When it comes to pastimes, roller-skating is one of the few that has lasted the test of time.
Some remember being dropped off by parents to hang out with friends and school crushes, listening to great music under colorful lights. Today, skaters of the past are bringing their kids and grandkids, enjoying their local rink as a multigenerational family.
For locals of all ages, roller-skating is synonymous with Rollerama. The family owned and operated company, bought by the Kerwins in 1961, has been the go-to spot for residents for over 60 years. The original 34th Street location still sports the distinct lighted sign, welcoming riders onto its classic wood floors. Even Rollerama West, which opened 24 years ago, ushers in feelings of nostalgia for the younger folks – blacklights, skate park, party room and all.
Owners Kraig and Kathy Kerwin are second-generation owners and operators of the rinks, doing everything from selling tickets and renting out skates to organizing games like limbo and classic four corners.
Kraig explains that, for decades, Rollerama’s lighthearted, welcoming atmosphere has brought skaters of all ages and abilities to rise, fall and get up again.
“We’ve made a safe environment, a nurturing environment, that makes people want to come back,” Kraig said.
“We’ve been here for so long that when people see a familiar face, it’s comforting for people,” Kathy added. “We love getting to know our families.”
Kahana Gonzales brought her grandkids to learn to skate along with her two nieces and Gonzales’ sister, Valerie.
“I thought it would be a fun idea for the cousins to do together,” Kahana said. “It’s a family activity to get out of the house and get off their iPads and the TV.”
Kahana and her sister enjoy watching the young ones use Skate Mates, the rolling walker of PVC made especially to aid novice skaters.
“My kids are the ones on the ground right now,” Valerie laughed, “They’re beginners but they’re learning!”
And a family that skates together stays together.
“Once phones came out, kids didn’t have to be in the same place to hang out,” said skate instructor Dave Meade, who’s been on staff for over 19 years.
He’s watched the dip in skating’s popularity but also the comeback that it has made in recent years as parents learn the valuable lessons skating offers. More than exercise, skating teaches kids – and adults – resilience and flexibility.
“It’s one of the few things kids can do to have fun with their parents now, but teaching the parents to let go and let their kids make mistakes is the biggest challenge,” Meade said.
Tina Barrett has brought her two daughters to skate at Rollerama West for over a year, at their explicit request.
“We started lessons with Mr. Dave on Saturdays and now whenever we drive by they ask me to go skate,” she said. ￼