James and Joann Riley met at the Hodges Bros. Roller Rink in Springfield that operated from the mid 40’s to the mid 60’s and still have the roller skates they were wearing. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Springfield residents share fond memories of popular skating rink

He’s known to many as Imperial Debubba.

But through videos he now provides to local access Channel 5, Dick Hatfield merits mention as Springfield’s Nebuchadnezzar of Nostalgia.

And when Hatfield brought photos of Hodges Brothers Roller Rink to the Ohio Masonic Community last month, he sent some at the gathering of the Golden Era graduates of Springfield High School skating off into the past.

“I loved it,” Bonnie Parker Hoberty said of the rink Roy and Calvin Hodges operated at 2035 W. Main St. from 1942-1944; 1700 W. Main St. from 1945 into 1948; and 1620 W. Main St. from 1948 until 1964.

Using three words the next generation of SHS grads would associate with a Beach Boys song about a T-bird, the 1950 graduate describes Hodges as “fun, fun, fun.”

She went to the rink all through high school, met her late husband there and remembers many a detail about the happenings there.

“We did the Collegiate, we did waltzes, two-steps — and they might have had another one,” she recalled. “Sometimes (the girls) had skating skirts,” and she had her own skates, bought for her on her birthday at Hodges.

“It was so fun. (We) took our daughters (Deborah and Rebecca) skating with a group that skated for years.”

Like Hoberty, James and Joann Gremler Riley got their romantic start at Hodges, meeting there when she was a student at Northeastern High School and he a fresh Springfield High graduate working as a production inspector at the William Bayley Co.

She was 19 and he 20 when they married, then also took their children to the rink when they came along, and recall how organist Hoffman took their son under his wing when the boy took up the instrument.

The Rileys still have their skates. They also have the ‘34 Plymouth coupe he was driving when they rolled up to Hodges together decades ago.

Margery Kellum Stump, Class of 1950, began skating at Hodges during her years at Hayward Junior High and is fuzzy on how she got to the rink in those days. But another Hodges memory stands out like the toe stop on the front of a skate.

It was a special New Year’s Eve skate she went to with best friend June Rice.

“Her father must have picked us up, and I stayed all night at their house,” she said.

To top it all off, her walk home the next morning was more like a skate.

“It was six blocks away, and it was icy.”

Like roller and ice rinks of today, Hodges was a teen gathering spot.

Nancy Higginbotham, also of the Class of ‘50, recalls hours spent skating to the organ music of Karl Hoffman with Joan Thornton and Betty Piccolo. She also remembers the boys from far away South Charleston they were eyeing, among them Ralph Hayes and Norman Tooker. (In the end, Higginbotham ended up marrying an Enon grad.)

The Class of ‘49’s Don Stiles is proud to say “I was there the night Hodges opened.”

He also bought skates there made with money made delivering telegrams from an office on Main Street downtown.

“I was working at the Western Union and … was probably 15 years old.”

By then, he was an experienced skater, having learned on the wood dance floor of a club on McCreight Avenue at the base of the Miracle Mile Hill as a young child before his family moved to what in those days was called the West End.

His memories of Hodges run together with recollections of ice skating in front of Yanucci’s Grocery on West Jefferson Street.

Nancy Cotter Rice, Class of ‘53, considered herself a lucky girl when she laced up her skates at Hodges.

Her Aunt Ednabelle had a pair that fit Rice’s feet perfectly. So, at age 14 or 15, she and best friend Joanne Knick Garrity skated every weekend, staying until the last skate before putting on her street shoes and rushing out to catch the city bus home.

For years before heading to Hodges, Rice had spent untold hours skating on the expanse of cement next to her home using key-adjusted metal skates that attached to her shoes.

Although she never danced on skates, “you’d cross your hands and skate with another person.”

She remembers the rink as a safe place to go for girls of her age and, at 84, attributes the good health of she and her surviving friends to a diet that was as wholesome as roller skating.

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