U.S.A.R.S.A. REUNION - MAY 13, 2005 turn on volume
Gliding to the music of memory
Skaters’ reunion takes place in Woodbridge, N.J.
Published in the Home News Tribune 05/19/05
WOODBRIDGE – Tears came to Audrey Cull’s eyes when she caught sight of the display that featured memorabilia from her years as an amateur skater and professional trainer with the Skating Club of Boulevard in Bayonne, N.J.
“I never expected to see this,” said the Warminster, Pa., resident. “It certainly brings back a lot of memories.”
Cull was among the 200 skaters, coaches, judges and friends from around the country who attended the United States Amateur Roller Skating Association’s (U.S.A.R.S.A.) reunion. The event, held Friday, May 13, 2005 at the United Skates of America roller rink in the Woodbridge Community Center, featured amateur and professional skaters from the early 1942 to the early 1970s. A banquet dinner was held later that evening at the Hampton Inn.
The skating association was formed in 1942, said reunion organizer Jim Kohl.
It was made up of roller-skating rink clubs from around the country, including clubs based out of South Amboy Roller Rink and Kendall Park Roller Rink, said the Mansfield Township, Burlington County, resident.
Kohl said that in the early 1970s the association merged with the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association to form the USA Roller Sports. A group of skaters who were unhappy with the merger formed the National Amateur Roller Skating Association, which holds its nationals in June each year at the Kendall Park Roller Rink, he said.
“U.S.A.R.S.A. had some of the strongest competitive skaters around,” said Kohl. “They competed in interclub meets, state championships and the nationals. Skaters also competed in the annual America On Wheels championships. The best skaters also competed in the Pan American games and World Championships.
Cull was one of those skaters.
“When I was about 8 years old, a girl on my block wanted to play with my rubber doll and I wanted to try her roller skates,” said the 72-year-old. “I borrowed her skates for the weekend and she borrowed my doll. Even though it rained, I skated the entire weekend.”
Cull was an amateur for five years, in 1950, she was a state gold medalist in junior ladies’ singles and she and her partner, Harold Hunt took the gold in senior dance in states and a bronze in the nationals.
By the time Cull met her husband, Jude a four-time national gold medalist in senior mixed pairs and a gold medalist in senior men’s singles in the 1951 National Championships, they were both accomplished skaters in their respective fields.
“I’d always admired him from afar,” she said.
After the pair became an item, Audrey Cull changed dance partners and coached Jude in dance.
Leafing through a book of skating pictures, Karen Sleeman Gibson of Pt. Pleasant Beach and her mother, Arlene Sleeman, admitted they do remember the faces but not all the names.
“We grew up at the rinks,” said Gibson who comes from a family of skaters. “My dad raced for Bayonne. I started skating when I was about 5. A lot of families skated back then. Everyone skated almost every event. If there was a boy and he was around your age he was your partner.”
Gibson, 43, said she skated as an amateur from 1966 to 1978 and toured from 1979 to 1984. After turning professional, she spent most of her time teaching at South Amboy Roller Rink.
“I competed in the nationals almost every year,” she said. “We traveled to Chicago, Cleveland, Texas and New York. It was a lot of fun. The thing I miss most is the exercise and the comradery of the skaters. The rink was our home away from home. We were an extended family.
Frank Henrich, 70, of Vermont, and Ruth Henrich Schauer, 68, of Alabama, also grew up in the rinks.
The brother-and-sister team was well known in the skating circuit.
“Our sister, June Bickmeyer, got the ball rolling,” said Schauer. “She started skating first and as long as one was going, all three of us went. Skating was our whole life. We skated before school. By 1 p.m. we would be back in the rink again. We skated seven days a week. All our social activities centered on the rink.
Record producer Ed Chalpin also was a national competitor.
Chalpin, who started skating when he was about 7, attributes his success in the recording business to his involvement in skating.
“Getting involved in skating was probably the best thing that happened to me,” he said. “It launched my career.”
Chalpin, who has produced such artists as Chubby Checker, Jim Hendrix and Public Enemy, said his record-producing career got a jump-start when he went to have a record cut for a routine and landed a job.
“Roller skating was my love and the rink was my first home,” he said. “Ice and roller skating are the best forms of entertainment and exercise.
Kicking up their heels to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Joe and Mary DeLuca glided around the skating floor at Woodbridge Community Center.
The couple’s paths crossed in the skating rinks during the 1950s. She was only 6 and he was 19. Mary’s father was a skater and she was just beginning her career. Joe also was a skater. Years later, they met at the Laurel Skating Center in Laurel, Md., and married.
“I came from a family of skaters,” said 58-year-old Mary of Taneytown, Md. “There was nothing like it back then.”