ROLLER SKATING – A LOOK BACK AT THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE PASTIME’S POPULARITY IN CHILLIWACK

Over the years, roller skating’s history in Chilliwack has been characterized by fluctuating popularity, venues destroyed by Mother Nature, others going out of business, periods of no roller skating facilities at all, and people travelling out of town to indulge their passion.


Chilliwack’s first roller-skating facility opened in 1908, in the old Agricultural Hall on Wellington Avenue, near Mary Street, part of Chilliwack’s first Fairgrounds.


The following year, 1909, a new dedicated roller-skating structure opened at the old Fairgrounds, slightly northeast of the existing Ag Hall. Known as the “Chilliwack Roller Skating Rink”, the venue proved highly popular with the community’s roller-skating enthusiasts for the next 16 years.


This circa 1915 west-facing image, taken from the belfry of Cooke’s Presbyterian Church on Wellington Avenue, captures the Chilliwack Roller Skating Rink, on Wellington Avenue (renamed “Athletic Hall” in 1925). (Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number: PP500605)


In 1925, with roller skating patronage lagging, the Chilliwack Roller Skating Rink was essentially converted to a gymnasium and renamed “Athletic Hall”. During the great ice storm of 1935, Athletic Hall collapsed, damaged beyond repair, not to be rebuilt.


An outdoor roller-skating rink opened at Cultus Lake’s Main Beach in 1938. The longest-lasting of all of Chilliwack’s roller-skating venues, the “Cultus Lake Roller Skating Rink” operated seasonally for approximately 35 years, before lack of maintenance and declining interest resulted in its closure and demolition in the mid-1970s.



This circa late-1940s southeast-facing image captures the Cultus Lake Roller Skating Rink being enjoyed by roller skaters on a sunny summer’s day. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number: 2010.005.0564)




In 1938, a new roller-skating rink, called the “Chilliwack Rollerdrome”, opened on the east side of Young Road South, near First Avenue, across from the future bus depot. However, after three years, the Rollerdrome business failed, and in 1941 the building was converted to a bowling alley.


This 2007 image, facing northeast from Young Road South, captures the original Chilliwack Rollerdrome building in a current context, serving as home to Room by Room Furniture since 2006. The second storey of the building was added in 1949 to accommodate eight new bowling lanes to meet the high demand for bowling time in post-war Chilliwack. (Image Credit: Chilliwack History Perspectives Collection)


In 1947, a modern roller-skating rink, called the “Greendale Roller Skating Rink”, opened on the east side of Sumas Prairie Road, less than 10 metres north of today’s Downing Road, serving as the only indoor roller-skating facility in Chilliwack at that time. Unfortunately, less than one year later the major flood of 1948 severely damaged the structure and it was never the same, ultimately being torn down in 1958.



This northeast-facing image, from early June 1948, captures the Greendale Roller Skating Rink submerged in floodwaters. At its peak, the water was over six feet high in the structure, resulting in filth and mud everywhere and the hardwood roller-skating floor warped and twisted. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number: 2013.123.003




As the midpoint of the 20th century approached, downtown Chilliwack was about to welcome a new roller-skating facility. On December 1, 1950, the “Strand Roller Rink” opened at the southwest corner of Wellington Avenue and Main Street, having been transitioned from the aging Strand Theatre.


Declining interest (exacerbated by the growing popularity of television) led to the closure of the Stand Roller Rink in late 1955. The structure was subsequently converted to the Better Value Furniture warehouse, ultimately burning to the ground in a 1966 fire.



This circa 1946 image, facing west along Wellington Avenue from Five Corners, captures the location of the Strand Roller Rink (at that time the structure was still serving as the Strand Theatre). Note the two-way traffic on Wellington Avenue and the many shoppers on the street, back at a time when the combined City and Township population was approximately 15,000. (Image Credit: Facebook)


The next (and to this point, last) roller-skating venue to be built in Chilliwack officially opened its doors on October 29, 1977. The “Fraser Valley Rollercade”, situated at the northeast corner of Princess Avenue and Nowell Street, would operate for less than three years, closing down in early 1980.



Advertisement for the opening of the Rollercade posted in the Chilliwack Progress, October 7, 1977. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress)




Today Chilliwack has no dedicated roller-skating venue. When its ice is not in, the Sardis Sports Complex on Tyson Road does offer a schedule of roller-skating sessions. The community’s colourful (some may think checkered) background with roller skating will always serve as an interesting aspect of Chilliwack’s 20th century sporting and social history



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