FAIRBANKS — If energy and passion alone could build a roller skating rink, Floyd Terry would have long ago blanketed Fairbanks in family-friendly skating venues.
Since 1998, when Fairbanks’ Polar Roller closed (it later switched to ice skating), Terry has worked to get a roller skating rink back in Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
He’s set up booths at the state fair, he writes letters to the editor and he drives a truck with his name and a winged roller-skate logo to build support for the idea. He’s a constant presence at city council meetings, a stout man with a white goatee that extends to his shoulders who presents heartfelt testimony about how the Golden Heart City could be improved with a roller rink.
As he often reminds people, he’s in no position to buy or manage a rink himself. But he wants to help anyone who can. At 82-years-old, he said last week he doesn’t have as much energy to devote to the project as he used to. He is making one final push to try to inspire someone to make a roller rink happen.
It was 1942 and Terry was 10 or 11 when he first rolled a pair of rental skates onto a rink in his home town of Celeron, New York. The skating surface was made of wood at the now-closed Midway rink instead of the laminate surface used in modern rinks. There were no black lights or strobes and an organist played live music for roller skaters circling the rink.
Terry remembers it well. A cousin talked him into going to the rink. For the first few times he sat and watched without skating. Then he tried on a pair of skates.
“I went maybe two times watching. The second time he (the cousin) said, ‘Come on Floyd, put on a pair of skates, I’ll help you.’ So I put on a pair of skates. And I’ll never forget that. From then on it was four to six nights a week. I’d rather go to the rink than sit home and eat dinner.”
To support his hobby, Terry used to sell meat from rabbits he raised. The hobby also led him to leave school after eighth grade to join his father working at a furniture factory.
Terry used to skate in the evenings when he finished work and eventually he got a car and would visit other town’s rinks in western New York and northern Pennsylvania. He met his first wife at a roller rink.
Terry mostly skated recreationally growing up, although in his advocacy for a Fairbanks rink, he likes to point out that rinks are versatile and can be used for recreational skating, speed skating races, roller hockey or roller derby. The latter sport has become popular in recent years.
Skating, ballooning, mushing, dancing
Terry’s continued interest in skating comes in spite of the fact that he hasn’t put on a pair of skates since the 1950s.
Terry moved with his first wife to Las Vegas and away from roller skating. In the next decade, he worked as a cook and dishwasher in Fairbanks in national parks throughout the American West, including Yellowstone, Kings Canyon and Death Valley.
In recent decades, Terry’s interests include square dancing, hot air ballooning and dog mushing. He met his second-wife, since-divorced, while square dancing. His interest in dog mushing brought him to Alaska in 1981, when he moved with a kennel of dogs from Fresno, California, to Nenana to work for Iditarod and Yukon Quest musher Bill Cotter.
Terry’s belief in the importance of roller skating hasn’t faded, even as he’s moved away from the sport. As Terry sees it, a town needs a skating rink to build a sense of community and to keep young people away from drug abuse and violence.
“(We need a rink) to get more families together, also to have more fun things to do,” he said last week, repeating the argument he’s made for a rink for many years. “I think a rink would bring the community itself together more than anything else, for all ages.”
Although his efforts have been a lonely and so far fruitless pursuit, he’s not the only one who likes the idea.
At his two-room Goldstream Valley cabin, Terry keeps three plastic storage containers with research about skating rinks. He collects correspondence with potential rink makers, lists of interested people collected from his state fair booth and letters to the editor clippings from other people who’ve written about roller rinks. He also collects skating trade magazines and skating-related DVDs like a copy of the musical “Xanadu,” and roller derby film “Whip It!” He keeps a copy of a 2013 Fairbanks City Council resolution praising his advocacy for a new roller rink as well as for his dog mushing and hot-air-balloon work.
He closely followed a failed attempt to create a rink at the Sears building a few years ago.
As always, Terry invites people interested in developing a skating rink to write him.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com