Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: The Skating Rink

By , 4 February, 2010, 20 Comments

The Crystal Springs Roller Skating Rink debuted in September 1939 and was built and opened by Walter T. Curtis, who was born in Texas.  His daughter, Bernice Eleanor Curtis Rooks, the ZHS Valedictorian of the class of 1940, was almost five years old when she moved to Zephyrhills with her parents and brother.  Mr. Curtis also operated a sawmill and was a skilled carpenter but he had a hankering to build a dance hall in the picturesque location of Crystal Springs near the legendary springs.  He eventually decided upon a skating rink. Curtis personally milled all of the rough cut pine which provides the signature look of the vintage Depression-era building that gives one a feel of walking back into a bygone era.  Mr. Curtis wanted the skating surface to be just right for his skaters so he imported Tennessee Maple for the tongue and groove flooring that he painstakingly installed. The benches, vintage cash register and walls remain the same today as they did in 1939.  With 18 windows and several large fans, who needs air conditioning?

Situated on an adjoining area to the Crystal Springs Water Preserve, Curtis leased the Springs area for 10 years and operated a swimming pool next to the rink for some time. His daughter, Bernice, met her future husband, Truman at the swimming pool, and another chapter of the rink’s history began when Truman Rooks took the reins in 1972. Skating was a tradition for the Curtis-Rooks family.  Grandpa Curtis configured baby shoe skates for his three granddaughters, Marilyn, Barbara and Joellyn who say they were skating at age three. Truman said he skated himself until age 65.

Crystal Springs Roller Rink

Crystal Springs Roller Rink

Opening just before World War II, the skating rink is a Tampa Bay area attraction that chronicles many wonderful tales. Imagine the friendships that were created, the romances that blossomed and sometimes flourished, and the refuge from problems of the day that were provided by an afternoon at the skating rink.  Army buses of soldiers from MacDill came twice per week during the 1940’s to enjoy the facility. Skating was a national craze; Lou Brooks in the book, Skate Crazy defines the period of 1937-59 as the golden age of roller skating, although roller skating dates back to the 1800’s. Throughout the years, the Crystal Springs Rink has hosted parties of all types. Once open seven evenings per week, the rink is now open on Friday’s and Saturdays and for private parties. For 35 cents in 1939, you could skate for two hours and today for $4, you can experience the era and get some wonderful exercise.

Roller skates have evolved over time! The original skates were clamp-on style and later shoe skates which then morphed into boot skates.  Of course today, some skaters prefer the in-line skates, daughter, Joellyn mentioned. Joellyn has been co-managing the family facility since 1984. With three daughters, all remember working at the rink.  Barbara shared that slumber parties were quite unique events to host when your family operated the community skating rink.

Truman and Bernice Curtis Rooks are terrific role models for the community. Truman has been a firm disciplinarian of the skating facility, setting the rules and managing the crew of kids.  His daughters are proud of the many that stop by to say hi to Truman because of their fond memories of times there and his guidance.  One particular poignant example was that of an anonymous letter he received with $50, from someone who wanted to make restitution for a childhood prank of stealing some flag decorations; Truman smiles and reflects that this must have been weighing upon his conscience and he just wanted to make it right.

Bernice, active in the Zephyrhills community, wanted to fulfill a lifelong ambition to be a teacher. She said her earliest memories were of ‘playing school’ and when she graduated from high school; her mother wrote a personal letter to Eleanor Roosevelt for financial help.  (She said they did get a reply from the first lady but no funding).  Her father sent her to business school and she worked for awhile until her three daughters were in elementary school, and then took a job as one of only three school bus drivers in the Zephyrhills area; I.A. Krusen was the local school leader and hired her for the job. With her daily contact with the students and often serving as a substitute teacher when the school needed her, she decided to enroll in the brand new University of South Florida (opened in 1958); for $50, a semester, you could take all the courses that you would like. Bernice’s student identification number was 18, meaning she was the 18th person to enroll at USF. Imagine how many students have enrolled since then! Daughters, Barbara and Joellyn, share that they accompanied their mother to classes a few evenings per week and at the time, with only three buildings on the USF Tampa campus, they were fixtures themselves.  Bernice finished her degree in 1963 and taught school until her retirement in 1990 at East Zephyrhills, West Zephyrhills and Woodland Elementary Schools. While daughter, Joellyn, carried on the Skating tradition and eldest daughter, Marilyn, works at Verizon, middle daughter Barbara continued the teaching profession and served as a teacher in Zephyrhills for 36 years.  The Rooks are proud to have four grandchildren and four great grandchildren!

