Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rollerworld: It's more fun for everyone

A shot of Skateland Arena in Genesee Township, which is still going strong, captures the feel of the late, great Rollerworld in Flint. (Photo by Scott Brauer/The Flint Journal)


UPDATE: I'm reposting this from Sept. 20, 2008 because a few readers have revived the Rollerworld discussion.

Here's the original post:

A reader mentioned Rollerworld in a comment recently, a Flint icon that I haven't thought of in years.

It was a skate rink located on Ballenger near Miller Road in a former Yankee's/Zody's store. My friend Jerry Gawne, who was always ahead of the curve on cool trends, introduced me to the place. (Jerry was pretty much the pop-culture arbiter among my circle of friends living on Bassett, Humbolt and Delmar in Civic Park. He established that Jaws was the greatest movie ever made; that DC Comics were an abomination compared to Marvel; that the Planet of the Apes movies were second only to Jaws; that the unlikely combination of Parliament and KISS was the epitome of musical taste; and, eventually, that girls were highly desirable.)

Jerry was friends with Justin Bates, a skater extraordinaire whose family owned Rollerworld and, I think, actually lived above it, which I thought was an amazing concept at the time. (This was a few decades ago, so don't quote me on any of this.)

I remember talking my older sister, Katie, into taking me to Rollerworld one night. She wasn't too thrilled but she relented because she was always kind-hearted. I promised we wouldn't stay long. I eventually lost track of her in the splashy lights of the disco ball. I discovered her a little later, executing a hilarious figure-skating move with a guy on each arm while she laughed hysterically. I was shocked!

Anyone else out there with Rollerworld stories?

37 comments:

  1. not being a roller skater i never set foot in the place....but a lot of kids from the neighborhood spent a lot of time there.

    i do remember one girl who lived about three blocks from the place actually got married there. the bride and groom both on roller skates. not sure about the minister, if he was on skates i guess he would be a holy roller.

    the outside had some type of lsd inspired sunrise...i think...i know for many kids it rocked for a number of years

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  2. I remember way back when it was a yankee's store, me and one of the neighborhood ragtags found an absolutely huge roll of bills-all large denominations, and a "magic key ring". me being me, wanted to keep them, but little dogood neighbore said we hadda turn it over to FPD. i shudda stuft the runt into the spinning wheel at clancey park. sure it was some burglar's wad and key-ring, but hellsbells, it beat the rusty pistol I showed up one day, finding it on miller rd. wasn't it one of the Sopko girls that got married there??

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  3. The memory that comes up for me is Color my World by Chicago. Oh, the knots I would feel when that song came on. It only meant one thing...couples skate.

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    1. Always a great song and time to get close with that special someone (Gary C.) 15 an in love. At 48 now time is lost and lives moved on. I hear from Justin and Garie Bates from time to time, they are my daughters god parents. gaire is still teaching school in GA. great memories!Debbie A

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  4. Whats next- views of the Million Dollar Mikatam?

    Ah, the teenage angst...

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  5. I never went to Rollerworld -- but I can remember their radio jingle...

    "Disco skating, roller skating, Rollerwold"

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  6. I can't hear Blondie or see Space Invaders without thinking of all those Saturdays afternoons spent there. I remember it being incredibly dark, except for the fractalized light from the disco ball spinning around the room and on the floor; it was not the easiest place to learn how to skate.

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  7. Never went to Rollerworld, but I definitely remember going to Skateworld. Lots of people going there in the sixties. Even went there during my senior year in high school.

    One thing I miss about my teenage years.

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  8. I seem to remember a roller palace somewhere near the Mikatam. Would that be Skateworld? What I remember clearly is Playland. Aaron S mentioned Space Invaders... I was an Invaders addict. Even today, if I see a version of Space Invaders that I don't already have, I will pick it up. I love that bomb noise... Ministry used it in the song Every Day Is Halloween.

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  9. Question:

    Where was Skateland Arena? Was that the skating arena on Dort Hwy in Mt. Morris near the old Cole's Furniture store? Or was it the skating arena on South Saginaw in the Burton/Grand Blanc area that was next to a bowling alley.

    I have skated at both of them (although my skating skills had me holding on to the rails and hoping that I got up enough momentum that I could glide over to the snack bar without falling flat on my butt).

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  10. Skateland was (and is) up on Dort Highway near Cole's (which is also still there), and Rollhaven was (and still is) on South Saginaw in Grand Burton.

