Can you name the old skating rink on West Main?

News-DemocratFebruary 17, 2014 

I grew up in east Belleville, but I had a wonderful time roller-skating at a rink on West Main Street near what's now Lindenwood University. Could you find out its name, where it was located, who owned it, and when it closed? Many a fun Saturday afternoon was spent there. -- G.J., of Belleville

You let the good times roll at Skateland, which was the skating mecca for young and old at 2301 W. Main St. for about a decade.

In 1957, Harlan and Margaret Dulaney began talking to the managers of the old Belleville/Sunset Skating Rink at 1915 South Belt West. Harlan was working on the railroad and Margaret was a nurse, but they were convinced that converting an old laundry on West Main across from Belleville Township High School into a skating rink was the thing to do.

So the parents of two small children installed a maple floor, hired a would-be competitive skater as a teacher and went into business. And thanks to baby-sitting help from friends at the attached laundry and the Westview Baptist Church next door, things went well.

"Skating was good, yes," Margaret told me once. "We had a good business. Fridays and Saturday always was booming. I never was sorry we did it."

Then, in the '60s, Harlan got the bright idea to build a new rink in the wilderness of what would become Fairview Heights. Margaret remembered her early trepidation.

"I remember sitting in my front yard crying because it was so pitch black out here and there was absolutely no traffic," she said. "I didn't think we would ever make ends meet."

But Skate-A-Rama, too, soon blossomed at 6100 N. Illinois St. Skateland closed in about 1967 while Skate-A-Rama rolled on until about 1985. Skateland eventually was razed to become the church and now university parking lot. In 1982, their son, Vernon, even opened a Skate-A-Rama at an old National supermarket in Cahokia to cash in on the short-lived roller disco craze.

My friends and I wondered what that big hole was that they dug along U.S. 50 in the former Kmart complex in Fairview Heights. One said he thought it is was a drainage ditch but they never needed one before, so what gives? -- Rex Shanks, of Troy

People living in Fairview Heights in the early 1960s never dreamed it would turn into the business megalopolis it is today. But its rapid growth brought a few headaches along with the increased population and revenue.

A big one was water. Rain that used to soak into lawns and farmland started to run off large expanses of asphalt and concrete parking lots, causing flooding problems.

When the original Venture store was built in 1969, developers didn't have to take extraordinary measures to control the runoffs. But in the years since, the city has passed measures to try to get a handle on the problem. As a result, now that they're redeveloping the center, they were required to add that "big hole" -- which is actually a detention pond for storm water.

"So the storm water is directed not only to that detention pond, but there's another smaller pond in front," said Mike Malloy, the city's director of economic development. "They catch the water and hold it for a period of time and slowly release it.

"When we have those 'frog stranglers' rainwise, they come in very handy because they really assist in not putting too much water in a pipe that can't handle it."

That particular pond is called a dry-basin detention pond because the water slowly filters into the storm sewers. Across the street at the Crossroads center is a wet-basin pond because it simply traps the water and holds onto it.

Today's trivia

Why would a men's gold medal at the Sochi Olympics put tiny Warroad, Minn. (population 1,781) in the hockey records book again?

Answer to Sunday's trivia:

Television arrived in Corina d'Ampezzo, Italy, in 1956, and the Winter Olympics would never be the same.

Already during TV's debut, the Games began tailoring events for the cameras. For example, the grandstand at the cross-country ski venue reportedly was built facing south so cameras would not have to shoot into the rising or setting sun.

Even the Cold Warriors fought a skirmish: Because of their superior technology at the time, Eastern bloc countries were thought to have won the media gold medal by broadcasting the competition with a pro-Communist point of view to Finland and even isolated areas of West Germany and Austria.

Still, television did not think to raise revenue from the Games until the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., when CBS bought the broadcast rights for -- get this -- $50,000. (A few months later, CBS would pay $550,000 for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.) And an official Olympic request to review CBS tape to see if a slalom skier had missed a gate in 1960 reportedly was a key factor in CBS' decision to introduce the instant replay, according to www.olympic.org.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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