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Memories Shared in 2001 & 2002

Anne Hinds - Photographer / Writer / Member National Carousel Association

Robert Bollinger was a hero to me long before I ever met him, despite the fact that I live only a couple of miles from Oaks Park.

Then, at the carousel convention in Southern California in 1989, I was finally introduced to "a young man I'd been wanting to meet." That young man, resplendent in a bright red cardigan, was Bob Bollinger. At least I'd gotten to meet him! It was such fun to visit with him, and discuss how many frogs there are on his beloved Herschell-Spillman carousel, on which I had spent a recent dizzying Sunday afternoon updating the information for the carousel census.

I find Bob to be friendly, warm, soft-spoken, and very generous. A man who recognizes the importance of preserving amusement parks and carousels for the 21st century, to be enjoyed by future generation. Above all, a gentleman.

A more recent memory was at his 90th Birthday party, a large and happy event at which he showed a boundless energy that amazed me, still a young man at heart. Toward the end of the event, he was distributing plush squirrels, charming mascots of Oaks Park, to those in the audience whose names were being drawn from the cards filled out by attendees.

I had to leave before the end, so I went up to Bob to express my congratulations and say "goodbye". With a sparkle in his eye he said, "You'd like to have one of these squirrels, wouldn't you?" I confessed that I would, and he gave me a cuddly brown one, which I adore.

He truly is a perspicacious man, one who cares very much for others. Too few like him exist in this "I'm for me first" world. If the scientists ever start cloning people, Bob should be high on the list.

I feel honored to know him, to know how much happiness he has brought to all of us who love carousels and Oaks Park and the Western Washington Fair carousel at Puyallup, and to be able to call him a friend.

Annelle and Bob Anderson - Long time Texas rink operators active in the RSROA (Roller Skating Rink Operators Association)

As I reflect on knowing Mr. Bob Bollinger, I could truly say he is our great gentleman of roller skating. His quiet manner demanded the greatest respect from all. His decisions and contributions to all of us for a man of such few words set our history in the roller skating industry. I am fortunate to have served with him, but more fortunate to call him my friend, as he was to all who knew him. I am also very grateful, that my own children have had the opportunity to know him & serve with him on the RSA Board, as well as the Museum Board. They were blessed to know this man of dignity, Mr. Bollinger.

Bob Cline - Long time Oaks Employee

When the chips were down and you needed financial help, he was there to help you. He always got a kick of poking me in the "tush"with a toothpick when he walked past. One of the best persons I've ever known.

Corky Erickson - Puyallup Fair Skyride

When we moved the Skyride from the Seattle Center to Puyallup, I told Bob on the phone that I was filling the last load with railings and ballast stones that we may not need. He said, "My motto is, never leave with an empty truck."

Wm "Walker" Leroy (Robert's Ride Supervisor) told me about driving the war-surplus truck towing a ride on Hwy 99 to Vancouver, BC. There was no passenger seat so Bob would sleep in one of the tubs!

He had a "hawk eye" for finding money on the grounds. He walked off the Skyride platform during our first fair and I watched him pick up a quarter and take it over to the Skydiver and give it to the crew. He always had his people in mind!

I never knew anyone who could walk through a crowd like he could. I never could keep up with him!

I'm sure no one will forget his morning ritual of burning tickets in front of the office.

He told me the whole story of building the Puyallup Roller Coaster in 1935. How the designer measured the site with a 100 foot tape, then drew the plans on a roll of butcher paper. Took a lot of courage to go ahead with the construction, especially in the heart of the depression.

So long, Old Friend, See you later.

Eric and Bobbie Englund - Long time Washington rink operators active in the RSROA (Roller Skating Rink Operators Association)

Bob Bollinger - Our Friend

How often we have heard the expression, "nobody's perfect"? Well, if ever there was an exception, it would have to be Robert Bollinger or let's just call him "Bob" as all of his friends do. Yes, if ever there was a perfect gentleman it would be Bob. Just think of all the other wonderful traits that he possesses:

Honesty - Without reproach (what else can you say?!)
Dedication - Proven by years of care and service to his Oaks Park
Proven by promotion of skating for the Roller Skating Association
Proven by time given and raffle tickets sold for the Museum of Roller Skating Loyalty - Continually shown by support to all his friends and acquaintances

Ability for Challenges - Years of outstanding service as President and as Treasurer of the RSROA (Roller Skating Rink Owners Association)

One of the most important qualities this person has to be a great, supportive friend. Bobbie and I are very fortunate and happy to have had Bob as a friend for over 45 years. We love and respect him more every year!