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  11. Wasn’t there an old Roller rink on Davison Road called International?

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    1. I LIVED at International Skate! Every Friday & Saturday night. I would save my lunch money all week so I could go skating with my friends. We vowed we would never stop going skating....

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    2. I was a regular at International wearing my "outer space" pattern satin shirt and white painter paints.. uh... maybe I shouldn't have admitted to that? Eastsiders all went to International until it turned crazy and they started to have gun fights in the mid 80's.

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  12. Rollerworld, now those were the days... At barely 15 I spent a lot of time there on Friday nights thanks to my school friend Carla, who had a raging crush on Justin Bates and introduced me to the place. Where else could you skate to songs from AC/DC's "Back in Black" album and Aerosmith's "Walk this Way" one minute and Parliament-Funkadelic's "Flashlight" or Earth Wind and Fire's "September" the next?!

    But more than that, I will always associate that time and that place with those first experiences at meeting kids quite apart the rather sheltered world of home and school I was accustomed to. Talk about excitement, talk about trepidation! And all of those few hours on a Friday night free of the watchful eye of some authority figure. Except maybe for Justin's mother, who occasionally had to shoo hormone-driven couples locked in horizontal embraces out of the shelving units at the back of the place behind the lockers. Yes, the shelving units. No, I wasn't one of the shooed.

    But it was at Rollerworld that I met every parents' nightmare for their little-big girl: long hair, leather jacket, a couple of years older, drop-out, a penchant for drinking Jim Beam straight out of the bottle with no chaser and hanging out with a pack who did the same. Good God, what was I thinking? Wait, I know what I was thinking. Anyway, to this day when I see a bottle of that awful Kentucky corn, the smell of which makes every last nerve in my body shudder, my thoughts trail back to Rollerworld and some of those west side kids, including the one in the leather jacket, some of whom went on to do bigger and better things and some who didn't. One or two of them never even made it to 18, I heard, and at least one of them is now serving time for murder. She was violent back then, beating up on everyone - boys included - with her fists, her feet, her chain belt, you name it. Of quite the opposite nature, and to be honest rather frightened of her, I was an easy target for her once, my face the landing place for her fist all because of the one in the leather jacket. Needless to say that didn't go over well at home, and not too long after that rather shaky start at independence I quite fortunately found another channel for all that curiosity about other people.

    But when my mind occasionally wanders to that conflicted and, now I can safely say it, tender time, I really can still feel that excitement, maybe even moreso the trepidation, and I can see most of those kids just as clear as a bell still. And for at least a brief time Rollerworld was that initial venue.

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  13. I remember some of the lyrics to the jingle as

    "Rollerworld, Rollerworld, disco fun for everyone at Rollerworld, Rollerwoooooooooorld."

    I had my 10th birthday at a rink out by Flushing...Genessee Something. I want to say that we drove past Playland to get there.

    I highly recommend the movie Roll Bounce (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0403455/ )for all you Flintoids. It is a feel-good movie about rollerskating, set in Chicago in the 70s...it has an awesome soundtrack. It will definitely bring back the memories for you.

    Kathy W.

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  14. Yes I was a Roller World Rink Rat, as we were called. Weenhead, Spike and Penny,Dee Dee,Popcorn and many others. And yes Justin did live up stairs, I used to stay up there too, when I worked weekends.Only good memories.

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    1. "Rink Rats are #1"
      God, I wish I still had that custom made T-shirt.

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  15. i dont remember a wedding actually taking place i know Brenda Ackley was gonna get married on skates cuz i was supposed to be in their wedding i used to ride on that double decker bus and pass out coupons and flyers Robbie Morris and I used to win coupons to go to dinner and horse back riding and all kind of fun stuff doin the bump skate...lol Those were the good ole days anybody remember Marty Mastenbrook or Jim Kravitz ,Gyro Counterman,Robin and Robby Morris,Brenda Miller,Me Velvet Campbell write back meemee6x@yahoo.com....love to hear from old friendswhat about Tabbatha ?hope to hear from someone

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  16. Spent many nights up there 78-81 and actually worked there 79-80. Worked with Mike Copeland, Jim Kravetz, Roxanne Delgado, Barb, Dave F, and have often wondered what ever happened to the rinkrats, and Mary Riley, Jackie Perri and a bunch of others. I remember those orange carpet covered mushrooms, the all night skates, that floor they put down that was ruined because it didn't dry properly. I still keep in touch with Mike and Jim, lost touch with everybody else though. Still drive through and visit that area whenever I'm back in Flint. Lots of great memories...

