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I miss the roller rink

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, the absolute highlight of the week for me, my friends, and step silbings was a trip to the roller rink! We entered another world.


In my world, that special place was the Axle Roller Rink in Niles, IL. It may look like a dump on the outside when you see the picture now, but it was magical inside.


I heard the music and my heart started beating. Journey and Air Supply. Queen and Michael Jackson. Songs from Xanadu, Grease, and Fame! (Roller Skate Dad reminisces about the best skating songs here.) I'd reach for my dollars in the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and was lacing up in no time. Parents must have just given us a few dollars and dropped us off outside- I don't remember ANY of them ever hanging around in there. No helicoptering then - was not needed, and wasn't a thing. It was just about fun and freedom! And, maybe, finding love from a Couples skate.


My friends and I would skate for hours on a Saturday afternoon or at a birthday party. I went as fast as I could, and would need to catch my breath after a set of songs. That's when I would head to the snack bar to get a giant Coke. (I'll never forget the girl at the counter told me I had the longest lashes she'd ever seen, and I should go buy some mascara at Walgreens to "make the most of those." I did.) I played Frogger in the arcade room. When I ran out of coins in my pocket, it was over. Debit cards did not exist.


In my research around what ever happened to the roller rink, I found Excel Roller Rink Consultants had a lot to say about the rise and fall of the roller rink. I know we made our own fun there (not hard to do at all there!). Generation X was good at that! Excel notes: "As a whole, the Y and Z-Generations has little or no experience in playing and pretending by themselves. It has been reported that if a child were left alone with only a stick and a piece of string, they would remain frozen and do nothing but cry. Their entire world is based on the mass media and entertainment. When a child of this generation visits a roller-skating rink, they want to be entertained." Thus, the demise of the roller rink. Generations after us don't play that game.

That makes me sad (for them). And for us. Where can we find that feeling again? And why can't our kids know it? Please don't tell me seeing something cool on Snapchat packs the same punch.


#GenerationX forever.






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Benazir Khan
Benazir Khan
2023년 12월 16일

hey i was going there as well there was a skate guard who's name was Ralph he said his uncle was al Capone i thought he was pulling my leg i went to maine east high school at this time i used to meet upwith my classmates there it was the early 1980s my classmates and i still talk about that place

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게스트
2023년 2월 14일

It was a great place. I vividly remember, like you, spending weekend afternoons there, and still feeling the motion of skating in circles as I lay in bed that night, along with the sting of the blisters on my feet! Yep, the parents dropped us off, and sometimes they picked us up a little worse for wear. It was safe place, all in all, but there was the occasional fight and broken heart. I probably went there between ages 7-10. I can remember watching the older girls skating with their boyfriends during the "couples skate", and wishing I were older ("Keep on Loving You" by REO Speedwagon was a typical song choice). Although I don't think it was there the…

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게스트
2023년 1월 31일

I loved the Axle in Niles! I also skated there several nights a week during that time. It was the only place to see girls my age, because I attended an all-boys high school. I have very fond memories. Disco did not suck; it was great and a lot of fun.

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게스트
2022년 11월 08일

My mom and stepdad managed the Niles location. They worked for M&R forEVER. Other employees/regulars and I had a few reunions, and it was as if no time had passed. You are right, there was no "helicoptering" back then because the Axle was a safe place where people looked out for each other. Wednesday, August 8, 1984, was the rink's final night. (Yep! I can't remember to pick up milk, but can remember the dates :)


It actually came as a total shock and people started pouring in for one last backward strut.


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게스트
2023년 2월 14일
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Would love to see photos if you have them!

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게스트
2022년 10월 11일

My whole childhood was spent at the Axle in Niles. We skated 3/4 days a week in the late 70s early 80s. I just pulled into the parking lot. It is a Salvation Army. How depressing.

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게스트
2023년 5월 01일
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It is indeed (both a Salvation Army and depressing). I went there the other day. The SA store is just fine and actually maintained better than Goodwill normally is, so nothing against SA per se. The building was painted entirely white decades ago and operated as a Syms for many years. During that time, one could still see the remnants of the old 70's era Axle entrance, even though it had been bricked up and no longer used. SA has removed even this, however. When I was there, the only thing I think I was able to recognize was on the ceiling - you can see the brick outline where the interior walls that partitioned the rink off from the…

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