How old do you feel?

Third Generation of skatersJohn Niewoehner went to Chester Skating Rink when he was a boy. Now he takes his own kids, Rose and Chase. Read one of John’s mother Elaine’s memories in the accompanying story. (Photo submitted)

Third Generation of skaters
John Niewoehner went to Chester Skating Rink when he was a boy. Now he takes his own kids, Rose and Chase. Read one of John’s mother Elaine’s memories in the accompanying story. (Photo submitted)

By Marcie Klomp

Mention Chester Skating Rink and people get a twinkle in their eye, remembering all the fun they had on Friday nights.

After 40 years, it is still a place to meet new friends as kids come from LeRoy and Riceville, as well as Chester and Lime Springs. Some of those “new” kids were the first ones to go “steady” with.

Dawn Fairbanks remembers, “When we got out of school, you’d do as many chores as you could so you’d be allowed to go skating. Then we’d try to get in touch with Randy or Rhonda Lloyd about getting a ride.

“I remember loading about a million kids into Dick Lloyd’s pickup truck that had a camper top. He’d stop, and we’d all pile out to go skating.”

Some folks may think that skating is just going round and round in a circle. Well, it’s much more than that! There are special “skates” or activities. One that is special to Fairbanks was trio skating. “One boy would take two girls and they would fly off! Or, there were two boys and one girl. The boys got on either side, and they tried to stretch you. Those were the days when the skating rink was packed!”

Elaine Niewoehner also recalls trio skating, but not with the same fondness as Fairbanks. She said, “The kids [Ray and John] went skating every Friday night—no matter what. One Friday, Craig was gone hunting, so I went skating with the boys. It was a trio skate. Ray whipped John around, and I fell. All three of us ended up on the floor. Jeff Wendel had to take me to the hospital, so I could get seven stitches in my chin! I even remember that it cost $140.”

The “Trio Skate” was mentioned a couple times already. It is no longer allowed as part of the special skates because of it being dangerous! Other skate activities that have been held over the years include:

• Limbo for 11 and under. Jumping over the stick and you’re out!

• “Snowball,” where two people start in the middle and are told to each pick up another skater, making it four and then eight and so on.

• Four corners where the dice are rolled to take out a corner. Last one standing gets 50¢.

• All boys

• All girls

• Eleven and under

• Eleven and up

• Opposite direction

• Backwards

• Couples

There are a lot more memories in an accompanying story.

Although the title of this article says the Chester Skating Rink is 40 years old, skating in Chester is much older. Besides skating on the sidewalks in town, there was rollerskating in the Community Hall, which is currently German Heritage Furniture. The Hall was remodeled and open for dances, ball games, movies, parties and rollerskating in 1930.

Ellen Klomp recalls the floor being very small and very round.

Tom Alberts commented on Facebook, “I remember skating in the old brick building and on Highway 63, very hard on the skates. I’m happy kids are still skating in Chester, but stay in the rink!”

Kerry Scheevel agreed they were “wild times!”

It was a sad day in Chester when the Community Hall was purchased as a retail store in 1967. And there ended skating in Chester . . . or did it?

The old school was torn down around 1970, but the gym was saved to be used as a community center.

The Community Center Board and Chester Senior Citizens worked hard at remodeling and updating the building. The floor of the gym was perfect for skating.

That’s when Ron and Donna Bergan of LeRoy come into the picture. They opened the rink with help from their children. Son Kim of Grinnell, Iowa recalls before moving to LeRoy in the summer of 1969, his parents owned a roller rink in Lewiston, Minn. He started skating at age five. He recalls his dad was a great skater.

“When we got started, the building had been sitting empty for a while. There were some maintenance issues.”

For a while, in addition to Chester, the family also ran a rink in Colwell, Iowa after its school was torn down and the gym was sitting empty. They purchased additional skates and ran the rinks on different nights.

Kim said, “Dad always made things fun. They played numerous games through the night.” He was glad to hear those games have continued to this day.

The rink started out with 200 skates, the maple floor and a snack room. It’s pretty much the same 40 years later.

After their help left (their kids graduated and went their own ways) Ron and Donna gave up the rinks.

In 1986 the next generation stepped up. Randy Cray, Bob Ullom, Jane Ullom, Kevin Scheevel and John Heisler got skating going again for their kids. A roller rink in Theilman, Minn. went out of business and the group purchased skates and everything for $5,000 . . . including the disco ball!

Those new to Chester skating are probably wondering where that ball came from. Cray had the answer to that. “The mirrored ball was in the middle of the ceiling with no way of getting it down. Bob and I held the ladder while Kevin climbed up and took the ball down.” Now that is the definition of trust!

Those skates were replaced in 2010 and 2012 with new shoes thanks to grants, explained current manager Pam Wendel.

There isn’t going to be any big celebration, but on Friday night, admission is only $3.00, more prizes than usual will be given, and the crew will be playing 70s music in recognition of big 4-0!

Chester Skating Rink is open fall-spring on Friday nights from 7:00-10:00 p.m.

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2 Responses

  1. Its wonderful to know the roller skating rink is still up and running,
    I have some wonderful memories skating there. My grandpa use to
    take my 2 brothers and I there sometimes on Friday nights we would have a blast, so nice to know there is still a place like this for to kids to go
    and have fun!!

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