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One of A Kind

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Many of us go for a life time and never have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a Bob Bollinger. For many years, I kept hearing about this gentleman that operated the oldest continuously run skating rink in the U.S. I finally was introduced to Bob at one of the RSA conventions in the early eighties. The occasion was the cocktail party that kicks off the RSA convention each year. We had a pleasant chat and I was immediately struck with the quiet low key manner that was projected by this gentleman from Oregon. A newspaper article written about Bob in 1975 described him this way "Bollinger is a man with a tongue in cheek sense of humor, a crinkled smile, and the ability to make goodness interesting."

I did not have an opportunity to engage in another conversation with Mr. 'B' until I was seated on the RSA Board in 1988. I found out early on that this man was carried in very high regard by the rink operators that attend those board meetings. One evening after my first board meeting; several of us got together and we went to dinner, as is the custom at these meetings. My good fortune found me seated at the table that also included Mr. 'B' along with four or five others. To show you the impression he made on me - I can't recall any of the others that was seated at our table. He keep us entertained for two hours that evening.

One of the most intriguing "rink war stories" that Mr. 'B' told us about that night was how they solved the problem of flooding that occurred at the Oaks Park Skating Rink each year. They went in and replaced the floor and built it on pontoons made from barrels. Then they designed vertical guide tracks that kept the floor positioned. Now if the water becomes high enough to effect the skating floor - the pontoons take over and the floor floats straight up guided by the built in vertical track. As the water recedes the floor settles back in place. Thus, they are not faced with the major task of replacing the water damaged skating floor.

The Oaks Amusement Park and Skating Rink were built by the Oregon Water and Railway Co. just after the turn of the century (opened 1905). Bob's father (Edward Bollinger) worked for the Oregon Water and Railway as their head electrician. Mr. 'B' attended grade and high school in Portland, and went on to graduate from the University of Oregon. In 1925, his father bought the Operating Company of the Oaks Amusement Park. In 1943 he purchased the land. The operation has been under the direction of the Bollinger family ever since.

Bob's father passed away in 1949. At that time he and his wife Ruth took over the operation until her death in 1978. In 1985, Bob formed a private Non-Profit Corporation and donated all the Oaks assets to this corporation. This way he could insure that there would be an "OAKS" as long as the corporation shows a profit. He still serves on the Board of the Oaks Park Association. In the event that the corporation fails then everything will become the property of the City of Portland.

Mr. 'B', in growing up around the 'Oaks', always appeared to be as much at home around the rides and the operation of the amusement park as he was around the skating rink. He has always been active in both the Roller Skating Association (RSA formed in 1937 and Mr. 'B' has been a member since 1938) and the International Amusement Park Association (IAAPA).

He was first elected to the RSROA Board in 1950, he was elected again in 1963. In 1968 he served as president of the skating association. He was the setting President at the time the RSROA moved from Detroit, MI to Lincoln, NE (he has now seen the national office moved one more time from Lincoln, NE to Indianapolis, IN).

The RSROA honored his dedicated service by making him a life member in 1969. He was a founding member of the roller skating museum and continues to serve on that board. He has, for many years, been a driving force in the fund raising that is necessary to support the operation of the museum. He is also serving as the Chairman of the RSA nominating committee; this committee screens all the candidates for President and Vice-President of the RSA. After each candidate has been checked out, the committee will then recommend that association membership be suggested to slate of officers.

At the same time Mr. 'B' was, and is, doing all of the good things for the skating association, he was very busy with the amusement park. He has traveled pretty much all over the world taking part in the IAAPA conventions.

The amusement park also kept Mr. 'B' busy over the years; just like roller skating the amusement industry has witnessed many changes. The Oaks Amusement Park not only operated rides located in Portland but they also have had up to 100 rides circulating with traveling shows that were his responsibility. They owned fifty-seven diesel trucks that transported these rides from location to location. A second park was opened in Vancouver, Canada. This amusement park was sold in 1979. Mr. 'B' would check out all the new rides before they were opened to the public. His reason for that was - he wanted to make sure that each ride offered the proper level of excitement and safety for the park patrons.

We learned in researching this article that Mr. 'B' stays very busy, busy, busy. He is always chasing around helping, checking on his friends. This maybe just making sure they have enough wood for the winter or taking them to lunch and spending time with them. He travels to Seaside, OR and visits with two of Ruth's (his first wife) sisters a couple of times each month. He also travels to Pala Alto, CA and visits another sister and brother-in-law.

Bob is full of little surprises - last summer he remarried. I am told by his good friend and associate, Walker LeRoy, that the marriage is the best thing that could ever happened to Mr. 'B'.

Dale Pritchard and his wife, Jeanne, probably said it best. The two of them begin working with Mr. 'B' in 1938. He always made them feel as though they worked with him - not for him. "We tried other endeavors on several occasions but, always returned home to the 'OAKS' and Mr. 'B'."

Writer . . John Hunt
Skating News Magazine - February / March 1994
Editor / Publisher . Melvyn Wallace
Published By Rink Operators For Rink Operators
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Updated 09/29/2013