Memories of Rollerland
Posted 04 January 2009 - 04:40 PM
I mention Rollerland simply because that's the only roller rink I've ever been to, and of course there are/were others scattered all over Fort Worth. I'm wondering what memories anyone here may have of the place. It closed in the early 1980s and was a hardware store for a while (they left the hardwood floor in place), then eventually became a gymnastics school, which I think it still is today. But it sat empty for so long in the early '80s that someone even wrote a poem for the Southwest High School (less than a block away) literary magazine, called "Whatever Happened to Rollerland?"
I can still see that booth in Rollerland where you rented your skates. They had a big rack filled with various shoe sizes, and a little workshop for repairing them. There was also a quite prominent one-way mirror near the front door that usually housed a police officer to watch people and prevent mayhem.
I learned roller skating the hard way -- with my butt. At that young age, though, I didn't have nearly as far to fall as I do now. I eventually learned to skate several laps without falling down or hanging onto the rail. But I never was able to do acrobatics as I saw so many other people doing. Once I was skating along pretty well and saw something unusual -- somebody's wooden skating wheel shooting off ahead of me, with several ball bearings flying out along the way. I thought, "Somebody's in for a big surp----" CRUNCH! Yep, it was MY wheel that had come off!
There was usually a DJ there in a small booth. He controlled the rink lights and also chose what music would play over the loudspeakers. IIRC, to make things interesting, he'd say such things as "ladies only," or "couples only," or "all skate." I think there was a mirrored globe hanging from the ceiling. And of course they'd turn out the lights sometimes. Some of the tunes I seem to remember include "The Hustle" and "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)." I'm sure "Boogie Shoes" by KC and the Sunshine Band made it on the playlist a few times, too. I think I recall they sometimes had "backwards only," where you were allowed to skate in reverse only. I'd probably break my arm if I tried that today. Sometimes they'd have a huge "snap the whip," in which everyone on the floor would join hands in a long, continuous line and the poor dope who was Tail-End Charlie got flung over the rail and into the garbage cans.
The snack bar offered the usual variety of soft drinks, but one concoction they offered was unknown to me: "Coca Cola... Dr. Pepper... Sprite... 7-Up... Suicide." Huh? What's "Suicide," and why would you drink it? My sister explained that they mixed together all of the popular soft drinks in the same cup, and called it "Suicide." I don't know if that idea was only at Rollerland, or if that's something that was popular everywhere at the time. You could even order pickle juice in a cup. To this day, sometimes I'll make my own batch of "Suicide" when I'm filling a cup at a fast-food joint.
But I usually stayed in the video game area. Remember, this was the late '70s, and arcade video games were rather primitive back then. But talk about FUN! One was "Space Race," and I remember playing "Night Driver" and "Star Fire" there. And, of course, pinball machines! Once, I stupidly left my little bag of spare change lying around (I think it was on one of the benches) and somebody ripped off all my quarters while I was out skating.
I can't remember why my sister and I stopped going; maybe because it closed, I dunno. But it was fun while it lasted.
Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:38 PM
I never wanted to adulterate my Dr. Peppers, but "a Suicide" was a popular drink even in central Texas in the late 60's at football games.
Posted 04 January 2009 - 10:03 PM
I also learned how to skate at that time clinging to the siderail for dear life, which probably took me around 15 minutes to make just one circuit, and I immediately got used to slamming my skinny little bottom on the hardwood...many times! Most of the music I remember played at the rinks at that time were the pop hits of the day, like "Space Race" by Billy Preston, "Right Place Wrong Time" by Dr. John, and "couples only" skating to "Wildflower" by Skylark. Looking back, it seemed like more adults were skating, but I was just observing this through a child's eyes. I did have a great time with my sister and her church friends, as we not only went skating, but bowling, too, and after church, the local Pizza Inn, Dairy Queen, or Pancho's.
The next time I went back to the roller rink was in the early '80s, as a teenager. Sometimes I went with friends, but most times I went by myself. I had fun, especially since I got the hang of skating, and did quite well at it. Of course, I never did learn how to skate backwards, but then again I was satisfied with just staying on my skates. At the time, I frequented one place in Watauga called Skate World, on Denton Hwy., which kind of reminded me of the skating rink I visited with my sister in Irving a decade earlier. Lots of great music there, too; Duran Duran, The Fixx, Michael Jackson, etc. Well, all good things must come to an end, as they say, and I pretty much stopped visiting Skate World (and stopped skating) just before I turned 18. I guess it just ran it's course, and I moved on. Still, I enjoyed my time roller skating, and wouldn't mind trying it again....maybe.
"Suicides"? Yeah, I've heard of them, too. Made a few when I was working at McDonald's in the '80s. One particular time, I was pretty bummed out that I had to work the drive-thru window on a very slow Sunday evening (ugh!), and my friends there would come in and dispense several sodas in one cup. I asked about it, and that's when I was introduced to a "suicide". From what I remember, it wasn't too bad, and I had a nice time with my friends at work that evening. I believe it was Coke, orange soda, I think Sprite, and maybe root beer. Judging from GenE's post, seems like "suicides" were around quite a while!
Excellent post again, Giraffe. Thank you very much for sharing your memories of Rollerland!
Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:39 AM
Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:30 AM
I went to many parties there and it was the Forest Park Roller Rink. It actually had about 4 foot walls at the bottom and above that was a tarp cover that could be rolled up to open it up to the outside. As there was no air conditioning, without the ability to open the rink to the outside, it would have been unbearably hot in the summer.
The other old rink in Fort Worth was Guys and Dolls at I35 and I20. We went there also back in the early 60's. When it opened, it was strictly a skating rink. That didn't make it and it was converted to a dance hall. The building is still there though I don't know if it is still in use.
Posted 05 January 2009 - 09:40 AM
Seems like we usually had pizza for a snack, but us 3 & 4 year olds weren't allowed to drink Suicides!
Voice & Guitars in The Crystal Furs
Elementary Music Specialist, FWISD
Texas Wesleyan 2015
Posted 05 January 2009 - 10:27 AM
I was introduced to the "suicide" at Crystal's Pizza during a lock-in. Seems like I was always at someone's lock-in at Crystal's Pizza.
Posted 05 January 2009 - 06:11 PM
Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:15 PM
Posted 06 January 2009 - 06:12 AM
Been to the "Jolly Time" many a time as a kid...Graco Supply has the building now and the old floor is still there in the warehouse. Some of the floor markings were still visable last time I was there.
Posted 06 January 2009 - 12:12 PM
Jolly Time was the place to be in the 70's and early 80's for most of the youth who lived in SE Fort Worth.
Posted 24 August 2015 - 08:25 AM
Jolly Time Roller Rink was owned and operated Mr. and Mrs. Doyle O. Goodwin until Mr. Goodwin passed away. Mr. Goodwin was, also, part owner was Smiley's Miniature Golf Course during WWII.
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