Memories of Playland roller-skating rink

Today’s post is very much thanks to the research of frequent commenter Audrey Lerew. She’d been digging in to info on York’s roller-skating rinks at the Heritage Trust library, and she sent me all the details, saying, “It would be cool to see how many other people remember.”

She also included the photo above, which shows Playland inside and out. Audrey spent a lot of time there, and said she really enjoyed finding out so much information!

What follows are Audrey’s notes. I encourage you to take a look and see what memories this information sparks for you. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on Playland and other skating rinks!

First roller skating rink was at the corner of Pine St & Reineke Place. It was destroyed by fire in the late 1890’s.

On the west side of 525 E. Market St there was an abandoned tannery. It was to become The Great White Rose Arena. It was renovated and remodeled. That was 1898. They had bicycle races, radio acts and played polo on skates. Skates were ball bearings and had to be oiled frequently.

They had a wood floor. 250 to 300 people skated. This was owned by J.W. Richley and managed by Charles “Poppy” Harkins. They eventually had live organ music.

I am trying to find the exact date it burnt down. It was in the 1948 City Directories but not in 1950. York Theatre was in the front.

I had told you before at the railroad track was Arena Cigar & News, M & H Pure Food Store, L & H 5 & 10, Bury’s had a restaurant, and then the theatre.

Also found out in 1906 the second floor of the Latimer Small building on North George Street opened as a rink for three seasons.

Playland Skating rink had a concrete floor. They started building it in 1941 and in July a wind storm came through when half built and destroyed it all. So next day they rebuilt and it opened Nov 14, 1941. It lasted 44 years. After the war it was renamed Roller Rink. Eventually it became Roll R Way East and another was built in the rear of the Delco Plaza which was Roll R Way West. Roll R Way East burnt and completely destroyed Nov 23, 1985. I am including a nice picture from a postcard of the exterior and interior of Playland. That was located across from East York Walmart. Playland was owned and operated by David Sternberg. They had live organ music.

Donald Faircloth who was a York City Bus Driver opened a rink in Weigelstown. I am not sure how many years it was there.

There was also a rink in Hanover. And Haar’s of Dillsburg also had a rink.

While researching, I found the original skates only had one wheel in the front and two in the back. Later they came out with what they called the “straight spindle” which gave you four wheels.

As a kid, I used to skate around the blocks and I had metal skates with four wheels and two clamps on the front sides, which you tightened to your shoes, and then a strap came around the ankle.

Audrey, thank you AGAIN for sharing this with us. Any other skating memories? I have my guesses as to who will respond… based on previous comments!

About Joan

My name is Joan and I'm a lifelong Yorker. Throughout high school and college, I swore I was getting out of here as soon as possible. Now, a few years later, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. I love my town, and I hear every day from readers who love their towns, too. So please, connect with me and let's share what makes life in York County great. I'm here to help you enjoy this place as much as I do!
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16 Responses to Memories of Playland roller-skating rink

  1. Audrey LeRew says:

    I forgot the Fountainblu off 83 North at the Fishing Creek Exit

  2. Holly says:

    I was at Roller Way East the day of the fire in 85. I was their for a friend’s birthday party, and I swear to you, the song playing when the fire was discovered was Motley Crue’s “Smokin in the Boys Room”! We were on the floor and were ushered right out into the parking lot, skates on and all! Never did get my jacket or sneakers from inside.

  3. Pete Brady says:

    Check out the Facebook group page “Roll R Way Crew”!/groups/233291057228/

  4. Andy Mansberger says:

    Thank you for bringing back memories of Playland that I had forgotten about so many years ago. As I was reading, it brought back memories of standing outside waiting for the doors to open, on a rainy day you had to be there early enough to be under the overhang. I can smell the snack bar, see the soda spilled on the floor, always somebody spilling soda on the floor. I can remember the all night skates, the feeling in the morning when, after how many hours of skating, you took off the skates and got your “walking legs” back and counted the blisters on your feet like proud war wounds. The sound of the organ music, the dreaded words “couples only” and the long wait before you heard those two magical words “all skate” and the world was right again. And later years going to Roll R Way west. Playland and Roll R Way are long gone, but I still have the bad knees to prove that I was there!

