View All Posts

Dec 29

Roller Boogie! - Part 2

Posted on December 29, 2015 at 6:39 PM by Ken Kocher

Last week we learned about early twentieth century Madison skating rinks: read Part I here.

Despite young Betty Robb Peacock’s plea in 1937 for a recreational park with a skating rink, it would be another twenty years before Madison’s kids had a skating rink, albeit a temporary one. July 1957 saw the Big Top Roller Skating Rink open in Madison next to big top skating rink adthe Freez-Ette. Under a huge open-sided tent with a 6000 square foot skating floor, it was dubbed the biggest portable skating rink in the world. The rink was owned by Mr. and Mrs. James Sams and was under the local management of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Ainslie. The operation included a floor manager, two skating instructors, and a skate room boy.

Mr. Sams emphasized that close supervision would be “maintained at all times assuring a healthful recreational spot for all the people of the area.” Everyone seemed to join in the fun including “three of Madison’s most winsome matrons, Mesdames Buster Friedman, Olin Everitt, and Gene Trabor.” And if you were under 12 and skated the Saturday morning session, you got a free treat at the Freez-ette! Sadly, with the arrival of autumn, the rink came down and left town.

tented skating rink


The Youth Committee of the Madison Rotary Club, in 1979, suggested the need for a recreation complex. The Rotarians contacted a Mr. Crabbs of Dublin to discuss the possibility of bringing such a complex to Madison. They envisioned the complex consisting of a theater, a bowling alley, and a skating rink. Everyone in Morgan County was encouraged to circulate petitions, write letters, and organize groups to get Mr. Crabbs to undertake this endeavor. Evidently, the economics of such and enterprise were untenable for this Holy Grail of fun never materialized. 

However, the skating desires of Madisonians did not go unheeded. The very next year Charles Bone and Ed Sellers converted the Lions Club building in to a skating rink “complete with disco lighting, a DJ, game room, and concession stand.” Like the skating rinks from earlier in the hot wheels skatingcentury, Hot Wheels Skating Rink, hosted parties and fundraisers. Folks “rolled in the New Year” and held a Super Skate-a-thon to benefit the Mental Health Association (Noel Hawk was the grand prize winner of a stereo!). By 1982 the building began to transition to use as a flea market.

Since then, the newspaper has printed several “man on the street” comments and letters to the editor suggesting the need for a rink. Skating rinks seem to pop-up in Madison every 25-50 years. We’re at 33 years. We’re about due.

Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Historic Preservation Commission and written by Ken Kocher, HPC staff. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.



You must log in before leaving your comment