Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Mixed emotions at Skateland Roller Rink

Skateland Roller Rink (click picture to view gallery)

Skateland Roller Rink (click picture to view gallery)

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From page A2 | April 28, 2013 | 16 Comments

I both hated and loved going to the Skateland Roller Rink on North Texas Street as a teen. I hated telling the workers I wore size 13 skates and seeing them snicker under their breath.

I hated that Grange Intermediate School bused us there for PE class. Nowadays we’d have to sign a waiver and wear helmets, knee pads and shin guards. And that’d just be for the bus ride over.

I hated that I couldn’t skate. People who effortlessly navigated the oval mass of rolling humanity without constantly bumping into others, falling clumsily or grabbing the handrail and could do it in time to the blaring music, filled me with jealousy.

But . . . I loved “couples only.” Girls thought it was cute that a big guy was so clumsy and we’d go slowly around the rink hand-in-hand while Heatwave’s “Always and Forever” played and the disco ball sprinkled twinkling stars all over the rink.

I fell a lot and thankfully never broke anything, but locals Donna Day-Yarborough and Diana Svendsen weren’t so lucky. Donna broke her wrist and Diana broke her hand, each tripping over little boys who had fallen.

The late Wayne Purdy was the general manager for years before buying the place himself. He was a certified professional skater and brought professionalism to Fairfield. Competitors who won events would have their picture posted on a wall in all their finery.

Former resident Michelle McNeice Cummings was a “rink rat” whose whole family was involved in skating. Her mother, Estelle McNeice, was Purdy’s best friend and co-manager and Cummings’ grandparents were even the janitors there for a time.

One fond remembrance was the Gold Skate Classic.

“It was an annual weeklong competition held in Bakersfield with skaters from all over California,” Cummings said. “We performed huge themed production numbers which we’d practice in Fairfield as a show. The first one I remember was ‘Sesame Street.’ My sister was Ernie. We had music, costumes — the whole nine yards. It was like Ice Capades on skates.”

Gail King spent considerable time at Skateland in the late 1970s. While moves she learned in lessons were important, so was fashion and King rocked the requisite silk roller derby windbreaker set off by then-popular skin-tight Dittos jeans in a rainbow of colors.

Joe Joyce claims he and his friends “ruled” the rink from 1975 to 1979.

“Funny how we complain about our kids wasting all their time on video games today when we spent thousands of hours skating around in a circle on a small wooden floor,” Joyce said. “The best part of Skateland was the friends. I met my wife there. We dated until she graduated from Fairfield High and got married four days later. That was over 28 years ago! We have three children and two grandchildren.”

Cupid worked overtime at Skateland and many others have stories of meeting their spouses there, but Alan Thomas Hirschenhofer II has the most . . .  colorful. Some guys remember the place and year they met their wives. Hirschenhofer remembers the time.

“On Dec. 22, 1982, I saw this lady skating who looked dead-on like Pat Benatar,” he said. “At about 8:43 p.m., I saw a commotion by the snack bar. I had a look, and beheld my future bride beating the living hell out of some poor schmuck.”

Hirschenhofer stopped her right before she delivered the “coup de grâce” to the guy’s face and Wayne Purdy played couples only. While they skated together, Hirschenhofer told his pugilistic Pat Benatar lookalike, Jo Ann Stow, that she would marry him and give him four sons. She later did just that and they are still married today.

Love is a battlefield.

Other remembrances by locals:

Joyce Nagel Jackson: “l loved the Wurlitzer organ music!”

Bruce Gross: “I remember they raised  money for Jerry Lewis’s telethon and everyone would sit by the TV waiting for Wayne Purdy to come on and present a check.”

Barbara McFadden: “I always won one of the races and got free snack bar stuff!”

Purdy sold the rink in 2001. It is now the Trading Post, a used furniture store. I still can’t skate, but now unfortunately even those I was once jealous of can’t, either.

Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at getthelowdown@sbcglobal.net. Ideas for future columns about the past are most welcome. Check out the “I Grew Up in Fairfield Too” Facebook group for more nostalgia.

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade
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Discussion | 16 comments

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  • LilAugust 18, 2011 - 9:08 pm

    I LOVED going to the skating rink. A lot of fond memories. So much fun. Last time I went there, I was with my nephew's fifth grade class. They had a field trip there and I volunteered as a supervisor. Mr Purdy and I talked about the problems he was having with fights breaking out and how different the teenagers were nowadays. I always thought that place was an example of how bad Fairfield has become. When I was in junior high and high school, it was a safe place to go and afterwards wait out front for your parents to pick you up. Within 15 years of my graduating from high school, Purdy had to hire security guards to help stop the fights that included knives and guns. I really miss going to the skating rink. Where's the nearest one to Fairfield?

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  • SEAN MC NAUGHTONApril 24, 2013 - 11:23 pm

    JUST TO TAKE YOU ALL BACK ALITTLE FURTHER, THE ORIGINAL NAME OF THE ROLLER RINK WAS REDMANS ROLLER RINK OWNED BY EARL REDMAN, WITH FRANK AND DONNA IN BACK AT FAMILY BILLIARDS THOSE WERE THE DAYS..................

