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Admirer's to Celebrate . . .

Giving credit or paying tribute to someone who has been a major part of any industry is an overwhelming task. In the roller skating industry, Bob Bollinger of The Oaks in Portland, Ore., is our living legend. His love of, and dedication to, the roller skating industry is enough of a reason to celebrate. However, even more mind blowing is the fact that he has been at it so many years. Bob's 90th birthday certainly warrants a celebration of an enormous proportion, and such will be the case on September 19, 1999 from 12 pm until 5 pm at the Oaks. The party will be in the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion.

The Oaks Roller Skating Rink opened in 1905. Born in 1909, Bollinger was roller skating "as soon as I could stand," he says. "Roller skating has been my life! I grew up at The Oaks and have enjoyed being a part of this great industry."

In the beginning years, skating was a dress affair just like going to church, Bollinger remembers. The Oaks is the oldest continuously operated roller skating rink in the United States, Bollinger became the rink manager in 1925 at age 16. Seventy-four years later, he is still a major promoter of the sport.

In addition to getting other future operators started in the business, Bollinger joined the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (now known as RSA) in 1937 a year after the organization was formed. He is probably one of the longest-standing members of the organization. Furthermore, he is one of the founder / trustees of the National Museum of Roller Skating, currently based in Lincoln, Neb.

Within the Oaks Park is a midway with games such as the ring toss, a gift shop, amusement rides (including a carousel and go-carts), dance pavilion that can be leased for special occasions, the roller skating rink and grass area for picnics. Cotton candy can be purchased at the food stands as well as hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, coffee and tea.

The park has been through three major floods (1948, 1964, 1996) as it is located along the Willamette River. It is located a few miles south of downtown Portland. In 1984, a few years after first wife, Ruth's death, Bollinger created the private non-profit organization, Oaks Park Association, to care for and ensure The Oaks would be a place where families can relax, play and spend time together.

The floor in the roller skating rink is wooden. In 1948, as mentioned before, the floor was devastated when flood waters entered the park and stayed over 30 days. The skating surface was replaced with clear Michigan maple. At the time of replacement, it was decided to curve the wood around the ends of the floor to give the skater more enjoyment. The common method used at that time involved steam, Bollinger remembers. The steam process damaged the wood. Therefore, Bollinger called upon one of his creative employees to develop a process to achieve the curving without damage to the boards. The tool he created is on display at The Oaks Museum (to be discussed later in the article).

Several people brainstormed to find a way to protect the floor from future floods. They came up with a plan to attach about 500 empty, sealed 55-gallon drums under the floor. The floor was designed and built so it could be cut free and float inside the rink building. Sixteen years later, these people were very happy to find their plan worked, Bollinger says.

Bollinger created a private non-profit organization to care for The Oaks on January 1, 1985 - during the time of his overwhelming grief over his wife's death. He remains, however, a major proponent of roller skating.

Bollinger married his second wife, in 1993 under rather interesting circumstances. Though she had been seeing him casually for years and been a frequent dinner date, no wedding plans were in the works until one night when Bollinger wasn't feeling well and cancelled a dinner date. Being persistent, she decided to bring food over to his house. Her idea was a Godsend. She entered the house only to find Bob bleeding profusely and rushed him to the hospital. He proposed in the emergency room, saying nobody could work on him until she said yes. They have been happily married for six years, and she is his biggest promoter and spokeswoman.

She is quit a part of planning this grand 90th birthday celebration for Bob. He is very quiet and low key about himself. "Mr B" as his employees know him, is liked by everyone who meet him, his wife says.

"He always has very interesting stories and is very intelligent. He always stood by his employees and continues to find the good in people."

The 90th birthday celebration for Bob Bollinger will take place September 19, 1999 from noon until 5 pm. Children are welcome. Dress is casual and cake will be cut around 1 pm. Throughout the afternoon, food and refreshments will be available. This will include all beef hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn as well as coffee, tea and punch. There is no set schedule during the afternoon. "It will be very spontaneous because you never know what some friends or associates might have up their sleeve for Bob."

"It will be great," Bob says. "It will be a chance to meet with old friends who have been around for many, many years. I am very excited!"

Many former employees will be there as well as former skaters, associates and rink operators. It is also open to the general public. Bob asks that there be no gift or cards (even though he loves cards). Anyone interested in attending may rsvp via: email, fax, voice mail or mail.
By: Jan Mowle
Published by: Rinksider
Independent Voice of the Industry
Printed: September / October 1999
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Updated 10/09/2013