Evelyn and Lloyd Stratton - Long time Oaks Employee

Bob, you are a very special caring person. Over the years your dad and you have provided a magic place for young people to meet, a happy place for families to enjoy each other, and a nostalgic place for everyone to reminisce about their memories of the good old days.

You have done much for many and one special memory is when you and the Oaks crew were in Vancouver, Canada over 30 years ago. When you heard I was in the hospital with our newborn son, David, you purchased an airline ticket, saw to it that there was someone to take Lloyd to the Vancouver airport and someone else to pick him up at the Portland airport. It was such a wonderful surprise when Lloyd walked into my hospital room that day back in August 1964, just a couple of days after our son David, was born. There I was, feeling so alone, because Lloyd was working far away in Canada and suddenly Lloyd was there with me. You have no idea how much that moment meant. Thanks for your kindness.

You are so important to the Oaks Park and have always taken such care from every trivial detail, such as personally keeping the roses trimmed to making sure that the ride operators kept their hair cut. You took such pride in assuring that the park was a safe, wholesome place for families and their children to enjoy life.

The skating rink was a special joy due to all the support you gave to the skaters and their needs. Your encouragement helped many competitive skaters to reach their personal goals and through your assistance and backing, the skating rink had some exciting and magical floor shows that gave the skaters so much help with their own skating techniques interaction ability with others, and development and improvement of their personal self-esteem you have touched the lives of everyone at The Oaks and have truly become a special part of history. Bob, you are Mr. Oaks Amusement Park in person.

George Pickard - Roller Skating Rink Operators Association

Robert Bollinger - The man, The Leader, The Industry Personality.

As an employee of the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association, my tenure (1960 until 1988) spanned a good deal of the Robert Bollinger era of service to this organization, but certainly not all. This was, however the period of his greatest contributions and most influence, a time when he was a respected member of the RSROA Finance Committee and its President from December 1968 to May of 1970. His post Presidency period saw the continuation of Bollinger's gifts of time and talent as a member of the Finance and Executive Committees, actions that I was better able to appreciate because of my newly assumed duties as RSROA Executive Director.

Bollinger took over the RSROA helm as President after the death in office of Roy Parker and brief interim by acting President Joe Nemanich. Bob inherited some substantial organizational problems which he dealt with calmly and directly. He supervised the setting up a new RSROA headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, after the decision was made in June of 1968 to move it from its original location in Detroit, Michigan. The financial reserves of the RSROA in March 1969 amounted to the grand sum of $8,000, with the accountant not sure that all pending bills had been tabulated. The RSROA Executive Director at the time, Chuck Cahill, asking for a raise in dues warned, "The new postage increase is going to hit the RSROA hard." First class postage went up from 5 cents per one-ounce letter to 6 cents. Imagine that! Bollinger oversaw the construction of a new, fully equipped office building by means of a 100% bank financing. A new in house printing facility was also installed in the new offices, which dramatically increase the organization's ability to communicate with its members.

Robert Bollinger was among a very small group of RSROA leasers in 1969-1970 that envisioned a brighter, new emphasis for the organization as the premier trade association for the industry. with the December 1969 death of Victor J. Brown, a man who had dominated the RSROA Board of Directors since its founding in 1937, the path was open to more inventive processes to serve an expanding roller skating commercial market. As President, Bollinger helped to unite the roller skating industry toward such a goal, by becoming a participant in the often contentious merger meetings between the RSROA, USARSA and the URO. These merger meetings were being mediated by AAU Executive Director CO Donald F. Hull at the request of Irwin Rosee. Hull's comment on Bob's contribution was "I should like to comment the quiet statesmanship of Robert Bollinger. I personally appreciated his patience and wonderful attitude which was displayed at this meeting. Obviously, his objective is the betterment of the sport of roller skating." It was a great testimonial to Bob from a neutral party. After years of talks and even more negotiations, the merger ultimately came to pass in 1972.

