THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM AND THE LORDSHIP SKATING RINK

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May 25, 1934: THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM OPENS: Connecticuts newest dance rendezvous, the Crystal Ballroom opens his Friday night at Lordship Beach featuring the distinctive music of Tal Henry and his North Carolinians, NBC, Victor recording and Warner Brothers Vitaphone favorites. Tal Henry, known as the Personality Prince of Jazz was chosen as the opening attraction because of his successes at practically every large ballroom and hotel from the Atlantic to Chicago, as far west as Kansas City and south as far as Dallas, Texas. A graduate of the same college as Hal Kemp, Tal Henry has achieved as much fame in the south as Kemp has in the north. Henry has also attracted a nation-wide following as the result of his broadcasts over the WEAF and WJZ networks from the Hotel New Yorker. The Crystal Ballroom has been entirely renovated for the gala opening. A shiny new dance floor awaits local dancers. Crystallized walls, which glisten as the vari-colored lights are switched on, beautiful chandeliers and crystals hanging from the ceiling and smart new Yale blue furniture all provide a distinctive atmosphere to this rendezvous for those who seek the crystal of fine dancing. Tal Henrys band will play for six consecutive nights starting tonight at the Crystal Ballroom and various special attractions will be offered each evening. Lordship busses run direct to the ballroom.

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June 29, 1934: SUNDAY NIGHT DANCE HEARING BRINGS 400 BEFORE COMMITTEE: More than 400 persons attended the public hearing before the ordinance committee of the town council at Legion Hall Monday night to argue pro and con on the merits of lifting the ban on Sunday night dancing. Application of Mrs. Peggy Doyle, owner of the Crystal Ballroom in Lordship to operate her dance hall on Sunday nights, brought on the hearing. Under an existing state law the operation of dance halls on Sundays is barred, but municipalities are given the privilege of lifting the ban if desired. A resolution of the town council several years back held that this ban should be continued and a change is sought by Mrs. Doyle. Petitions and letters from various groups and organizations of the town were presented favoring and opposing the plan and speakers for both sides of the question were given an opportunity to present their views. The operation of motion pictures on Sunday evening was injected into the picture by the dance hall opponents on the grounds that dancing was less harmful to youth and it was unjust to allow the movies to operate and ban the dancing. A change in favor of the Lordship dance hall would affect all Stratford and the hearing was held on the basis of a possible change for the town at large. The committees finding will be reported to the meeting of the town council at its next meeting, July 9, Councilman Raymond Watt who presided at the hearing announced. The speakers at the hearing were kept in control and only once did Mr. Watt have to call the audience to order when applause greeted the statement by one of the speakers that he was about to conclude his remarks after a rather lengthy discourse. At the opening of the meeting it was announced the committee would assume all who spoke were property owners or voters and Mrs. Doyle rose to object when the Reverend Clifford Smith, pastor of the Lordship Community Church and the Franklin Hill Community Church asked the privilege of the floor to read a communication from the church. Mr. Watt allowed the Rev. Mr. Smith to read the letter. Richard Weldon, former prosecutor of the town court speaking in favor of the plan pointed to the advancement in ideas in the last century. Things which were considered wrong a hundred years ago were considered perfectly aright today he declared. He cited the General Acts of 1835 in which various penalties were imposed for doing certain things on the Sabbath day. The dance hall in Lordship who oppose it are short sighted he declared. Calling attention to the opposition to the establishment of the Bridgeport Broadcasting Company radio station in Lordship he pointed out that because of this objection the station located 40 inches over the line in Bridgeport and now pays taxes to the Park City instead of Stratford. George Ferrio Jr. speaking for the plan urged that support be given those who contributed to the development of the community. A selected few he declared, have been opposing every move which would act for the improvement of Lordship.

The Crystal Ballroom would become the Lordship Skating Rink in the 1940's

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May 27, 1949: The skating rink known as Delvys for many years will now be known as Ernies. The new owner is Ernie Antignani.

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Ernies Skating Rink

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LB Skating Rink 1955

August 24, 1951 - Church Bazaar Scheduled In Lordship Skating Rink: The annual summer bazaar of Our Lady of Peace Church, Lordship will take place in Ernie's Skating Arena, Washington Parkway, Lordship, tonight and Saturday with Mrs. Frank Healing and Mrs. Michael Cooney as co-chairmen. A fashion show and bridge has been scheduled for tonight at 7:30 pm, a food sale Saturday at 3 pm and a modern and old fashioned dance Saturday at 7:30 pm, Mrs. Annamae Connelly will be the fashion commentator with Mrs. George Ferrio, Mrs. Wallace Lineburgh, Mrs. Thomas Coughlin, Mrs. William Priestley, Mrs. Charles Novey, Mrs. James Penders and Miss Mary Foley as models.

