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Al Bruno’s Smithfield remembered

Georgiaville’s roller skating rink

By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.

This is the fourteenth article in an occasional series about Smithfield locations that have either been forgotten by time or are no longer remembered for what they once represented. The locations are selected from a list compiled by former Smithfield Building Official Al Bruno. A profile of Mr. Bruno, now 86, was originally featured in the January, 2017 edition of The Smithfield Times. The first installment of this series ran in February 2017.

“As I teenager I loved to dance, but I couldn’t roller skate 10 feet,” Al Bruno declares as he recalls the roller rink that once drew hundreds of patrons to the village of Georgiaville.

“I tried it out one night when a neighbor lent me a quarter to rent a pair of skates. I put them on, went about 10 feet, and landed on you know what. That was the end of my skating career.”

Fortunately for the succession of rink owners/managers there were plenty of other patrons to support their endeavors.

Established by “Colonel” Walsh as a dance hall located near the beach on the shore of Georgiaville Pond, the business relocated to 23 Farnum Pike after a fire in the 1930s. According to Mr. Bruno’s best recollection, the new facility was about 200 feet long and 125 feet wide and had a “beautiful wood floor to skate and dance on.” Henry Walsh, the Colonel’s son, managed it. Apparently, for a while, at least, the building hosted both dancing and roller skating.

Another life-long town resident, Shirley Lacroix, 89, told The Smithfield Times that as a youth her late husband Edward was a pin setter in a bowling alley that also occupied the rear of the building.

“They played great music to skate or dance to, and there was plenty of room to enjoy yourself,” Al Bruno recalls of the spot, which through the years went successively by the names Walsh’s, Norman Barber’s Roller Rink, and John Rose’s Skateland.

A popular recreation destination in the heyday of roller rinks, the place offered lessons, hosted competitions, and was home to a skating club as recently as 1971. Youth groups in town held skating parties there, and couples often headed to the floor to enjoy a date.

The fate of this particular business seemed to be entwined with fire. In the early 1970s the rink was consumed by a ferocious blaze. Donald Brown, deputy chief of the Georgiaville Volunteer Fire Company at the time, recalls it as a rather spectacular conflagration during which his brother Wayne, not long a member of the company yet, was fighting the fire from the roof when it fell in. He safely escaped the collapse but recalls its dramatic impact to this day.

The site is now occupied by an apartment building.