Robert Bollinger helped to redirect the RSROA from primarily competitive skating programs to a dynamic industry trade association, leading to expanded membership. he encourages the establishment of strengthened financial reserves and improved the assets of the national headquarters. Headquarters debt was paid off and new tool accumulated for improved member communications. More than 20 years ago, Bob Bollinger became a Founding Trustee for the National Museum of Roller Skating to help preserve our rich heritage. He led this industry not by threat or bluster, but through the quiet force of personal integrity and his sport enthusiasm.

Greg Stewart - President / General Manager of the Central Washington Fair

Typical of Bob's nature, he is always farsighted on so many things and this planning for a celebration of life serves to underscore Bob's abilities to think in the future.

My first through that comes to mind in thinking about Bob is white shirts. I dare say in the number of years I have known Bob and had the opportunity to visit with him, he always wore a white shirt and tie.

But that changed during the 2001 Central Washington State Fair. For the first time in my memory, instead of wearing dress pants, Bob was wearing shorts . . . with a white shirt. It was such a shock that I don't even recall if he was wearing a tie.

But my overall memory is that he always looks quite dapper.

Bob's ability to be on the cutting edge of life was visible not only at Oaks Amusement Park but also the Bollinger and Burback Carnival; as well both endeavors he introduced many new rides, games and attractions to our area as well as a way of presenting midways in their finest array of colors and lights.

Having been in the fair business for several years now, Bob Bollinger will always stand out as one of the more memorable individuals that I have been happy to have associated with.

I am honored to be able to call Bob my friend.

Irwin Rosee - A well known sports promoter and publicity person for the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association, founder / owner / publisher of "The Rinksider"

In many years on the front line of news makers, from Presidents to unforgettable heroes such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, I met one man whose my icon, Bob Bollinger of Portland, Oregon.

I will never forget the day that I convinced A.B.C.'s Wide World of Sports T.V. program to name Portland, Oregon, as the site of the National Roller Skating Championships in 1963. Bob Bollinger, approached me, put his arms around me, and merely said "Thank You". I looked up and there were tears in his eyes. But that doesn't explain the true Bob Bollinger. He was compassionate, fair minded, calm, honest and devoted to the interest of the sport of roller skating.

His word was law. And his handshake was the firmest contract any Philadelphia lawyer could conceive. He was a good listener, and would issue sane advice and help to his less fortunate brethren. At one meeting in which Bob was honored, and he was honored many times, the speaker said that he was a credit to Portland. I made a mental note of that, and today, I can tell you that the quiet man, Bob Bollinger, in truth, was a credit to the human race.

Joanne and James Barr - Long time Oaks employees

I have such great respect for Mr. Bollinger and to me, I guess he will live forever. He had a great influence on my life when I was growing up. I started skating when I was 12 and he has always been like a father to me.

Mr. Bollinger is a very simple person who never puts on airs and is always himself. He is always kind, respectful, humble, funny and an all around great person. Jim always said that Mr. Bollinger was the best employer that he ever had because he treated people fairly and took care of his employees.

I remember so many things about him and enjoyed his company. I loved to get up in the morning and go with him to look under the rides for any bolt or nut that might have fallen out, but we always managed to find a little money also. These times with him were a really pleasure because it gave me a time to just talk to him. I also remember standing in the truck shop, when it was raining or waiting for him, matching pennies. When we were done, he would give them all to me.

He is also full of the devil. He loves to do the unexpected. I can remember the floor shows, after the last performance, or after the last event at Regionals, he would set off a big firecracker. At the first Nationals that I attended in Oakland, he was going around stomping on cuts so they would pop. He would argue with you about something just to see how convinced you were of your side.

His name is Bob but it is hard for me to call him this ever after 50 years because I have so much respect and love for him. He has truly been an influence in my life and to me, he will be with us forever.