March 4, 1959 - SKATERS TO VIE IN AREA CONTEST: The Longbeach Skating Club will sponsor a New England skating competition March 14 in the Lordship Skating rink, Washington Parkway, Stratford. Contestants will be members of the New England Amateur Roller Skating Association. Approximately 300 skaters are expected to assemble for the meet. Trophies will be awarded in seven divisions: juvenile, novice, sub-novice, intra, intermediate, junior and senior. The competition is one of five meets to be conducted in the New England area. The competition will begin at 8 a.m. and will end at 7 p.m. with a 2 hour afternoon intermission.

LONG BEACH SKATELAND WEBSITE

  • Long Beach Skateland

    The Lordship Skating Rink Fire

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    May 1, 1967 - LONG BEACH RINK BURNS - Damage Set at $100,000: Stratford fire officials estimated damage at $100,000 to the Long Beach Skateland, 55 Washington Parkway, in the Lordship section of Stratford, which was destroyed by fire yesterday at 6 p.m. No injuries were reported to 30 patrons; mostly youngsters who were in the establishment at the time of the tire. All were shepherded out the exit doors by William Fellows, of 688 Honeyspot Road, Stratford, the owner and William F. Freeman, Jr., of 57 Meritime Avenue, Stratford an employee, police said. Minutes after Mr. Fellows called the Stratford Fire department, flames were licking through the roof and burning timbers were falling to the ground as the first fire trucks arrived from Lordship and Headquarters stations, firemen said. During the height of the blaze Firefighter Richard Cullen was overcome by smoke and was assisted from the building. He was given first aid at the scene and returned to duty. Dense smoke from the fire filled the sky, and could be seen along the Connecticut Turnpike, Fairfield and beyond, observers said. The United Illuminating Company was called by police when live wires which were downed by the blaze presented a hazard to firemen and spectators. A UI emergency crew responded. Despite police attempts to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles, spectators came from all parts of Lordship, Stratford and nearby communities. Police said the crowd of onlookers, heedless of the danger, pressed forward and were wet by the wind-carried spray of firemen's hoses. Responding to the blaze were engine 4 and booster 3 from Lordship Fire station, and engines 1 and 2, emergency 1 and snorkel 1 from Headquarters station, commanded by Chief Theodore Lockwood, assistant Chief Peter Jastermsky, and Lieutenants Stanley McAuliffe and Cyril Lawrence. Fire officials said the blaze was brought under control by 9:17 o'clock, but apparatus from Lordship station remained at the scene until after midnight. The cause of the blaze was apparently defective wiring which short circuited, fire officials said. Police said a total of $900 in bills and change was burned in the fire. The bills were charred in the box in which they were kept, and metal coins were fused together into a solid mass. Skateland was a roller skating rink which drew skaters from the surrounding area, and was used as a meeting place by many young people. Because all skating sessions were carefully supervised by Mr. Fellows and employee of the rink, police said, Skateland earned a highly desirable reputation among parents. Mr. Fellows said he purchased the Skateland building approximately 15 years ago. The structure was erected in 1911, he said, and was completely remodeled in 1952. When asked if he planned to rebuild, Mr. Fellows said the building was covered by only $30,000 in insurance, "which would not go very far" in rebuilding such an establishment. "We'll see if it is possible Mr. Fellows stated.

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    September 11, 1967 - DINNER HONORS OWNER OF RINK: William J. Fellows, owner of the Long Beach Skating Rink, 55 Washington parkway; Stratford, destroyed by fire April 30, was presented a $750 "building" gift by members of the Long Beach Skating club and a committee of parents of members of the organization during a testimonial dinner Saturday night in Knights of Columbus hall, 2500 Park avenue. The rink owner is rebuilding the skating recreation landmark located in the Lordship section. The 56-year-old structure is being replaced with a modern fireproof air-conditioned rink. State Rep. Albert Provenzano of Stratford, speaker, praised the courage of Mr. Fellows in meeting the challenge of "helping to provide a place for our children and for all of us, to skate the year round." Walter Auger, Lordship councilman, told the group of 285 persons at the dinner, "We hope to see all of you soon at the new rink when it is completed." "Bill Fellows is to be commended for picking himself up by the bootstraps after a terrible tragedy," Mr. Auger said. Mrs. Vera Havanec was chairman of the arrangements committee. She was assisted by Steve Havanec, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pettitte, Mr. and Mrs. Al Kuban, John Bohoc, Mrs. Mary Alarcon and Mr. and Mrs. William Freeman. Also, Mrs. Patricia Chonko, George Blake, Mrs. Dorothy Sawyer, Joseph Gnida, William Barnard, Patricia Alarcon, Joseph Costa, Al Jovia, William Brelsford, Robert Havanec, Elizabeth Honey, Richard Havanec and Steve Havanec, Jr. Charles Dannenberg, president of the skating club, and Mrs. Vera Havanec made the presentation of the gift. An album of photos and newspaper clippings of the fire was also presented to Mr. Fellows. Steve Havanec, Sr. was master of ceremonies.

