A local group is wheeling its way back to the past.
The Winnipeg Roller Rink Skaters, started by Charleswood resident Ron Corrin to get the band of skaters who frequented the city’s roller rinks in their youth back together, marked its one-year anniversary on March 16.
Corrin, who said he’s kept skating even as the activity’s popularity has declined, was on a Facebook page commemorating the bygone Galaxy Skateland on Portage Avenue, and a discussion there led to him inviting members out to skate.
"I said ‘why don’t we start skating again?’" he said, noting a few old friends proposed going to the Wheelies at 1010 Logan Ave. "I just started going on the site and getting everybody to skate weekly, and the word would spread between skaters."
One of the first on board was Elmwood resident Karen Korzenowsky.
Though she doesn’t necessarily skate all the time, Korzenowsky appreciates being able to rekindle the memories of her youth with old friends.
"I had kids of my own and I lost track of going roller skating. Then Facebook came along and I saw a few people that I knew," she said.
She said getting together with the group brings back plenty of memories, as some group members will meet at old haunts like the Red Top before going skating, and the atmosphere around the rink is as she remembered.
"Just going back to the roller rinks, watching the kids skate around and chasing each other, and having fun, what they wear and how they act just reminds me of how I used to act," she said, noting she once hurt her tailbone chasing boys around the rink.
The group collected about 20 people in its first three months, a total that has since grown to approximately 80. Corrin said the group has brought out some skaters he hasn’t seen since the late 1970s, though he mentioned some veterans kept in contact over the years.
"Off and on, I would see the odd person, but from me doing this, it brought back at least 40 people we haven’t skated with or connected with since 1978 or 1979," said Corrin, a Garden City Collegiate grad who estimates he’s skated in 65 rinks in the United States.
Though numerous people have joined the group’s Facebook page, titled "‘Wpg Roller Rink Skaters’ 1950s to the 80s Bkonwheels ‘2012,’" not all are regular attendees. Corrin hopes to round up 30 regulars to be able to book adult nights at the rink.
"My whole objective of the site is to get enough members so that we can have our own adult night," said Corrin.
He also hopes to team up with the local roller derby circuit to bring the activity back and inspire someone to build a rink with concrete floors. Corrin pointed to the arenas the City of Winnipeg plans to close in the coming years, with Vimy Arena on Hamilton Avenue as his preferred landing spot so as to not cause too much overlap with Wheelies.
The current Wheelies location, the city’s only rink, was once a basketball court and has wooden floors. As well, the rink’s small dimensions mean skaters go in a circle as opposed to the traditional oval shape.
"A lot of people would go skating, they just don’t like it here," said Headingley resident Steve Lockhart. "But it’s all we’ve got, so we make the best of it."