  5. Carolyn Sue KeAla WaiOla Brenneman says:

    Yes, I remember the skating rink. Not only did I have the fun of skating there as a kid. My folks Norman C. and Annamary E. Kelly, laid eyes on each other for the first time. As they say the rest was “happily ever after.” Aside of the Wendy’s there is a flight of concrete stairs that is all that remains of the rink. A goal, I never accomplished, was getting a pictures of my folks, standing on those steps. Blessing, they are walking the streets of gold together.

  6. Steve Eaton says:

    Like the previous commenter; my parents, Ernest Eaton and Lois Hershey, met at Playland. Dad competed and judged competitions all over the state. He knows most of the mentioned rinks that were around in the 40’s and 50’s. They were both instructors at Playland, and taught me as well. I have a picture of me at 3 yrs with a Perry Como sweater and my skates on, ready for the “all skate”! In later years when my kids had a school skate at the Castle (Lancaster), I would go just to put some skates on again. I didn’t care much for their concrete floor, preferring the nice wood floor and Playland. But at least I got to skate a little and bring back the memories!

  7. Susan Beaven says:

    I have fond memories of many years of skating on that wooden floor at Playland across from the York Mall. I had private lessons on Saturday afternoons. I forget the instructor’s name but the lessons gave me confidence and opened up a new door of fun for me.
    I remember we would have lunch at the Bury’s next to the rink.
    They also used to have a “pond” in front of the rink that I think perhaps was used for ice skating.
    There was also a motel on the other side of the rink but I don’t remember the name.

  8. Jim Fahringer says:

    I remember the White Rose Arena very well. I was born in 1947 and during my first 7 to 8 years lived in the 300 block of East Poplar Street close to Edgar Street. We often walked to the theater that was located in the front of the Arena facing Market Street to see a movie as kids. The theater was then called the York Theater and later became the Holiday Theater. There may have been several names before the name of The York Theater. It seems to me my mother may have told me it was once known as the Rialto Theater but I am not sure. There definitely was a Rialto Theater in York but I am not 100% sure it was predecessor of the York Theater. I definitely remember the Arena Newstand. They had a big wooden framed box with glass sides on all four sides. The box had a wooden lid with a handle. Inside the glass sided box were those wonderful Smittie’s Soft Pretzels which you could buy for a nickle. Those pretzels were much better than the Smittie’s soft pretzels of today. I also remember often stopping by the L & H 5 and 10 and buying worthless trinkets and toys — things like those Chinese finger tubes where you stuck both fingers into the woven tubes and then couldn’t get your fingers out. We also bought wooden paddles with the the rubber ball on a long stretchy rubber band which was stapled to the paddle. As I recall you were very lucky if the rubber band didn’t tear off beyond about 5 or 10 swats. One of my favorite parts of the L & H 5 and 10 Store was the Candy Counter. The Candy Counter had these large slanted glass candy compartments where penny candy was sold. You could buy those big chunks of Kleins Chocolate pieces. The 5 & 10 sold so much candy that they had a full time candy person taking care of selling candy. Actually the store had just about anything you wanted. I remember buying my first plastic model kit there — I believe it was an airplane moddel kit. I wasn’t real good at gluing it together with that horrible Duco Cement fromthe tube. It was fun walking through the store on those creaky old wooden floors. As I recall they had both a street level and a basement level. I know there was a restaurant near the theater but don’t remember much about it. In later years Bury’s opened a real small take out diner type restaurant across the street. There was no sit down space in that little take out restaurant. I remeber the huge arena which seemed to stretch from East Market to almost East Philadelphia Street. The arena was not only used for roller skating but also convention like shows. I remember attending an Isaac Walton League Outdoor Show there in the early 1950’s. You said that the arena appeared in the 1948 City Directory but not the 1950 Directory. I am positive the arena did not burn down until somewhwere between 1951 – 1955. I will tell you why. In 1950 I would only have been 3 years old and would not have the vivid memory of the arena. I distinctly remember attending the Isaac Walton League Outdoor Show and seeing a snake or two in glass cages. I also remember becoming seperated from my mom, grandparents and uncle and getting lost. I began to cry and ran through the arena looking for my family. The officials caght me and asked me my name and I told them but I told them my last name was my mother’s maiden name. They announced that they had a little lost boy over the intercom. I was finally reunited with my family. We moved out of the city of York in the summer of 1956. Sometime — probably not more than four years before 1956 the arena caught fire. I remember that night just like it was yesterday. My mom, my dad, my cousin, and my grandmother walked me over to the corner of East King Street and Edgar Street and we looked up into the northeastern night sky and we could see that the whole sky was lit up by the flames from the arena fire. I wanted to get closer to the fire but parents and grandmother told me we couldn’t get in the way of the firemen. I estimate that night as being somewhere around 1951 – 1955. An interesting side note is that many people considered this fire to be the largest fire ever in the history of York but Jim McClure does not list this fire as one of York’s largest in the discussion on the Exchange of several years ago. Most people who lived during that time will tell you that it was York’s Greatest Fire. Perhaps the history of this building has been lost from official records. I do know that the theater and the stores on Market Street were damaged and that the flames also caused some damage to the A & P Food Market on East Philadelphia Street close to the railroad tracks at Broad Street. Many years later a train derailed along the 5 & 10 building on East Market Street causing much of the western side of the 5 &10 building to collapse. I believe this was in the late 1960’s or perhaps very early 1970’s. I also believe that this train derailment and the damage that it cause spelled the end and the demolition of these buildings along East Market Street which were eventually replaced by the Danskin Sewing Company.

