If you were a kid in Chattooga County from the late 1950s on, and someone said, "Let's go skating!", you knew they were talking about going to Trion and hanging out with all their friends at Chamlee Roller Rink located off Tate Road.
On this page, you'll see photographs taken in 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1976, plus a nostalgic essay by Summerville writer Judy Brooks. So, lace up your skates and let's roll!
Owner Reynolds Chamlee (kneeling left) is about to holler "Go!" to the boys on the right in this 1968 photograph.
Mr. Chamlee built his first roller rink in 1958. It was destroyed by fire in April 1959, just after a new floor had been installed. Included in the $5,000 loss (almost $40,000 in today's dollars) were about 100 pairs of skates.
At the time, Reynolds Chamlee was employed as a loom fixer in the Weave Shop at the Trion mill, and his wife, Jennie Lou, worked in the Plastic Dot Department, according to a newspaper article about the fire.
The Chamlee family rebuilt the skating rink and despite a later fire, kept the kid-friendly establishment going for decades. Generations of Chattooga County youngsters will forever remember the good times at the rink, and the kind and caring Chamlee family.
Some of the regulars shown in other photographs from 1968 include, from left to right, Kenny Thompson, Farrell Bean, unidentified, and ? Brown.
The Chamlee's opened a miniature golf course just outside the skating rink, as shown in this 1969 photograph.
At this course, no one is going to get angry and toss their club into the Chattooga River.
This photograph appeared in the May 14, 1969 edition of the Trion Facts along with the headline and caption, as follows: "They Scored Big. Many adult golfers search their life for that evasive "hole-in-one." These kids got it the first day at the spanking new and entertaining miniature golf at Reynolds Chamlee's fine layout. Kathy Cavin, in fact, on her first shot had "the ace" on No. 1. She's kneeling at right in the picture in striped slacks. Others who got them are pictured: Cindy Gilbreath, 16th hole, Alfred Whitenton, 17th hole, Coleman Ledford, No. 1 of this second round as Debbie Johnston, Bonita Hopkins, Elliott Lewis, and Mike Kingsmore showed it on their cards."
Reynolds Chamlee shows the ladies how to play golf.
This photograph and the five that follow were taken at a March of Dimes pledge drive held at the roller rink in 1973. The only person identified in this photograph is Ron Pledger on piano.
The kids enjoyed the music performed at the March of Dimes event in 1973.
The person at the piano appears to be Mr. Roberson, band director at Chattooga High School. Know any of the other musicians?
From left to right, Yolanda Ramirez, Kim Alexander, unidentified, (in back) unidentified, unidentified , ? Parris, and ? Wilson.
Brian Hall Jackson from Lafayette acknowledged the March of Dimes pledges while holding Shawna Rainwater.
Reynolds Chamlee with Shawna Rainwater and Christie Hawkins.
The limbo contest was a popular event at Chamlee's Roller Rink as this photograph from 1976 shows.
More kids from 1976. Can you identify anyone?
Celia Greene, Scott Oehlson, and Bobby Patterson.
Connie Williams, unidentified, and unidentified.
Pat Brown, Tim Reynolds, and Sammy Lee enjoyed skating in 1976.
Angie Richardson (left) and Bobby Thompson were often partners in the "Couples" skating contests.
The winner of the limbo contest!
Pat Brown is also declared a winner. Peggy Crabtree is on right. The "Fonz" and Holly Hobbie were popular subjects for 1970s t-shirts.
Jennie Lou and Reynolds Chamlee, proprietors of Chamlee's Roller Rink, as they appeared in a photograph taken in 1976.
After 54 years in business, the skating rink was closed in July 2012. According to the Summerville News, Ed and Joanna Thoreson purchased the facility in December 2012 and plan to reopen the rink as of this writing.
If you can identify anyone in these photographs, please contact me and I'll update the caption. BTW - thanks to all you have already named several of the "unidentifieds."
Thanks to all the Chamlee siblings in helping identify some of the people in the above photographs.
Photographs by T. Emmett Nunn. Courtesy of Chattooga Library. Information about the 1959 fire was taken from the Chattooga Democrat newspaper.
