Roller skating brings back a lot of memories for many people – carefree days of youth, hanging out with friends and skating at break-neck speeds, with blaring music pulsating in the background. Rollerworld, Rollhaven, Skateland and the school gym, are just a few of the venues that hold special places in the hearts of Genesee County skating fans. Some Rollerworld fans, Flint Expatriates and My City Magazine readers share a few of their favorite memories.
Disco Fun for Everyone at Rollerworld
Mike Copeland cherishes his memories of skating at Rollerworld so much, he started a Facebook page “Rollerworld Memory Page.” “I wanted to reconnect with people from those days and have them share their memories,” he says. Owned by Gary Bates, Rollerworld was a disco roller skating rink that was located on Ballenger Highway, south of Miller Road. It closed down in the ‘80s. And, according to Copeland, it was jam-packed with kids from all over Genesee County in its heyday. He started skating there when he was 14 years old and it was a weekend hangout for him and his friends. “I was dealing with some very hard, personal things at the time,” he remembers,” and skating took me to another world.”
In the 70s, the disco beat ruled the music scene, and wildly popular was the music of the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Sly & the Family Stone (“We are Family”), Chicago, and KC and The Sunshine Band, to name just a few. “Those were the best years of my life,” Copeland remembers. He also worked at Rollerworld as a floor guard, skate rental clerk and as a deejay. “I still keep in contact with one of my best friends from Rollerworld, Richie Sprung. Rollerworld is gone from Flint, but it will live on in my mind forever.”
Another Rollerworld fan, Peggy Kohn, met her husband at the skating rink and they were married for 18 years before he passed away in 2013. “I was a Rink Rat,” she admits. She also remembers having to use a punch card to get in and hanging out with all her friends. “We would roller skate from Northern High School to Rollerworld, Kohn says. “It felt like a family. We hated to go home. It was one of the best times of my life.” Last summer, a reunion of the Rollerworld Rink Rats was held at Flushing Park and attended by about 40 people.
Over the past several years, many memories of Rollerworld have been posted by Flint Expatriates on a blog created by Gordon Young, author of the book Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City.
“I can’t hear Blondie or see Space Invaders without thinking of all those Saturday afternoons spent there. I remember it being incredibly dark, except for the light from the disco ball spinning around the room and on the floor; it was not the easiest place to learn how to skate.”
“Yes, I was a Rollerworld Rink Rat, as we were called: Weenhead, Spike and Penny, Dee Dee, Popcorn and many others. Only good memories.”
“I actually worked there 1979-1980 with Mike Copeland, Jim Kravetz, Roxanne Delgado, Barb, Dave F. and have often wondered whatever happened to the Rink Rats, 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.”
“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.”
“Freeman Elementary school gym was the place to go roller skating every Friday after school. Popcorn for 50 cents and then off to the gym to go roller skating, while my Little League baseball coach would DJ by cassette tape all the ‘90s jams.”
“My mom taught me how to skate at Skateland. I busted my butt several times on that rink. My first date was there where I busted my butt about five more times, but merited a kiss. I had my 10th and 12th birthday parties there. It holds some of my fondest, funniest and most embarrassing memories.”
Artrice Chandelier Bolden
“I remember skating at Fairview Elementary School and the Roller Bowl.”
“Cody Elementary School gym, and, of course Rollhaven was my hangout.”
“Going skating with my friend, Pat McNew, and her mom and aunts.”
Barbara Grant Boike
“Neithercut School gym.”
“Pierson school gym.”
Dorie Barkey ◆