Wadena Roller Rink has been open 60 years
Don and Dee Schwartz are celebrating a special anniversary this year. The owners of the Wadena Roller Rink have been open for business for 60 years.
Don and Dee's four kids, 12 grandkids and even some of their 14 great-grandkids have glided around their maple floor along with several generations of local skaters.
Located on Highway 71 north of Wadena, the 44x120 foot wooden building was built in 1954 by Don and his brother, Bob.
The rink floor is made of No. 2 maple and is anchored it on top of concrete stringers.
"You could drive a truck on that floor," Don said.
The idea of building a rink was one they borrowed from a man who had a tent set up in Wadena during the summer for roller-skating.
"It looked like a good money-making proposition," Don said.
The first year the Schwartz brothers had their roller rink saw the tent rink fold up and leave town.
When Uncle Sam called Bob for military service Don and Dee bought his share of the business.
Roller-skating was very popular back in the 50s and 60s. Organ music filled the rink and roller skating couples would carry on a kind of dance. Roller skating owes some of its popularity to the fact it is a good place to meet and have fun. It is also a place for memories.
"There are many couples that have met out here and some of them are still couples," Dee laughed.
Dee remembers nights when 200 skaters would fill the rink and they would circle in two directions to keep a steady flow of traffic.
While the crowds have waned and the average age of skaters has dropped, the rink is still open on Friday nights from September through May. Don and Dee also open their rink for private parties on the weekends.
"This spring was just unbelievable," Don said.
A good whistle and some rules has kept the roller rink open through the years. When the legal age for drinking alcohol dropped to 18 in Minnesota the rink closed for a time because liquor was being brought to the rink where it could find its way into the hands of younger skaters. It was re-opened on a promise by skaters to follow rink rules.
"We just told the kids 'you've got to control this' and they did," Dee said.
Dee said most roller skaters are not out to cause trouble. They usually understand when they are told to sit on a bench because they have broken the rules. Those who do not want to obey the rules are told to leave.
"I've had teachers sit out here and ask me how I am able to do it and I tell them 'because I have something they want,'" Dee grinned.