Remember penny nights?
And the announcement of “All Skate” when the music started?
How about “ladies choice,” “moonlight skate,” men's races, ladies races and special dances?
The roller skating rink at Pearson Park holds a special place in many people’s hearts and memories including countless couples who met and felt that spark when their hands joined for a skate around the oval and parents who taught their kids to skate on the same place they learned themselves.
When it opened in 1938, the 220-foot-long, 120-foot-wide oval roller skating rink was the largest outdoor skating rink in Ohio. The rink, shelter and nearby tennis courts were built by the WPA at a cost of $17,000.
Skaters may remember Tommy Gillmore – the rink’s first manager. Gillmore and his wife Jessie later ran the concession stand in the shelterhouse when Al (affectionately known as “Uncle Al”) and Mary Kish took over rink operations.
Al was a pro speed skater who operated more than a dozen roller rinks in three states from the 1930s to 1960s, including the Colisuem on North Summit Street in Toledo and The Fun Spot on Earlwood Avenue in Oregon.
Young Karl and Alfred Kish were familiar faces at the rink, helping their parents and assisting customers with their clamp-on skates.
Alfred met his future wife Joyce Winhoven at the rink. They were married nearly 32 years when he died in 1999.
“It was a popular place to go,” Joyce said. “People would skate and then go to the shelterhouse where they had a juke box, a pool table and food concessions.”
As skating fell out of popularity (before rollerblading brought it back), the rink was closed and when many of the park’s facilities were renovated in the mid 1980s, it was taken out. The shelter, located where the park’s large playground now stands, is still in use today.
Marge Dempsey has many fond memories of the Pearson Roller Rink.
“I used to skate at the War Memorial Building in the winter, and when I met the man who would later become my husband, I told him that he should come to Pearson Park to skate,” she said. “He asked, `What’s Pearson Park?”
The two later skated at Pearson, along with “tons of kids,” Marge said, adding that the two will be married 50 years in October.
“There are so many happy memories, of good times, of the Kishes and Kenny Teal, the ticket-taker,” she said. “I worked at the Bayshore Supper Club for 30 years, and I used to see a lot of people come in and wetri’d tEarlalk about the rink.
“It’s too bad someone doesn’t organize a reunion,” she said.
Ron Mauter recalls the Holy Rosary School Annual picnic at Pearson Park. “Every year during the first week of June in the 1950s and `60s, Father Paulka and later Father Blasko took the entire school, grades 1 to 8, for a daylong picnic at Pearson park. We were treated to food, soda pop, ice cream and tickets for the riders, roller skating or bike rentals.
It was a memorable event that we looked forward to every year.
“I also remember that when the music started at the rink, the announce would speak over the P.A., `All skate!” Mauter said.
Among Earl Steadman’s many memories of the Pearson roller rink are an incident where a skater fell and hurt his head.
“I was about 21 or 22 at the time,” he said. “I saw the guy fall and knew he probably needed to go to the hospital.
“Some other guys and I were going to take him, but we were parked way at the end of the park,” Steadman said. “We tried to bring the car up closer so we could get this guy into the car – I think it was a `41 two-door Buick – and some goofball wouldn’t move out of the space and we almost got into a fight,” he said.
From Carol Simmons Deal – “During the summers before and after our eighth-grade year at Oakdale School (1954-1955), my good friend at the time, Jackie Bondy, and I went to Pearson Park’s Outdoor Roller Rink on most Sundays and Tuesdays, as I recall.
But, living on the East Side and getting out to Pearson Park could only happen if Jackie’s mother was able to drive us, since I came from a very poor and humble background and my mother did not own a car or even knew how to drive. Jackie and I were going to attend Waite High School our freshman year, so meeting so many new friends there who were going to attend Clay High School was such a highlight for us and a memory that stays with me to this day (sad to say, Jackie, passed away 10-1/2 years after our high school graduation).
We envied the kids who were excellent skaters and could show off their advanced skating skills in the cement circle at the center of the rink that was designated just for those skaters. Jackie and I were thrilled that we could skate backwards a little bit, along with most of our friends. We also had our skates decorated with those cute pom-poms that so many of the girls had at that time. And, skating at that outdoor rink, especially when it started to get dark and the stars would be out, was so much more exciting than any indoor rink could be. Also, skating on the cement floor was not quite so slippery as the indoor rinks are now.
I guess times changed and business must have dropped off at the outdoor rink, so they decided to do away with it, which saddened me very much as I wish my two children could have experienced the thrill of skating at Pearson Park’s Outdoor Roller Rink that I was able to experience.”
From LeRoy Hartsing – “Those were the days. A lot of good memories. I tried to be there every Sunday, mostly in the evening and then Tuesday night was ladies' night. That night you never wanted to miss. They had ladies' choice, moonlight skate, men’s races, ladies races and special dances,
There were a few who could skate to those special dances. I could skate backwards but not that good. Then the last skate was all reverse direction skate.
Even if it would rain that day we would get there early and help sweep the water off so the concrete would dry in time to open. Then they would let us in free for helping.