Jul 28, 2014
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The Ice Skating Arena: A Cool Hangout in the '60s

Youngsters played ice hockey and adults skated to big band tunes at the clamshell-roofed arena.

The Ice Skating Arena: A Cool Hangout in the '60s The Ice Skating Arena: A Cool Hangout in the '60s The Ice Skating Arena: A Cool Hangout in the '60s The Ice Skating Arena: A Cool Hangout in the '60s

I remember my first visit to the Encino Tarzana Ice Skating Arena, sometime in 1968, when my dad, Jerry Lifson, took me and my brother Bobby there.

The building it was in had always fascinated me. It was the kid brother to the Valley Music Theatre down the road in Woodland Hills, with its dome-shaped "spaceship" exterior. The clamshell-roofed arena was designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in the late 1950s.

My dad was from Minneapolis and had skated as a kid. Although he hadn't skated for many years at the time we first visited the arena, he took off as soon as he put on the skates like he was playing right wing for the Los Angeles Kings! I was impressed.

At the rink, many youngsters played ice hockey and adults skated to big band tunes.

My fellow Encino Patch writer Susan Spillman was a regular at the ice rink and she explained to me recently her affinity for life on the blades.

"I took skating lessons at the rink when I was in third and fourth grade," Spillman said. "A [schoolmate's] parents owned the rink and several girls from my school, Wilbur Avenue Elementary, also went there."

I asked her about the popularity of ice skating then, especially for young girls.

"In some ways it was sort of like AYSO soccer is for girls today," she said. "That didn't exist, nor can I recall other team sports available to elementary school-aged girls. So we skated."

There was a great fascination with female skaters back then. Peggy Fleming was an Olympic champion and graced the cover of many magazine in the 1960s. She later became a star with the Ice Follies and Ice Capades at the Sports Arena and the Forum in Los Angeles.

Skating and ski wear was very chic in the 1960s. Spillman remembers the trend well.

"The owners' daughter and her younger sister were good skaters and had great skating wardrobes," Spillman said. "The rink also had a store that sold skates and skating apparel. At the snack bar, I'd always get a Jolly Rancher Fire Stick, Watermelon stick or Apple stick, none of which I've seen in years. They tasted like the small Jolly Rancher candies you get now, but were flat and sticky and lasted for hours."

My friends and I would stand at opposite ends of the building and shout into the grooves of the wall and the sound would magically "bounce" across the building so your friends could hear the message on the other side! How "Secret Agent Man" was that? You could spend a whole afternoon at the ice rink without your parents back then.

I always loved that after my mom picked us up from the ice rink and we got back into her powder-blue Country Squire station wagon and the Valley sun hit us ... the first thing we would do is go for an ice cream at Thrifty Drug store nearby. Chocolate Malt Krunch never tasted so good! 

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