Truly wonderful citizens of our community, imagine the many people who have been impacted by these three generations of Curtis-Rooks families.  Here are some comments from our ZHS alumni:

I have many memories from the rink both for myself and my daughters. I wasn’t a very good skater but managed to stay off the floor.  Days then were easy and not so much pressure as today! Phyllis (Geiger) Locke-Debien

Skating Parties! George Neukom

There was a group of ‘mama’s’, Carleta Sibley, Lee Howard, Eileen Smith, Hazel Potter, Corinne Peeples, and probably others, that took their “daughters”, Bunnie Sue and Carol Sibley, Arneta Howard, Peggy, Gail and Mildred Smith, Shirley Potter, Barbara Peeples to the Crystal Springs Roller Rink years back when you still rented the old- fashioned clip on skates which attached to your own shoes.  We went every Friday night of the year, except during football season as we were all involved either in the band or cheerleading or majorettes, or all three, and usually at least 2 of the “mama’s” took us and stayed with us each time.  They would take turns going if it was necessary, but they enjoyed visiting for the two hours we would enjoy skating, and nobody ever complained, just enjoyed it.  The rink was usually quite full. Mrs. Curtis, who owned and operated it, was such a nice lady and we respected her even when she made us sit out for a few minutes to rest!!!  As we got a little older, probably teenagers, our folks bought us each shoe skates and that was quite a thrill to have our very own to carry into the rink and not have to rent a pair.  Truman Rooks, Mrs. Curtis’s son-in-law, still operates the roller rink and there are still children and teenagers getting to enjoy it! Gail (Smith) Geiger

I learned how to skate at the roller rink when I was three.  My family and friends went there every time it was open.  Mr. and Mrs. Rooks were very nice to us kids but didn’t allow any fooling around that might cause someone to get hurt.  It was either very hot or cold, depending on the weather because there was no heat or AC.  And when Mr. Rooks painted the floors it made the surface very slippery.  You could hold on to the rope in the middle of the rink if you needed to. Our daughter, Jennifer, learned to skate with us, her family, and with one of the Rooks’ girls helping her when she was very small! Carol (McLeod) & Howard Reeves

I loved the wood floor and Mr. and Mrs. Rooks.  They always made us feel welcome and it was the place my parents grew up skating and then we got to do the same.  I knew where every bump was located on the floor and when first learning to skate, I used that rope in the middle and the walls to bump into.  Oh those large open windows felt good on a hot night. I can remember being awed by how well Joellyn skated! Suzie (Hill) Pippin

I only went a couple of times as I was not a good skater and I got tired of falling and getting all bruised up.  I do remember holding onto the window sills while I went around the rink. There were lots of windows that pushed out and were held up by a stick.  No AC but we didn’t seem to mind.  We were usually hanging out with friends.  It’s amazing that the rink is still open after all these years! Clereen (Morrill) Brunty

I can remember hanging out the windows, because it got so hot.  But the best part was when they were shutting down, and you got to help go around and shut all the windows.  The little Rook girls were so cute and little and on their skates, skating better than everyone else! Melody (Wheeler) Williford

Great music! Sharon (Geiger) Reeves

Didn’t we all find our first love here?  After two hours of skating I would take my skates off and the earth seamed like it stopped spinning while my head couldn’t stop.  I still get that dizzy feeling every time I hear, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” and the sadness you felt knowing that the night was over! Laura (Heller) Woodham

Having Friday night skate party’s at the roller rink was such a past time. It also helped when you knew the guy behind the counter. It was easier to get your favorite song played and for him to let you skate the other direction! Wendy (Hierlihy) Lair

I would skate there to just have fun! Sarah Baggett

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on July 30, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

20 Responses {#}
  • Betty McHan

    I have great memories as a child there. In fact, I take my children by there and they can’t believe its a actual skating rink!! lol My father still lives in Crystal Springs!

  • tonda

    i grew up here love this place. im in n.c now but realy love the skateing rink please never change it . tonda

  • Jammie R Ward

    Mrs. Rooks was my kindergarten teacher in 1979 at Woodland Elemantary, and I can remember going on field trips to the roller rink. My mother Mildred Gill would tell me about her and and my aunts and uncles going to the roller rink. Mom sadly passed away this year from a battle with cancer, leukemia, she was the youngest of 8 children of marion gill and lonteen gill/ Johnson. many really great memories of the roller rink.