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    1. Hey Rich its Debbie Allbee, remeber the time we all drove up to Traverse City for a skate meet got there in the middle of the night slept in Jims Bronco I think, did terible at the meet but had a great time with good frineds!

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  17. My name is Michael Copeland, My brother Matt and I used to be at rollerworld everyday, 7 days a week. We were truly rink rats from 1976-1980. Those were the best years of my life, skating with great friends and my brother that passed away in 1985. I also worked at rollerworld as a floor guard and skate rental and D.J. I still keep in contact with one of my best friends from rollerworld Richie Sprung.I would love to reconnect with old friends from rollerworld. Rollerworld is gone from Flint, but it will live on in my mind forever. P.S. no chewing gum, no fast skating or it's the penalty box L.O.L. All Skate!

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    1. just posted a few pictures on my faceboook or the rink and those crazy orange jump suits, I llok at them now and the guys look like prisoners. Thank good us girls didnt have to wear them.

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    2. Hey Debbie, I do remember that trip. Mike and Jackie went as well. I can't find you on Facebook though.

      Rich

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    3. Rich its Deborah Allbee Beasley on face book

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  18. its nice to hear about all the rollerworld family. I gave up skating a long time ago. I also worked at the rink as well as my mom. I stopped skating when I got pregnant but kept helping Gary with lessons long after my daughter was born. Garie and Justin and Chris and her mom Marie attended my sons wedding back in 2002. Rollerworld was certainly a place to grow up fast. I remember skating with Gary Campbell for hours. I made Jackie Perrys wedding dress. I have not heard from anyone except the Bates in all these years. Well, please connect if you would like. Rich did you not have a fast car back then? debbie allbee mrsbeasleync@verizon.net

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  19. hi am mike copeland me and my brother matt skated at rollerworld,and i work there for about three years,the memories and the fun are still in my mind like it was yesterday.we skated there every day, especially on the weekends when we could hook up with our friends. there was something about friday and saturday that was magical. I still remember alot of names, jim kravitz,reuben, richie,re-run,popcorn,bill and lee towers,dave fedulum- he had the fast car, not richie. and I remember you debbie- many others. even though my brother matt has passed away I still have dreams of us skating and all the fun we had at roller world.. disco fun for everyone at rollerworld. those days may be gone but the memorie will always live forever! so once again I would like to say it's all skate, no fast skating no gum chewing or you will go to the penalty box.

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  20. Rollerhaven, IRMC, was next to Southland Lanes bowling alley on South Dort...also, there was once something called the Bow and Cue in the area...strange combo of pool hall and archery range, I think it bacame a Pier One.

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  21. I've been to a few fishing/archery combos, but never a pool hall/archery range. Too bad it didn't survive.

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  22. Oh, this post brings back such fond memories of Rollhaven! Ok, so it technically wasn't in Flint, but close enough. Shoot the Duck, the numbers game, couples skate. Good times...

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    1. Rollhaven in the early 80's....Saturdays were awesome. Scott Laforest would always take his skates off and tear up the center floor dancing for the ladies!! hilarious times.

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  23. Rollerhaven is still there on Saginaw, next to Southland Lanes, a big church, and Grand Blanc township gov't. offices.

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  24. I use to be a Floorguard at ROLLERWORLD.. one of my very 1st jobs..before getting hired by the SHOP (and laided-off)

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  25. I remember when Rollerworld opened. I was one of the Westside kids who hung out there. Lots of memories!

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  26. I used to love to go Roller skating at Rollerworld on Saturday morning/afternoons and at International on Davidson road. I remember Rollerworld having skating for "a Penny a Pound." Back then I could skate for under $1. Now it would cost me more than two dollars if they still had penny a pound!

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  27. I to worked at Rollerworld. My name is Fred best time of my life. I drove a 67 chevell with side pipes. worked there 1975 to 1977. Paul was the boss back then. The towner brothers Lee and Red were the bouncers and I helped them more then once. I worked with Jim K and pop corn. Hung out with Paul Wright and Heather. Joine the Marines in 1977 and just could not bring myself to go back till last year. How sad!!! I loved Filnt and Rollerworld.
    My E-mail is fred.crane@ky.gov fell free to drop a line.

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  28. Does anybody remember REO Speedwagon playing a mini concert at Rollerworld back in 79? or 80? I think it was sponsored by WTAC or WWCK and a portion of it was on TV.

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