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Four-wheeling: Roller-skating is a fun and wholesome experience at Skateland
Rolling into Skateland in East Bremerton is like rolling back in time.
It hasn’t changed since it was plopped down in its current location in 1984. The mauve and teal paint, the brown skates with orange stoppers and the graphic printed carpet makes you feel like it’s the 1980s all over again, minus the big hair and acid-washed jeans.
“The only thing that has changed is the music,” said Frankie Lee, co-owner of Skateland. Current top 40 hits blare over the sound system. But fear not: old-school music nights take place on Sunday.
Lee and co-owner Jim Stevenson opened Skateland in May 1984. The current rink was moved from Salem, Ore., where Stevenson ran the business. “Some guy wanted our real estate, so we sold the real estate, dismantled the building and this is it. We tore it down like a Tinkertoy,” Stevenson said.
They chose to relocate to Bremerton because it was a good-size community to support a skating rink. A good skating community is usually one with more than one high school in the area, Stevenson said. With its three surrounding cities, East Bremerton fit the bill.
Lee and Stevenson are found at the rink during the hours of operation.
“That’s how it is with small businesses. You’ve got to protect your interests,” Stevenson said. “We are a bit out of kilter with everybody. We work when everyone else is off.”
Skaters at Skateland don’t only partake in the “limbo,” “shoot the duck” and the “hokey pokey.” There are four skating clubs that use the rink for the sports of figure skating, speed skating, roller derby and roller hockey. Lee coaches the roller hockey team. Over the years, Skateland has produced 61 National Hockey U.S. World Team members.
Vera Shadduck is the artistic coach. Because of the nature of the roller skates, artistic roller skaters can do everything figure ice skaters can do and more, she said. “It’s twice as nice without the ice.”
Shadduck and Lee become second parents to the kids they coach. “A lot of the kids I’ve coached would be in jail or trouble. But because we were here, they stayed out of trouble,” Lee said.
Shadduck agreed, and called Lee and herself “stewards of the young.” Besides coaching, they also teach their students civility, she said.
Standing tall on his shiny black skates is Richard “Ski” Jandzinski, the official rink guard on weekends. Jandzinski has been a local at Skateland for 20 years. He has spent the past 17 years volunteering as the rink guard.
At a spry 80 years old, Jandzinski is quick to point out that even after all his skating, he still has all his teeth. Skating provides great exercise for Jandzinski and helps keep his blood pressure to an ideal level he said.
Wearing his official black-and-white striped Skateland vest, and a whistle around his neck, Jandzinski makes sure things roll smoothly during the open skating sessions. He’s quick to spot new skaters and rolls over to offer advice. His tips for beginners are: learn how to walk on the skates, loosen the wheels so they roll easily, and if you feel like you are going to fall, curl your toes. He will even take newbies on a couple laps around the rink.
He also assures the safety of the rink. He watches for speed violators and promptly slows them down with a loud blow of his whistle. Following rules is natural for Jandzinski. He was a Bremerton Municipal Court judge for 10 years.
His job as rink guard isn’t all rules and no fun. He helps run the popular rink games and gives out prizes to the winners.
After every skating session, Jandzinski spends an hour and a half taking apart and cleaning his skates. Skating is such a part of his life, that when he and his wife go on trips across the country, his skates are top priority in his suitcase.
“I say, ‘My skates go in first.’ If I need more underwear, I’ll go to the Goodwill and buy a pair,” Jandzinski said.