John Ronnie - Retired Financial Controller for Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), Vancouver, BC

My association with Robert Bollinger commenced many years ago at the Pacific National Exhibition when Bob had rides there. I was the Financial Controller and dealt with the ride and show owners. We had done some research on some concessions and decided that they should pay a percentage of their revenue as rent. This was fair in many ways as Vancouver could have seventeen days of fair weather or many days of rain which affected their revenue.

We finally agreed with the ride and show owners to do the same but unlike most fairs, we sold the tickets and negotiated the ride prices which we through could be attractive to our patrons.

In 1958, a new location was set for the Gayway and a new complex built, part of it was a new giant roller coaster giant roller coaster which is still running and still very popular.

The question was what should the price be for that new ride. I proposed 40 cents (a fair amount in 1958). Bob said it should be at least 50 cents. When the ride was finished, we had test runs. Bob said "Go on it, John, and assess what you think is a fair charge." This I did riding about the middle of the cars. As I got off, Bob was there. I said "I agree its worth 50 cents."

Bob said to me, "Come with me, you haven't had a real test" and he shoved me into the front seat of the first car. He provided me with a real thrilling ride and that confirmed that his price was reasonable. A diplomatic move.

We worked together for another 19 years until I retired. Our association was always very good. The Gayway rides were always well maintained. New rides were brought in as they came on the market (a real help to draw crowds to the P.N.E.)

To me, in my long experience of 27 years in the fair business, Bob was unique as a ride operator. He was honest, cooperative, efficient and willing to change. He was always considered so by our employees and directors.

Jonas Nordwall - Concert Organist

I have been a customer of "Oaks Park" since I was about two years old. Living in Sellwood, "Oaks Park" was our convenient recreational facility and definitely the Swedish Picnic at "Oaks Park" was an annual high-tribal celebration for my family.

I was seven years old when the WurliTzer was installed in the rink and I well remember hearing it played by Buss McClelland and Len Hoyt. I went to many Friday night skating sessions just to hear that organ. I also remember the Sunday noon broadcasts from the rink. The sounds enthralled me and I think this was a primary influence to my early desire to be a professional organist.

Following the 1964 flood, I illegally drove the family car from my house to the Oaks to meet Dennis Hedbert, whom I knew from a few years earlier at the Oriental Theater. He was rebuilding the organ relay damaged in the flood. My curiosity about the damage to the organ and rink was quite high. That evening I met Don Simmons, who was playing the Hammond Model A for the skating session. The following year when I was a senior in high school, I was surprised when Don called me regarding the assistant organist's job, which I jumped at the opportunity to take. Looking at the financial picture of the period, I was making really good money at $4.35 per hour. Sometimes I wish a relative wage were available to many organists today.

That position lasted for a few years, until an unfortunate schedule conflict with my responsibilities to both "the Oaks" and my organ professor collided. My Oaks career, courtesy of Dale (Pritchard), ended. It was a good lesson learned. Don't trust everyone.

In my professional as a concert organist, I acknowledge many musical benefits that were gained while playing at "The Oaks". Structure, phrasing and keeping tempo rank high. Also, I observed and learned many things about being a good and responsible businessman from Bob. Many of these lessons I have tried to apply in management positions I have held in my career.

When comparing the selfish and irresponsible management styles that have recently come to light with the recant Enron and World Com scandals, Bob's management style really comes to my mind as the best of the best. He never put his personal well being above his employees or the company. he cares about people and their welfare.

For example, some of my mother's childhood friends, the Wiseman brothers and their families and, also, her cousin, Carl Johnson, were "Oaks" employees for many years. While by today's standards their skills would be considered limited, probably making them subject to termination at the drop of a pin, Bob valued them for who they were. In return, they always tried to do their best because of their respect for and trust in Bob. I think in the long run, it paid off for everyone.

Another important point regarding respect was Bob's use of words. he would never refer to his midway crews as "Ride Jockeys', a popular term for their job descriptions. They were "employees". Dignity was and is important to Bob.

I will always remember Bob's quiet compassion. For example, the Christmas dinners were events where every employee was equally acknowledged for their contribution to "The Oaks". The "Christmas Turkey" was a quiet meaningful expression of his appreciation of their work. I'm sure that without his gift, many family Christmas Dinners would not have been successful.