    • Jim Fahringer says:

      Correction — I don’t think the theater name before the York Theater was the Rialto as I previously stated I believe it was the Ritchley Theater. I knew it began with an “R”

  9. Jim Fahringer says:

    Playland Memories
    I remember attending roller skating parties at Playland in the very early 1960’s. I would attend on special nights that were set apart for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and sometimes school groups. I remember when they would conduct a partner skate towards the end of the evening and the girls could ask the boys to skate with them as their partner. Being very shy, I felt so awkward and clumsy as I skated around holding the hands of a girl on the wooden floor. One time I was standing back in the refreshment room when my roller skates rolled out from under me with my legs still in them. I did a total flip and landed on my back while my cup of coke rocketed onto the ceiling causing a cascade of coke spewing over everyone around me including the cashier at the snack bar. If looks could kill, that night I would have died from the expression on the face of the cashier as she hurried to clean up the mess. In the late 1950’s I lived close to the Chronister Farm in Springettsbury Township. In the southern end of their farm property was airplane hanger which housed the private plane of Mr. Sternbergh who was the owner of Playland. We often saw him take off in his plane. Somehow a Dr. Herman Gehly (sp) was also affiliated with Mr. Sternbergh. As we progressed through the 1960’s the condition of the once beautiful roller rink began to deteriorate. I remember seeing holes punched into some of the walls by what appeared to be the results of a person’s fist.

    The Playland complex also included a pool and a motel. The motel rooms were built around the pool with the pool being in the center. There was a place off to the side of the motel office where you could look through heavy plate glass and observe the underwater view of the pool. Many swimmers would dive down under the water, hold their breath and swim to the window and wave to the onlookers on the opposite side of the glass who might be registering for a room. It was a unique motel and swimming pool combined.

  10. My husband(of 50 years) and I met at Playland. Our 2 youngest children were in the place when it caught fire. All 4 of our children went there to skate. I can still remember driving in to get my children when it was on fire. I could see the black smoke coming from there and I was frantic even through I knew my children were o.k. My husband and I had some good times there. We worked for McCrory’s Distribution Center and they would hold their Christmas Parties there for the kids. It was a good place for the kids to hang out and have some fun. I will always remember all the good times we had there.

  11. Don Waltman says:

    I remember both the Playland pool and skating rink, although I wasn’t there a lot of times. I sometimes went with my friend Dexter Sternberg, grandson of David Sternberg. Dexter lives in Toronto and would be a good source if you’re looking for more info. He’s on Facebook.

  12. andrew diehl says:

    Can anyone recall what was to the right side of playland skating rink as you look at it head on from east market st ….some say a restraunt/lounge or something else….

    • Carolyn Hall says:

      Believe your guess was correct my mom believes it was the Flamingo Restaurant and Bar. The place had a big window so you could see the swimming pool from there.

  13. Bob Hoffman says:

    I can remember Playland from the late 50’s and early 60’s. I went there every weekend and attended many special events like New Years Eve. I used to race and was a member of the racing team out of a Lancaster Roller Skating Rink, who’s name escapes me. I know it was at an Amusement Park. It was a great place and I loved to skate to the organ music. In 63, I graduated from York High and joined the Marine Corps. I only got back there a few times after that. I was really saddened when I heard it had burned down. My shins and knees still show the scars from racing and sliding on that hard wood. I ruined a few trousers too. After the rink burned, the Pool and Hotel still stood for several year. I hear now, that it is gone to.

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