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Strict Rules

Family Concept Pushed at Rink

"The Skater's Waltz" is Bob Bollinger's favorite tune. And with good reason. As boss of the Oaks Park Roller Skating Rink, he welcomes 4,500 persons weekly through his doors to engage in what he calls "the best family activity there is."

Roller skating is enjoying a renaissance. Rinks have been springing up around the country. And the differ completely from the oft-times tawdry, raucous rollerdomes of the past. All seem to follow Bollinger's family concept of skating at Oaks Park That means no roughhousing, no profanity, a strict dress code and strong rink supervision.

Rink supervision and security are the keys to any good roller skating operation," said the affable Bollinger whose family has operated the Oaks Park amusement area since 1925.

"We aim at crowd control and keeping traffic lanes clear for everyone. We have floor guards, special officers at the door and in the parking lot. It gives parents a sense of security when their children come to the rink."

Bollinger pointed out that the Oaks Park rink has been operating continuously since 1905 and is one of the oldest in the nation. In its early days the rink was mainly patronized by adults. But today, youngsters of all ages make up a big percentage of the skaters, including many in the preschool set.

Why do people skate? "Because it's fun to defy the laws of gravity." smiled Bollinger. "And it's a lot easier than ice skating. You don't need strong ankles or anything like that. Just a good sense of balance. It's also great for your health - you exercise all your muscles."

For $1, a person can skate for three hours. And the tariff includes skate rentals. The skates have precision-bearing wheels, double action and built-in toe stops. They cost between $35 to $40 wholesale and the rink has nearly 1,500 pairs in all sizes.

The rink itself is 104 x 208 feet around. The floor is made of tough, hard Michigan maple. It is covered with plastic material to provide skaters with better traction.

Bollinger has a special fondness for the rink. He met his wife Ruth there when she was a checkroom girl. "Now she's my boss," said Bollinger, grinning.

Many future marriages have had their beginnings at the rink down through the years. "It's a great boy-met-girl place," said Bollinger. "It's all very informal. The boy gets a chance to show off his skating prowess on the floor and then takes the girl home. Usually."

At 65, Bollinger is a man with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, a crinkled smile and the ability to make goodness interesting. There is a slightly rumpled air about him. His short gray hair and bushy white eyebrows add to the picture. He looks as comfortable as an old physical education coach.

But despite his easy-going ways, Bollinger has a stubborn streak where rink rules are concerned. He even is prepared to do court battle over one of them, a regulation that never allows three persons of one sex to come out on the rink floor during team skating periods.

"We have the rule because if we allow three men to enter as a team, they usually horse around and roughhouse too much," explained Bollinger. "So recently a trio of young women insisted on coming out as a team. We refused to let them on the floor but offered them their money back. However, they ended up charing us with discrimination."

Bollinger fully intends to fight the charge in court. "A rule is a rule," he said simply. "You can't start making exceptions."

He is equally blunt in his feelings about the controversial Roller Derby. He doesn't like it. He feels it offers a bad impression of roller skating. The Derby folded recently after many years on the road and he quickly admits he will not mourn its passing.

One of Bollinger's joys at the rink is a big organ which is 47 years old and came from the old Broadway Theater. The organ controls the speed and tempo of the skating and acts as a sort of safety device when someone wants to speed too quickly around the rink.

Bollinger is very safety conscious, so much so it is doubtful if the inventory of roller skates would even be allowed to go out on the Oaks Park floor.

That gentleman was Joseph Merlin, a Belgian living in London, who for his skating debut in 1760, decided to appear at a high society ball. Before an astounded group of party goers, Merlin whizzed into the ballroom playing a violin.

There was only one problem. He had never bothered to work out such maneuvers as turning or stopping on his skates. Result? He smashed into a wall, broke a $2,000 mirror, broke his violin and several bones.

"We frown on the type of skater at Oaks Park," said Bollinger.

Writer . . Stan Federman
The Oregonian Staff
Friday, May 23, 1975
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