Stomping at the Skating Rink: Saturdays at Chamlee's
by Judy Brooks
by Judy Brooks
It's going to be a great Saturday. I am sitting in the back of the station wagon, riding backwards in my favorite seat. My best friend's mom is driving, and my friend and five other 10-year-olds are scattered around me in the wagon's back seat. It's a beautiful October day in 1966, and we are headed to Chamlee's, where we will spend the better part of the day. We are dropped off in the parking lot at 11:00 am, with money for Cokes, snacks, and skate rental, along with the usual admonition to behave ourselves, and to be waiting in the parking lot at the prearranged pickup time.
Like all my friends, I love going to Chamlee's, but for me it's not for the skating. I am uncoordinated and too afraid of falling to learn how to skate with confidence, and feel that I have already wasted too much time on feeble attempts consisting of spending a few wobbly, arms-circling-for-balance minutes trying to skate, after which I invariably end up polishing the already glossy floor with my behind. Being a pretty smart kid, I learned early that I was never going to be a skater. But none of that matters now, because I always have a wonderful time. As a people watcher from an early age, I spend hours happily engrossed in watching others skate.
The jukebox is playing at top volume as we go inside. My friends rush to lace up skates and head out to the floor. I grab a Coke at the snack bar and find a comfortable spot in the spectator's area, settling in while happily bopping along to the music. I'm here for the duration and for the show. I sit and sip my Coke while watching skaters whiz around and around the floor to the Reflection's Romeo and Juliet. I take careful note of my favorite teenage couples who sing along to the line, “Take my girl skatin' at the drive-in,” while holding hands and creating their own skate-dance steps in time to the music. I dreamily imagine myself as a grownup girl of sixteen with a cute boyfriend who holds my hand.
Some of the boys show off, jumping and spinning, and barely missing other skaters. Another record clicks into the play slot, and now the sound of the Dave Clark Five's Glad All Over fills the room. This is a favorite with the regulars, as it has become tradition for all to stomp twice during a drum beat in part of the chorus. I wait for it, and watch enthralled as the everyone brings one skate down to the floor as the band sings, and I'm feeling (stomp, stomp) glad all over, yes I'm (stomp, stomp) glad all over. This is the only time I wish I could skate, so I could be out there, rolling along and stomping my skate on the floor like everyone else. As far as I'm concerned, this beats the The Hokey Pokey by a long shot.
After a couple of hours, my friends are ready for a break, and they buy Cokes and candy bars before joining me. We sit and chat, and they also people watch a little. People of all ages and skill levels come here on Saturdays, and the rink is full of the sort of vibrant energy that comes from a combination of great music and physical fun. There are scout troops and church groups, families, couples, and kids like me. In warmer months, we may go to the pool or the rec center, but Chamlee's is fun year-round.
As the years passed, the kids grew up and were replaced by a new generation, but Chamlee's only changed by the songs on the jukebox. The times were a-changing, but roller-skating was still going strong. As we grew older, going to Chamlee's became a prelude to teenage slumber parties, or a place to go before a pizza party at the church. Birthday and graduation parties were held there, but the accumulated changes from these events went unrecognized, and fate would soon offer us other diversions and choices.
Chamlee's became a county-wide institution, and the family always provided an entertaining, family-friendly, and safe atmosphere. Sadly, change is inevitable, and when I heard the Chamlee family had closed the roller rink, my first thought was what a shame future generations in Chattooga County would never know the thrill of skating or people-watching at the roller rink on Saturday afternoons.
From those of us lucky enough to grow up with Chamlee’s Roller Rink, I offer a belated, but heartfelt thanks to the Chamlee family for all the good times.
After graduating with the CHS class of 1973, Judy Brooks attended Berry College before beginning a career that encompassed a number of diverse positions, from bartender and directory assistance operator to assistant grant-writer and office manager. She has lived in Rome, Atlanta, and Paducah, KY, where she spent two years in the Information Technology program at West Kentucky College and Technical School. Judy returned to Summerville in September of 2010, and is quite content to be back among family and friends. She is currently a writer and editor, and is in the process of establishing her own Internet publishing company. She is passionate about movies, books, writing, cooking, jazz, and spending time with her family, and would be thrilled to hear from friends, classmates, and other interested members of the community. Judy can be reached at email@example.com.