bathroom, and a JOHNNY MOP. That may or may not be the whole story.
Little Sis

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Little Sis: Philanges? I had to pull out the dictionary on that one. Still on those back pain meds? I didn't realize the rink was still open in 1986.

Foolery - Glad I could evoke a new sound, I do try. Also, the thought of a purple poncho on a 12 year old boy is simply priceless. Not that there is anything wrong with that..

Thanks to the rest of y'all for contributing your memories. I didn't realize skating was such a big part of so many people's lives (other than those of us around here who had nothing else to do besides chase fiddler crabs).

I am probably going to put up some more roller skating stories tomorrow along with a picture of the old mill which stands right next to this rink.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

OH!!! Thank you Little Sis. YES I do have quite the poncho story. I will tell that one when I ever get around to discussing our cross-country family vacation in a VW van pulling a pop-up camper...or maybe I'll just tell it this weekend when I have more time. Ah yes, the Poncho Story.

Poor Middle Sis. Picked on once again. But it sure is a hilarious story. It is a family legend.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, one last thing: I want Little Sis on my newly organized Mathews County Fiddler Crab roller derby team (thank you, Grandma J. for the perfect name). She was one heckuva athlete in high school, and I could use her speed. And her attitude. Makes for very aggressive derbying. Right up my alley.

Anonymous said...

Well, while I still may be cursed with the attitude, at this point I would be more of a hinderance than a help for the crab roller team, or whatever you called it. Yes, still on the back pain meds and NO , can't stand up straight. I will, however, be happy to trip others as I will be low to the ground...and possibly roll over a phalange, tarsal, or metatarsal or two, or three.
Little Sis

Anonymous said...

'lo there Lil Sis & CBW,

This is "anonymous Mathews native who grew up across from MHS and now lives in a Richmond suburb." I never personally injured any phalanges at the Old Mill Rink, but my mother did.

At the first skating birthday party I attended there (for a seven year-old freckle-faced kid who now runs a successful tattoo parlor in a neighboring county) my sainted mother (in what may have been her last foray onto roller skates) ran over the digits of one of my little friends while attempting to shepherd us around the rink.

If she's ever back on skates, I'll let her know you're getting the team together.

Anonymous said...

HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Well, hello there anonymous native!!! I can't believe someone else uses the word "digits" to describe fingers!! That's hilarious!! Who's the freckled faced kid who owns the tattoo parlor??? Please let me know if the Mother gets back on skates, too funny!!! Picked up a basketball lately??
Little Sis

Anonymous said...

Lil Sis!

Haven't had a basketball in my hands in a few years, how 'bout you?

Sad news: DD's mother passed away last week -- it was in the DP newspaper.

my cute little friend from kindergarten who tattoos people for a living can be found here:

same sweet guy underneath all the ink!

so nice to hear from you! I always knew you had a great sense of humor, it must run in the family -- you, your sisters and your mom are some witty, smart women! This blog is great!

Hope your back gets better

Rebeckah said...

What a beautiful story! What a beautiful rink. I only went roller skating one time in college. It was fun but I wasn't that good. I can't wait to hear more stories!

Bear Naked said...

Sob Sob Sob
I never got the chance to go roller skating in my youth.
But being from CANADA I did a heck of a lot of ice skating.

Bear((( )))

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Rebeckah and BN - I wish the Old Mill rink were still open, because I'd take you there and give you a few lessons. Then I'd sign you up for my Roller Derby team.....I just know we'd be champions.

Anonymous said...

Haven't had a chance to comment... I loved your post and it brings back memories of the rink that was 30 mins from my home and all the skating parties, couple skates, etc. I hated reverse skate though - messed with my head. I wish I still had my pimpin' skates with the white boots and the green and white pom poms.

bellalately said...

Awwww, Old Mill! I'm sad anytime I drive by on the few occasions a year that I'm in the area and I remember it's no longer a rink. (Someone needs to buy it and convert it back into a rink!)

My friends and I used to tear up the floor there! Our church used to also go to Ft. Monroe to do lockins. This is where I would "practice" all my fancy roller skating tricks in veiled secrecy, so if I busted my butt, no one "important" would see me. ;)
Then I could bust a move on the floor at OM and everyone would think I was just naturally gifted instead of the truth. Which was I had painstakingly put in hours of practice and bruises to make my tricks seem "effortless." ;)

I did get thrown against the side of the rink at Old Mill one time when I was 8 by two older boys. Knocked the breath out of me, not to mention that it was terrifying! I never saw it coming, they snuck up behind me.

On the upside, the hottest rink guard (replete w/80's mullet, tight shorty-shorts and Sam Elliot handle bar moustache)sat w/me and bought me a coke until my mom came to pick me up.

Lookin said...

Well it was sure nice to see comments about Old Mill Bowling and Skating Rink in Gloucester va.

My aunt and uncle ran the rink for years .and the grandparents ran the bowling alley that was downstairs during the sixties and seventies actually until 1975.
Then the actual owners of the building the kirshbaulms (Buddy And Brenda) decided to run the rink. Until it the Eighties.

I learned to skate there at age 5 and skated there until the very last night it was opened.

I would work there and represented The rink
at other skating rinks all over the state of va. Me and my friends were the rink rats there during the height of "roller disco" era.
Jackie,Carlyle,Kenny ,
Janet leigh,David, Denise, Beth,Barry, Jonathan ,John, Brent,
Tommy,Les,Dickie,Andy,Sheila, Bubba,Ronny and Wayne, Mitchell
Jessie,Tudie, and plenty more friends.
It really was a major part of my life for many years if I had the resources. I would buy it and re open the rink for fun.

More later if any one is interested.
Roll on skaters


Anonymous said...

i skated there, too. i was a new pointer from mathews and it was fun to ride to gloucester and lace up the white skates and circle the "ring" and hear the music. my daughter had a birthday party for her third grade when we lived in west point. tonight my granddaughter in greensboro, nc will have a skating party to celebrate her 8th birthday. i hear the place looks very much like the old mill skating "ring" once did.

A Hudgins but not "local" anymore! said...

I just found your blog by Googling the Old Mill Skating Rink. I know it's an old post but I'm going to post anyway. I am VERY tempted to trespass and peek at the old rink. ;) I have many a good memory there. I learned to skate, skate backwards, shoot the this rink! I was just reminiscing about it with a friend on Facebook. Do you remember the game that they played with the enormous die they rolled out of the floor?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Hudgins(not local anymore)- I don't remember that particular game, the Hokey Pokey sticks in my mind though.

It was a fabulous place. I'd give anything for them to open it back up.

kenny said...

To A Hudgins but not "local" anymore!
It was called the corner game. Each corner had a number. a group of skaters would all get in a different corner. When the music stopped .
(Sort of like Musical chairs on wheels ) Then the dice would Be rolled out what ever # showed on the dice ,then that corner of skaters would be elliminated from the floor . And would continue til there was one skater left standing .


Unknown said...

I can't believe I didn't see this before now... Great fun and many wonderful memories. One memory that stands was a fundraising event for MS, skated 10 hours with a 5 min break each hr except for lunch when we got 10 mins. I was a little tired when I got home and sore the next day but I'd have gone right back for another 10 hrs 😃

kenny said...

It was the 4 corners game . The dice had numbers 1-4 2 free spots.If you skated to a corner and that corners number came up, you had to leave the floor . They continued to rollthe dice until there was one or 2 left people left on the floor. Usually, you got a free something .