Roller Rinks

Skating has a rich tradition on Long Island, and enjoyed a surge of popularity in the 70s. Back then, there was a plethora of roller rinks to lace up a pair of skates and travel in a circle with your friends for a few hours. Sadly, those places are few and far between today. Let’s take a look back at some of the more memorable places to skate during the decade.

Numerous roller rinks once dotted the Long Island landscape, but by the end of the 50s, interest in the activity waned and the future didn’t look too bright for this once popular activity. And then, disco saved the day. Roller disco which has its roots in NYC, spread to the island like wildfire.

 

Soon after, traditional roller rinks were doing away with the organ music in favor of big sound systems and DJs that played the current hits. Soon, much of the island’s youth were taking to the rinks on the weekends, during summer vacation, and as a part of countless school field trips.

They traveled to places like Levittown, Commack and Bay Shore, and skated on the beautifully-polished hardwood floors of these grand arenas, or at least tried. Those not so blessed with a sense of balance spent much of the time gripping onto the side rails, and hoping they could make it through the experience without taking a spectacular fall in front of all their friends.

There were usually video games and snack bars and places to just hang out and talk, so even if you weren’t inclined to break any speed records, there were still plenty of opportunities to socialize.

 

For others, the rink was the place to show off your formidable skating skills, either to the accompaniment of traditional organ music, or to the groovy dance hits of the day. Thanks to the rise of roller disco, a spinning mirrored disco ball and strobe lights became a staple at rinks around the island, making roller rinks the raves of their day.

The roller disco era would peak in the late 70s, but by the time the 80s were in full swing, disco was on the way out and so were too many of these wonderful rinks. The one in Levittown, which opened in the 40s, closed its doors in 1986. Commack’s rink closed in 1995. The rink in Bayshore(where yours truly spent considerable time in the late 70s) lasted until 2001. The building, in horrible shape, was mercifully torn down a few years later.

Thankfully, there are still a handful of places to lace up those skates for anyone feeling nostalgic. It’s a far cry from the glory days of Long Island’s rich skating history, but at least the tradition hasn’t disappeared entirely and is being kept alive for future generations. But they’ll never know what it was like during the 70s, when the local roller rink was the place to be.

So, what roller rinks did you skate at back in the day? I hope you’ll take a moment to share all those roller skating recollections with all of us in our comments section below.

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26 Responses

  1. Michael Canny says:

    Cant forget the Biggest Roller Rink that had opened in Centereach about 1974 or 75. The floor was a smooth flat Concreate with a polyurethane finish. It was located on Middle Country Rd and Nichols Highway. It was a lot bigger skating Area and also the Sound System was very loud.

    • Diane Cantley says:

      YES!!!!! Your Right, I was there just about every Friday and Saturday night. Every time I hear that Journey or REO Speedwagon song I think back when I used to hang out at USA Roller rink. Good Times.!

  2. Anonymous says:

    goodskates

  3. Tammie McKee (Earlywine-DeCanio) says:

    I remember skating there in bayshore father would drop me off and pick me up. I was a total rink rat

  4. slyfox says:

    We went to Wallcliff roller rink and pool in Elmont, Just down the road from Great Eastern Mills

    • Anonymous says:

      Walcliff was the best place to hang out in the early 70s. We used to walk there every Friday and Saturday night and always left with a girl. We’d stop for pizza once we got to Hempstead Tpke.

    • steve says:

      My parents skated there in the 30s and 40s. I skated there in the fifties and sixties. My daughter skated there in the 70s.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Had one birthday party at Hot Skates in Lynbrook and another at Top Roller in Oceanside (was in the TSS shopping center…).

