The Effect Of The RSROA On Roller Skating

By: Jimmy Cox

In 1937 a group of roller-rink operators determined to band together and make a serious attempt to elevate the sport's standards and management. Several amateur competitions were fostered. On April 3, 1937, seventeen operators met at Detroit and organized the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA) of the United States. It set up as its main objective the advancement of amateur roller skating.

Perry Rawson, a retired New York broker and amateur ice skater, who had thoroughly studied International Style figure and dance skating, visited England in 1937 and saw for himself what had been accomplished on rollers in that country. When he returned to America, Rawson brought back motion picture films showing that the International Style, which was prevalent on ice, was possible on rollers. The films showed British champions doing school figures, free style, and dancing on roller skates.

The exhibition of these films in many rinks throughout the United States aroused great enthusiasm. In October of 1938, James and Joan Lindstone, the British champions, came to the United States and toured the country, giving exhibitions at many of the leading rinks. Their spellbinding act greatly impressed American skaters, and from that point the International Style came into its own in the United States.

The first national meet to be sanctioned by the RSROA was the speed-skating championships held at the Sefferino Rollerdrome at Cincinnati in 1938. In the following year, the RSROA held its first national figure- and dance-skating championships, the figure-skating events being held at the Arena Gardens Rink in Detroit, and the skate-dancing competitions at the Mineola Skating Rink, Mineola, N.Y.

In 1940, figure-, dance-, and speed-skating championships were combined, and an all-inclusive national championship meet was held at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. The four-day meet catered to almost five hundred amateur skaters participating in all the classes of the three branches of the sport.

The meet was so successful that the membership of the RSROA decided to hold the National Championships at the same auditorium in 1941, when for four days, once again, the big auditorium was filled with amateur skaters. There were many more competitors than in the previous year, and ages ranged from six to thirty-six, all competing in dancing, figures, and racing for national titles.

At this time the RSROA founded an annual professional school where the country's leading instructors could get together in a group, exchange information, and agree on the standardization of skating and teaching procedure. It established rules and regulations for the game of roller hockey and for the organization of amateur roller hockey teams and leagues. It arranged a series of graded proficiency tests for dance, figure and speed skating, for which bronze, silver, and gold medals were awarded.

Meanwhile, roller skating had been publicized in three motion picture short subjects, had been included in two feature films, and had been the subject of many magazine articles and at least one full-length novel. Books were published, containing the various rules, regulations, tests, and amateur competitions for all branches of the sport. The first regularly scheduled newspaper column devoted exclusively to roller skating started in the New York Journal-American in 1940. The RSROA was very effective at getting the general public to accept and get excited about roller skating.

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