As a young teenager, I’m sure you had a favorite spot to hang out with friends and soon-to-be ex-boyfriends (or girlfriends).
Whether it was a roller-skating rink, an independent movie theater, a dance hall or an old pizza joint, these places existed and thrived with Friday night excitement. All week you looked forward to being away from parents, free from school while experimenting with budding independence.
In order to feel reconnected with my hometown, I often read the Monterey Herald online. In Monterey, California located on the corner of Del Monte and Palo Verde Ave, Del Monte Gardens was a popular roller rink enjoyed by locals and tourists for more than 50 years. Through social media, friends and family, I knew of Del Monte Gardens closing, but was uncertain of its future.
I recently saw videos and photos of large excavators and bulldozers demolishing the once popular spot. Remnants of walls I once skated by were recognizable, foundation beams and concrete lay in ruble. According to the Herald, efforts are being made to salvage the valuable old wood beams. This was the only consolation.
Unfortunately, it’s a sign of our times, seeing such historical, local fixtures demolished to mounds of wooden planks and fractured concrete block. Whether it’s for economical reasons or lack of popularity, these places are disappearing as quickly as the memories of them were made.
The thin, Technicolor carpet provided a smooth surface for easy wheel rotation. It made frequent trips to the concession stand facile and effortless. Runaway and out of control skaters often aimed for the counter, or other waist high foundations, as a braking mechanism. Music was loud and energetic.
During couples skate, being within shouting distance from an attractive suitor was frequently practiced. This ensured a few moments of skating to dimmed lights while holding hands and smiling in silence. Friends from the sidelines would shout embarrassing remarks while stuffing their faces with hotdogs and iceless soda.
The Hokey Pokey gave one the opportunity to shake their hips, clap hands and “turn yourself around” with opposite lined partners, often your best friend.
The owner, Mr. Burchell, was tall and lanky, rarely smiled but had perfectly styled, unmovable hair. He wore a referee’s jersey while skating and twirling his trademarked whistle. He loudly blew his whistle to discipline forbidden behavior. He wasn’t afraid to politely excuse you from the rink for repeated infractions. He never forgot a face and wasn’t intimated by unmonitored mongrels.
Rarely are such places salvaged and preserved. Yet, from time to time we hear or read about towns and organizations that come together to preserve the memory of cherished places.
Babb’s Rink, located on Lake Congamond, originally opened in the late 1890‘s as a summer lake resort. Through the years, it transformed into a dance hall, then roller rink. Big name bands played on the elevated, curved bandstand. On skate nights, the organ played while happy couples skated arm and arm. Babb’s is currently being patiently restored by the CRC and dedicated volunteers.
Babb's will one day provide the opportunity for locals and visitors to create new memories. Del Monte Gardens is now gone. Instead of driving by and seeing neon with sparsely lettered announcements, a Fresh & Easy grocery store will forever stand in its shadow.