Roller Skating 30s and 40s style

Dorothy Phelps · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Roller skating was popular in the 30s and 40s. There was a roller skating rink on the river front in Muscatine and a small floor over Mills garage in Nichols. If kids were lucky enough to get to either of those places, they could enjoy that recreation.

Sometime in the late 30s, Mr. and Mrs. George Scott who lived in a large house in West Liberty made plans to build a skating rink. The couple had a small restaurant named Scotty’s on the northeast corner of N. Columbus St. and Maxson Ave. They also owned extra ground along E. Maxson Ave. to provide space needed for a new building. There were two active and popular teenagers in the family, so no doubt they were great promoters for the roller rink!

The rink was built! One might say it was a “skate of the art” building for those days. It was a huge, spacious, wooden, open-air building with large flap windows and covered by a raised roof. The very smooth floor compared to a dance floor. There were wooden bench seats around the south and east walls. Large floor bins stored an incredible number of skates to correspond with shoe sizes. This building was electrically lighted; it had an electric organ in the center of the floor to provide music and an amplifying system to carry the music and the announcements. Suzanne (Birkett) Walker, a teenager herself with great musical talents, was the only organist I remember. But, surely, there were others. Ed Baldwin was one of the early floor managers.

Skating hours lasted from 7 p.m. to about 10 or 11 p.m. and included Sunday afternoons. Upon entering the rink, one would pay for the hours they wished to skate and tell the attendant his or her shoe/skate size. It was necessary to wear hard soles so the skate clamps would fit tightly. People took the skates to a small cubby where “skate boys” with a key would put them on, or you could put them on yourself. Some affluent kids might have had their own skates.

The rink was open from late spring until late fall. It immediately attracted people of all ages like bees to honey.

Skate numbers usually lasted ten to fifteen minutes depending on the music. Before each new skate, the floor manager would announce what the next formation would be - such as “couple skate,” “trio skate,” which was usually two boys and a girl, “backward skate,” and “all skate.” There were a few minutes before the music began to get your act together.

It wasn’t unusual for accidents to happen, but there were always skate boys or a floor manager to help you up and get you going again.

Roller skating was an entertainment one could go singly, as a group or date, and have a really good time. Many out-of-town people came to West Liberty to skate, so everyone got acquainted with many new friends.

The rink continued for several more years. The sad part was by the mid-40s, young fellows were disappearing from the social scene due to the enlistment or draft to serve in the Armed Forces. Young women found different ways to serve; office jobs, factories, maybe nurses training, etc.

I do not know what year the skating rink burned to the ground. But, it did, for an unknown cause. Good times gone forever!
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