High Point Rol-A-Rink to close later this month

Mar. 12, 2014 @ 05:28 PM

The High Point Rol-A-Rink, a nearly 60-year-old throwback to the golden age of roller skating, will close at the end of the month.
The rink’s final public skating session will be March 30, according to a sign in front of the North Main Street rink, which has been a source of entertainment for countless High Point families and a popular teen hangout since its opening.
“I get very emotional about it,” says Bob Byerly of High Point, who opened the rink in December 1957 with his wife, Polly, and another couple, Bill and Bebe VonCannon. “I knew it had to close someday, but it’s still emotional for me. I’ve been around skating since I was 17 years old, sometimes working there 12 to 14 hours a day. I have so many memories — all the kids, all the families that skated there. It was just so special.”
When the rink opened, it was one of three skating rinks in High Point — along with the High Point Recreation Center on Ward Street and the Starlite Skating Center on South Main Street — but it was the city’s first big rink, according to Byerly. He recalls that the rink featured organ music initially, before switching to popular music in the 1960s.
Byerly retired in May 2008 and sold the rink to Scott Hiatt, a former speedskater who grew up at the rink and who is now closing the business.
Hiatt could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The closing of the Rol-A-Rink will sadden the multitude of High Pointers who learned to skate there — many of whom later took their own children and even their grandchildren there — over the past six decades.
“To me, it’s an icon — a place I’ll never forget,” said Joey Edwards of Thomasville, who spent most of his teenage years skating and working at the rink in the mid-1970s and early ’80s. “It breaks my heart to see it closing.”
Edwards, who began skating at the rink around age 14 — and worked there for three years, beginning at age 16 — says the disco era was a particularly good time for the Rol-A-Rink.
“They had just put up all the disco lights and sirens and all that stuff, because all that music was hot back then,” he says. “On Friday and Saturday nights, when it was time for the couples skate, it would take us a while to clear everyone off the floor because the place was so packed.”
Byerly confirms that.
“When the disco craze hit this area, that’s the best I’ve ever seen skating,” he says. “It just boomed. We were still able to make a living after that, too, but there was nothing like the disco craze.”
In 1978, during that heyday, the Byerlys opened a second rink, the Carrousel Skating Center on W. Fairfield Road. That rink, now known as Skate South — and also now owned by Hiatt — will remain open as the city’s only skating rink.
The closing of the Rol-A-Rink represents not only a nostalgic loss, but a bit of a historic loss, as well. It was there that High Point native Heather Richardson, now a member of the U.S. Speedskating Team and a two-time Olympian, learned to skate. As a member of the Rol-A-Rink’s speedskating team, she was a national inline skating champion before making the switch to ice skating.
The final public skating session at the High Point Rol-A-Rink will be March 30, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. As a thank-you to the High Point community, admission will be only $1.
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579