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  • Danny BuntinAugust 18, 2011 - 9:42 pm

    I loved that place in the late 70's! I won the speed skating competition several times, and the winnings where a free soda - I still remember.

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  • Tony WadeAugust 19, 2011 - 1:16 pm

    I remember hearing Queen's "We Will Rock You" for the first time ever when I was at the rink on one of the Grange PE trips in 1978 and with the roar of the skates and the beating and clapping of the song, I had no idea what was going on and was frightened until I heard Freddie Mercury sing.

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  • TimberyAugust 19, 2011 - 6:24 pm

    I remember the first time I went to Skateland, it was in the summer of 1984, I never would of thought that the place would have such a profound impact in my life. I met some of the best people there, friends that I have to this day. Wayne was nice enough to hire me on and it was one of the best jobs that I have had to date, no pressure, just plain old fun. I miss the days of skating, every Tuesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and of course Saturday night. It was a ritual for us. Things were so simple then, the memories of the place are so vivid, from spending New Years Eve there (before we were legal to do anything else) and the many other nights spent there. Thanks for writing this article, it has brightened my day!

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  • Tony WadeAugust 19, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    Timbery, thank you and glad I could add some sunshine! The last time I went there was about 1996 or so and only because my sister in law and neice wanted to go. I grumbled mightily but now wish I had savored it Thanks again!

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  • Sally CAugust 21, 2011 - 2:15 pm

    I grew up on skates, first skating at Pioneer Skateway & Ballroom in Suisun. Earned my first 'bar' in skate-dancing at 5 years old. Big John from Hayward bought the Suisun rink and we all soon not only skated there, but went to dances and rock concerts. I remember Wayne (& his ex-wife Cindy & Layne their son). I was in the first Gold Skate - Signs of the Zodiac . Grand fun. It is with fondness I look back at roller skating, skating in the parades, the competitions and friendships. I still have custom skates. It would be great to have another round.

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  • Steven ChastantSeptember 13, 2013 - 3:45 pm

    Great story on Skateland. Grew up there when the Redmans owned it, when Wayne had it. It was home for a lot of young people. Sally C long time no see. The 60's, 70's, and 80's learned a lot, met a lot of people. Loved that place. Steven Chastant

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  • LeeSeptember 04, 2011 - 9:23 pm

    Wow, Tony, thanks for the great write up about Skateland. I spent many years skating and taking dance lessons from Wayne. I have lost contact with most everyone that I hung out with and had no idea that Wayne had passed away. How long ago did he pass? The last time I was there was with my son's school for a field trip. I have many fond memories and also remember the fun times at Gold Skate in Bakersfield. Thanks again.

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  • Rechael GarciaMarch 01, 2013 - 1:57 pm

    Ohhh, I wast just lamenting the other day about Skateland. Now I find out they shut down in 2001? We used to have so much fun there. Racing backwards to Billie Jean, disco-ball and all.

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  • mary gunnApril 28, 2013 - 6:15 pm

    Oh my.....so long ago...so many memories....gosh i feel old now.....lol

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  • FredApril 28, 2013 - 8:12 pm

    Sorry, hated the place...Hated the fact that a lot of "dates" including one girl friend in particular insisted on going there...Hated the fact that when you fell it hurt like he11...Hated the fact that I fell a lot...Only good thing was that it was next to the Pool Hall & Pin Ball Machines...

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  • E. Sue Tallet (Paxton)November 07, 2013 - 5:03 pm

    That man meant a whole lot to me.

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  • JeanNovember 25, 2013 - 5:04 pm

    I loved going to the skating rink with my brother Joe Joyce and the other kids from our neighborhood. Joe was a great skater and faster than ever. He use to make me join the the "double races" and I was always scared that if we crashed we would be hurt pretty bad. Joe won allot of races and gave memories I will always cherish!

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  • Jim GranthamNovember 25, 2013 - 6:03 pm

    I share in your melancholy, as we recently lost the rink we enjoyed as kids in Costa Mesa,CA. Both I and my girlfriend of over 20 years spent time there as kids, though we did'nt meet till much later. I spent time there as an adult, as it remained "open" as a Tower Records for many years. It was a local landmark, there are a few of the "Quansit Hut" buildings (long semi-cylindrical roofs clad in corrugated galvanized metal sheets) surviving in the area. It was bulldozed a year or two ago and is now an empty lot. I wish it was still there, as ugly as that empty little building was, it made me smile everytime we drove by.

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  • Wynelle UlrichMarch 03, 2014 - 4:41 pm

    Tony, What about the Hokey-Pokey? Didn't you LOVE the "Hokey-Pokey Time"? It makes me sad that we have to drive so far to find a place to roller skate indoors. My daughter loves it as much as I did back then. Every time I remember Mr. Purdy, I see him with a smile. What a nice man! Of course I had a bit of an injury too. There was a boy in the second grade class next to mine that stuck his skate-covered foot out in front of me rounding the end corner, trying to get my attention, of course. Down I went and split my chin open on that beautiful wood floor. I ended up with 8 stitches. Worse though, was how bad I felt about the stain I left! LOL - Still have the scar. **Sending a link of your article to quadskating dot com ... I was looking for our old skate place on their closed-rinks page.

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