LAKEWOOD — Roller skating is set to make a return locally as part of a collaboration between the Lakewood YMCA, Honest John’s and Jack Evans, son of the owner of the former Evans Skateland Roller Rink.
The first Family Night Roller Skating event is slated for May 7 from 6-9 pm at the 183 E. Fairmount Ave. ease.
Lakewood YMCA branch manager Tom Anderson said he got the idea from Crystal Rodreguez, a Lakewood YMCA employee. He said he brought the idea of skate nights to his attention, and he took the ball and ran with it — or more like rolled with it.
“This time, it’s not my idea,” Anderson said. “I started thinking about roller skating back in my youth. Back in the ’70s, there was Evan’s Skateland, there was Russell Roller Rink and Warren Roller Rink, there was Gold Star and there was one in Dunkirk. There used to be hundreds of people (at Evans). There are not many family events anymore.”
Anderson said he teamed up with Evans to learn the tricks of the trade.
“I called Jack and asked how many pairs of skates did you own, and he said 600,” he said. “I said we’re not doing that — we’ll get 60.”
Anderson purchased brand new skates in various sizes, black lights and a projector for the upcoming skate nights. While the inaugural event is the only one planned for the moment, he said he has hopes to hold a skate night every month. Anderson said he also plans to allow skating for the day camps and for birthday parties held at the facility. Skating will be held in the gymnasium at the Lakewood Y.
The idea behind the event is to get families out and active together in a fun way, Anderson said, but also to honor the legacy of Evan’s Skateland — located in Celoron and destroyed in an October 1976 fire.
Jack Evans was at the rink the night of the blaze.
“You weren’t allowed to smoke — and we had 300 kids there,” he said. “We had a coat room and there were hooks that were all the way around three high. There were 300 winter coats in there. There was a gate and you weren’t allowed to be in there. Somebody crawled underneath the gate and they were smoking. My dad walked toward the coatroom and this kid put the cigarette in a coat pocket. If there had been 300 adults in there, they’d be dead people because the kids were used to fire drills at school. They just started the microphone and said go to the back of the rink.”
Evans said he and his father attempted to put out the fire with fire extinguishers.
“It just made it go faster because it pushed oxygen to it — synthetics burn really fast,” he said. “I went to the back of the rink and I was helping people out the door and my dad was at the front of the rink helping people. We got the 300 kids out of there. What happened is the fire burned through the ceiling in the coat room. The rest of the ceiling was a drop ceiling, so it burned through.”
He added, “And there was dust on top of the ceiling. When dust gets rolling, it’s like gunpowder. So I’m at the end of the rink to see if everybody was out, and it exploded on the other end — the dust that was above the ceiling and the ceiling came down like a blanket. It came down and I could see it was rolling toward me.”
Evans said the pressure from the explosion blew him out the door and into the middle of the parking lot. At the same time, his dad was holding his 1-year-old daughter as he walked her out to safety. Before the fire, his daughter had been in a crib near the back of the rink.
“My wife handed the baby through the ticket window to my dad and he waited until she got out, then he walked out behind her,” he said. “He ended up burning the hair on the back of his head. That’s how close it was.”
Evans said the roller rink had antiques and memorabilia such as pictures of Lucille Ball and other roller skating-related items that were all lost in the fire. Evans said about two years later, Evans reopened in their new location, which was open for skating until the early 2000s.
Anderson had many fond memories of Evans Skateland, as many in the Jamestown area do, and he wants to honor that time and those memories while introducing new generations to roller skating.
“I want to honor those guys,” he said. “Also, I called the guys I bought the skates from and he said, ‘Skating is really coming back.’”
“My dad used to say, ‘When you start seeing skating advertised on TV, then skating is coming back,’” Evans said. “I’ve seen quite a few commercials with people skating.”
Anderson said they will have black lights at the event, a live DJ, concessions and will bring back some of the old skating games from Evans, such as four corners, the hokey pokey and the bird dance. He asks those interested in attending call ahead and register as there are a limited number of skates available. Tickets are $8 for members and $10 for non-members. Participants may also bring their own skates.
For more information or to register, call 716-763-0303 or stop into the Lakewood Welcome Center.