  • Samantha

    I grew up skating there me and my brothers and sister. We lived hanging out there. Its a sad loss that Mr. Rooks has passed away.

  • Sherry

    I grew up skating there and took my children and now my children take theirs to skate…

  • esmeralda 'nicki' gibson

    Ive been going since I was a child, my family as well. (Betty mchan ^above^ is my aunt) its a great time for sure!

  • Debbie McCurdy

    Being from Crystal Springs this was our Hangout on Fri. & Sat, Nights , We were devoted skaters and we all loved Truman Rooks to peices , he watched all of us Crystal Springs girls grow up. Alot of fond memories in this building , and laughter . Happy 100 th Crystal Springs Roller Rink , i know that Truman is still looking after you from Heaven <3

  • Stephanie (Massey) Fitzgerald

    I have lots of great memories there. I remember the small bottles of coke and the simplicity of it all. We always had fun. 🙂

  • Kathy lloyd

    Loved growing up at the skating rink on the weekends.. lots of good times.. Mr.Rooks knew every kid by name.
    Wonderful man

  • Susie Musser Nicely

    Just a Swingin!! Is one of the songs I remember skating to!! I loved going skating on Friday nights- it’s what we lived for after Football season was over!!

  • Jocelyn edge

    I am almost 18 and ever since I was little I have been going there. I had many birthday party’s there with all my friends. The best moments were when Mr rooks use to open up, and all of us kids waited for him to walk around the corner to unlock those big doors. Just seeing him so happy made my day every time. I love going there an I hope it will be there when I have grandchildren in the future. I would be really devistated if anything bad happend to that place its like a second home. Thank you for all that y’all have done to keep this community livin and keepin us out of trouble that is the true place you can go so you don’t get in to any trouble. 🙂

  • Sandy barriger

    My mom and dad skated here, as well as my sister and me, and our kids. Mr Rooks was the best he was like family to us, we miss him very much, joellen and Steve are doing a great job though. I will always have great memories….

  • Ann marie

    I made so many great memories here. Had my first kiss here many many years ago. Just a perfect place to go after a hard day and just skate out the frustration. Now I take my son and he loves it

  • Kathy Thomas Streeter{Pollino}

    My family has been going to the Skating Rink since 1971. My Brother Steve met his wife there & my Sister Donna met Her Husband there, My 6 siblings went there my 6 kids an 6 grand kids go Now I Loved Mr. Rooks he was so Nice

  • lisa

    I grew up going there and Mr. Rooks was a great man and I thought of him as a grandpa to me. He introduced me to my future husband and we have been together for 24 yrs and have 2 kids and we took them there and we still try to find time to go and skate and we are in our 50 & 60 yrs old.

  • Tracy Hoyle

    My husband and I had our first date here. I loved spending my Friday and Saturday nights roller skating. Made a lot of wonderful memories.

  • Tracey Hardman

    Such amazing childhood memories!

    And the best classic coca colas in those little glass bottles were amazing after working up a thirst from skating!

    Thank you so much to everyone involved in creating such a magical place for me when I was growing up 🙂

  • Angela Barney

    I remember when we moved to Crystal Springs from the Motor City. I remember being miserable with nothing to do. The springs were open to the public back then. I remember going to the rink every friday and saturday, probably saved me from a lot of trouble. When I grew up and had children of my own I took the kids on weekends and they also loved it as much as i did when I was a child. Now they are all grown up and we moved away but the memories are still with us. Thanks for being there. Hope you have many more years to come.

  • Betty (Howard) Lisenby

    My church group from Dade City had several skating parties here as very young teens in the mid 1950s. Those who could skate helped the rest of us as we learned to stay up and eventually graduated rom the outside edges to the middle of the circling crowd. good times and great memories.

  • wanda stevens

    I grew up in upstate NY and skated for years at the Sylvan Beach Skating Rink. My cousin Bud (Clyde) Schafer worked there many years. We had more fun and there were plenty of good skaters, esp. my cousin Bud. Me, not so much..but I had fun and it was a chance to meet some local boys..those were the days. I moved to ZHills in 1999 and was very surprised to hear there was a skating rink near by. I did not go skating but was always happy to refer folks there. The old roller skating organ music was special. remember that??

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