    November 26, 1967 - The Lordship skating rink has already been erected, and the inside is now being finished, according to observers in the lower end of town. The rink may be opened for roller skaters within two or three weeks.

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    Above photos courtesy of Frank DeCerbo

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    Skate club 1954

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    1956 Skating ad

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    Roller Skating

    January 21, 1965: Ever watched a game of hockey played on roller skates? The sport is catching on in popularity across the country and Lordship has its own front row seat at the Long Beach roller rink on Washington Parkway. Adapted for roller skating, the game is played with a rubber ball instead of a puck. Spanish hockey sticks, described as similar to Jai Alai baskets are used. The Rolling Rebels, as the Long Beach team is called, has swept the first half of the season, winning the class B championship in the Middle Atlantic Roller Hockey League. Spectators are welcome to drop in and watch the games. The schedule for the second half of the season will be posted shortly.

    February 4, 1965: SKATERS NET CLASS B TITLE: The Long Beach Rolling Rebels Hockey Team of Stratford, Connecticut has just completed a very successful first half season, winning the class B championship. In their first year of competition in the Middle Atlantic Roller Hockey League, they have compiled a record of six wins and two losses.

    December 31, 1992 - As a group of teen-age girls raced by, shrieking with delight, Jonathan Vining, 5, gingerly took his first steps onto the classic wooden roller-skating rink, clutching the railing. But before long, Jonathan was venturing out, grinning broadly with each tumble onto the floor -- knee and elbow pads helping to absorb the shock. "In just an hour he's gone from being afraid to being pretty bold out there," said Jonathan's mother, Debora Vining of Milford, pointing proudly as he circled the rink with his two older sisters and almost 150 other skaters. "I think he's really having fun." Skaters have been having fun at Long Beach Skateland in the Lordship section of Stratford for more than 40 years. The rink's owner, William J. Fellows, believes his rink, tucked away behind Sikorsky Airport and within sight of Long Island Sound, is the oldest continuously operating roller skating rink in Connecticut and one of only about a half-dozen remaining in the state. "We've survived all the fads," said Mr. Fellows, who bought the former dance hall at 55 Washington Parkway in 1951. "The disco skating craze of the late 1970's and early 80's was popular for a couple of years, then it died," he said. "Now, the Rollerblade fad is big, but we'll survive that too." Many rinks, however, have not survived. During the sport's peak in the disco era, there were more than 40 rinks in Connecticut, said Mr. Fellows, a former vice president of the Roller Skating Association, a national trade group. But high overhead costs and competing entertainment like video games have cut sharply into the business. "We're certainly in a decline right now," said Nicholas R. Hodge, sports information director for the United States Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating, in Lincoln, Neb., who said the number of rinks nationwide has been cut in half, to about 1,500, since the disco years. "When a fad dies, it dies hard and fast," said Mr. Hodge. "There are a lot of things people can do these days to be entertained, and it's tough for roller skating rinks to compete." But at Long Beach Skateland, where one might imagine it was still the early 1950's, skaters said there isn't anything they would rather be doing. "I love it, it's more fun than just about anything," said Lydia Rosado, 11, a Stratford sixth-grader who has been skating since she was 3. Wearing a pink-and-blue skating dress, she quickly became a blur as she practiced spins and turns in the center of the rink. Lydia and many of the regulars are among thousands of amateur skaters around the nation who compete in regional and national competitions. Another is Christopher Syx, 15, who competed in the 1992 National Junior Olympic Amateur Roller Skating Championships in Fresno, Calif., with his 12-year-old sister, Melanie. "I used to be a real couch potato," said Christopher, a high school sophomore from Stratford. "I didn't want to do it at first because I thought it was corny and too feminine. But when I got out there on skates, I found that it was a real challenge and not as easy as it looked." But Christopher makes it look easy, said Rosemarie Fellows, the owner's daughter, who teaches at the rink and also manages the business with her brother, William J. Fellows Jr. She offers several reasons for the survival of the rink, where the $4.20 admission includes the skate rental. "We never got into any of the fads, like the disco craze, because my father didn't think it would last long and he turned out to be right," she said. "We stick to organ music and top-40 music and try to keep the feel of an old-style roller rink because that's what has worked for us. We've had older people come in and say they remember skating here as kids and they couldn't believe we were still around. Now, they're bringing their grandchildren." Some older patrons say the rink has made them feel young again. "It's really a throwback to another time," said Eugene Farkas, 65, of Bridgeport, who was watching his 13-year-old granddaughter skate to the same live organ music he skated to 50 years ago. "I skated when I was a child, but stopped when I got married," said Mr. Farkas. "Eight years ago I came here with my granddaughters and found out that I could still do it. I felt just like a kid again and since then I haven't stopped." A few feet away on the rink, a little girl was having trouble standing up. But with each fall to the ground, she laughed at her own lack of balance and stood up, determined to try again. After making it halfway around the rink before falling, the little girl screamed out to her mother, "Wow, this is fun! Can we come back tomorrow?"

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    Skates at dump 2015

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