I worked for CBS Musical instruments for some years and that type of expression was unknown. We were just another of the 44,000 replaceable employees.

Very few people were aware of the severe emotional and financial trauma that Don Simmons experienced with his wife's bout with terminal cancer. When Don's insurance coverage ceased, Bob stepped up to the plate saving Don from bankruptcy. I also heard about other situations where Bob's compassion and generosity saved families from financial doom.

I am very fortunate to have a career that has rewarded me with good esthetic and financial success. During my career, I have experienced managers whose styles and desire were limited. It's during these times I remember and appreciate the thoughtfulness and skill of Bob Bollinger.

I am very fortunate to have a career that has rewarded me with good esthetic and financial success. During my career I have experienced managers whose styles and desire were limited. It's during these times I remember and appreciate the thoughtfulness and skills of Bob Bollinger.

I would hope that most everyone who worked for Bob shares my opinion that his caring, generous and gracious management style is unmatched. There are few peers of this gentleman.

There are several other stories that I cannot relegate to this message. But . . . ask Bob about the time he gave Dennis some "cotton" as an earplug when tuning the WurliTzer. I think he will remember the details. If not, give me a call. It's a great story.

Feel free to share this information with anyone.

Michael Fleming - Northridge Skateland, Mountasia Fun Center, Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours

I am emailing you this note as I wanted to let you know how much you inspired me and for your friendship over the years in the RSROA/RSA

At the same time, I have to say thank you for all you did to make the roller skating industry what it is today.

I remember how much you promoted competitive skating which became a big part of my life. As a competitor, I won the Novice Dance Division in 1968 and my name appears on the plaque that bears your name.

When I became a skating coach, you were instrumental in the sport and helped it grow.

Finally as a rink owner /operator, and past RSROA Board Member, I learned from your wisdom and from the experiences you had in the growing years of the industry.

Bob, I owe you a lot and I wish I would have told you that when my brother Dave and I visited the Oaks and you a couple of years back.

Just know that you will always be a part of who I am today as a businessman. I greatly appreciate everything you have done in your life in creating places where people can go to forget their pains and troubles. You made a positive difference in millions of lives. As one of those . . . I am eternally grateful.

God Bless You Always

Rick Gustafson - Long time skater / Member Oaks Board of Directors

Bob has made a permanent gift to this community of great magnitude. Oaks Park is preserved for all people of Portland to enjoy because of his vision. On a personal note, his greatest contribution was to provide a wonderful family place for kids as they were growing up. I can certainly attest to that spirit of love and support that Bob provided every day for every kid that came to the park. It is that lasting gift for which Bob should be proud.

Ron Gustafson - Long time skater

My preliminary memory of Bob is that he always seemed to be there when he was needed but was rarely seen otherwise. He is hardly gregarious but he always seemed happy to see you, interested in what you had to say and knew what you were concerned or happy about at the time.

I've met a lot of capable business people, community leaders and good personal friends in my travels around the world. Bob is among the tops in all categories of people that I met.

Solvieg Fields - Former Oaks Employee

Bob, you were looked up to as a pleasant friendly mentor in my life. During the early 1940's, my job at The Oaks in the checkroom, rink fountain, and park employee's cafeteria was very important to me.

The skating show trip to Camp Adair was a very special highlight in my life that Robert Bollinger made possible for us to entertain the service people at Camp Adair.

Many happy memories of The Oaks Park were made possible by the special leadership of Bob Bollinger.

Steve Brannan - Rear Commodore of the Oregon Yacht Club

The most memorable event for me was introducing and listening to Bob on October 1, 2000 when he was the featured speaker for Oregon Yacht Club's 100 year celebration. Many persons attending the OYC's 100 year event came up to me later and said how pleased they were that Bob Bollinger was included in the OYC event. These persons believe his presence and talk greatly contributed to the day and commented that he did a smashing job as our featured speaker in leading the program off! It was also apparent that Bob's contributions to oaks, plus his friendships with OYC residents over the years lent even more significance to this historical event.

Lastly, my only regret in meeting Bob is that it often makes me realize how much I would have liked to have been around earlier and had more opportunities to get to know this fine person.
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updated 07/18/2013