  6. Sherry tavella says:

    Loved laces roller rink in New hyde park.Best times ever

  7. Joey "Binky" says:

    When I was a kid in Brooklyn, I used to go to United Skates of America on the corner of 60th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway. What beautiful memories of such a great place for a kid to skate that was as close to an adult nightclub / Disco. Such a shame they closed down. Then in the mid 1990’s I was the DJ at the Bayshore Roller rink on Sunrise Highway in Bayshore New york. More fun times but a bad class of people were going there and I remember there were many fights in the parking lot. When I got the job there, the owner really liked the demo cassette I made of my dj skills but insisted that I NOT play any rap or hip hop of any kind to prevent a bad element of people from showing up, still they were already there, as I witnessed many fights in the parking lot and my car was damaged due to that. Fun days though. I wish there were still skating rinks that focused on the fact that a skating rink should be a nightclub on wheels as the music playing today in rinks I attend is just awful and they use Itunes to play music. I ask if they need a real dj and they tell me they use itunes. You can’t mix with itunes. Sad skating days now.

  8. Linda Kay says:

    My parents skated in the late ’30’s and early ’40’s. I have some memorabilia from the Mineola Skating Rink, the Wal-Cliffe Rink, the Gay Blades Rink on 52nd St., the Seven-Eleven Rollers, The Rockaway Roller Rink, the Vic Brown rinks in NJ, the Rollerdrome in Culver City, Ca. If anyone would like these items, I’d be happy to send them to you. Please let me know your name and address, and I’ll mail them right out. Hate to waste items that others may want. Thanks. Linda Kay

  9. Jason says:

    Commack Roller Rink, the best times of my life as a teenager. Skated every weekend from 1987-1993ish with the best speed skates money could buy. Made a lot of great, great friends. In fact, just wished a fellow rink rat friend a Happy Mother’s Day today as we’ve remained friends for over 26 years now even though we both live in different states today.

    Those Were the days! Until Reflex opened in Commack, remember that? Right about now I wish I had a time machine!

  10. Gayle says:

    Anyone remember the rink at Jones Beach? You had to wear special wooden wheel skates and it was outdoors? I used to LOVE that rink!

    • Charlotte Haberman says:

      I skated at the Jones Beach rink.. occasionally my 46 year old father would put on a pair of skates and show us. . He still had his skating skills. I also skated at Wallcliffe in the winter

    • Diane Friel says:

      I was a little girl ( many years ago ) We lived in the City and for a treat we would some times ride out to Jones Beach and go roller skating. Everyone Aunts , Uncles , cousins. We all had such a good time. Then we would walk along the boardwalk and get an ice cream. What beautiful Summer nights and memories .

  11. Lisa O. says:

    Levittown Roller Rink was not around in the 40’s. It opened in the mid-to-late 50’s. I lived nearby and was happy not to have to travel to Mineola any longer

  12. April B. says:

    I was at Commack Roller Rink almost every Friday and Saturday night in the early 80s, when I was about 12 years old. It was awesome! Wish I could find more sites like yours. Very little information available about Commack Roller Rink or the Flea Market from back in the day. As someone already said, wish I could time travel back to 1983 at the Roller Rink in Commack. Had a couple of friends, but don’t remember last names.

  13. Lee says:

    There was also a rink in Syosset called “Skate Factory” (I think) on the east side of Underhill Blvd just north of Jericho Tpke.

  14. James Larry Nash says:

    Does anyone remember Big Wheels in Riverhead on Rt. 58? My entire graduating class is having a pissing match on when it opened (what year)…anyone know where I could find this info?

  15. karl says:

    does anybody remember the rink in center reach and the awesome skate sessions there i have many roots going back to bayshore roller rink and use too artistic skate in compete for trophies i will never forget the sunday morning skate club every weekend and i would stay for the skate session in the afternoon at bay shore roller rink i always loved the rink guards and scott and his son scotty jr was a rink guard and also use to play the music as the music guy for some sessions i also remember the commack rink with the epoxy floor so many great memories of rinks and moments over the years if theres anybody that use to attend the artistic skate club on sunday mornings would love to connect online

    • Flip says:

      The Centereach rink was called “GoodSkates” and the one on Sunrise Hwy in Bayshore was USA “United Skates of America”. I skated at GoodSkates every Sunday for years. On of the regulars there was Bill Butler who was the skating coordinator for the movie “Roll, Bounce”.

  16. Joan Johnson says:

    Wallcliff Skating Rink in Elmont, NY was a great place for families. We need more fun places.

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