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Roseville, Warren

January 16, 2013

Skating down memory lane

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Skating down memory lane
Warren resident Sean Baker, who used to skate at the rink, brought his daughter Lily, age 1 1/2, to the Great Skate Reunion Jan. 6 in Roseville.

ROSEVILLE  — From 1984 through 1995, everyone knew where to find Greg Childs: at the Great Skate roller rink at 29100 Hayes Road.

It was a second home for the 1988 Warren Woods Tower High School graduate, who, for nine years, worked at the rink as a floor guard. He also spun records  — including those of Michael Jackson and Prince — in the disc jockey booth.

“When I was growing up, my brother worked at the Macomb Roller Rink by Macomb Mall,” Childs said. “I always wanted to work at a roller rink, but I was 14 and didn’t have a car.”

So when Great Skate was hiring, he applied. Because the rink was so close to home, Childs walked to work. It was the perfect fit.

“It was a great job to have,” Childs said. “The hours were good. You basically got paid to have fun. Everybody had everybody’s back. It was family. Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday — those were the big nights here. I probably skated over 1,000 sessions.”

“This was the best time when I was a kid,” said Melissa Lau-Morrow, a 1998 Fitzgerald High School graduate and former Great Skate employee.

Since so many people have fond memories of their time working or skating at the rink, “The Great Skate Reunion” was started about five years ago. It’s held on the first Sunday of every January and is open to anybody.

This year’s reunion on Jan. 6 drew skaters from all over, along with their families. They spent the early evening hours — under twinkling lights and a disco ball — whizzing across the rink and reminiscing.

Brandi (MacLauren) Reaume, a Great Skate employee in the early ’90s, always hung out there, even when she wasn’t on the clock. Although people came from different high schools, everyone got along, the 1993 Cousino High School graduate said.

“It was like my other family,” she said. “It was usually the same people.”

“A lot of people were from East Detroit, L’Anse Creuse, Roseville, Center Line, all different schools,” Brian Wilfong, 37, of Warren, said. “The whole atmosphere was always fun here.”

Reaume attended this year’s reunion with her daughters Jessica Ninness, a Cousino senior, and Ashlee Reaume, a third-grade student at Wilde Elementary School.

“You walk in, and it still has the same smell,” Reaume said. “My mom always knew when I was there because she said I would smell like the place.”

Lau-Morrow remembers the all-nighters like they were yesterday.

“We used to wear our pajamas and people brought sleeping bags. We would bring hockey bags full of clothes and hair dryers,” she said. “We’d slit down our slippers and put them over our skates.”

Brothers Eddie and Randy Bond were longtime Great Skate regulars, thus becoming highly-skilled skaters.

“He was the craziest one, skating and doing back flips,” Eddie Bond, 34, said of his younger brother, Randy, 25.

Willie Noe, of Eastpointe, was about 13 when he first set foot inside Great Skate, but it wasn’t to glide around the rink.

“I used to come up and play video games,” the 33-year-old said. “I was always afraid to come out onto the floor.”

But he got up his nerve and, within two weeks, laced up his first pair of skates. Holding on to the wall was how Noe learned to rollerskate.

Some of the regulars admitted they didn’t always follow the rules.

“We would skate really fast and then we would get in trouble and sit against the wall,” Reaume said. “The skating guards would blow their whistle at us and make us stop.”

“Greg (Childs) kicked us out for going too fast,” 1993 Lincoln High School graduate Wilfong said. “You’d go back the next night.”

Something Childs will never forget was welcoming Detroit Tigers Darrell Evans, Rusty Kuntz and Dave Bergman after the team won the World Series in 1984.

“There were tons of people here,” Childs recalled.

Shelby Township resident Greg Fedon, 41, just might hold the distinction of being the youngest person to ever work at the roller rink. He was hired at age 12. During his first year, Fedon’s salary didn’t come in the form of a paycheck, but in free skating passes. Fedon, known as “GQ,” still remembers his work schedule. And it was the best job ever.

“What wouldn’t you like about it? You got paid to talk to girls when you were younger,” the 1990 Cousino graduate said. “You’d listen to music. You got paid to hang out with your friends.”

The roller rink first opened in 1975 and was known as International. It was sold in 1982 and the name was changed to Great Skate.

Tom Pasternak, Sheryl Bower, and Beverly and Brenda Dryman are the managers. Mack Douglas is the owner.

For a schedule of open skate times, classes and more, visit the Great Skate website at www.GreatSkateOnline.com or call (586) 777-4300.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.