- Robert Hodge
In Fredericksburg, the block on Prince Edward Street south of Hurkamp Park, between George and Hanover streets, is today occupied by large brick mansions.
In 1909, the lot, owned by Judge A.T. Embrey, was vacant until May. A month before, Messrs. Rudasille and Johnson, experienced in the establishment of skating rinks, were in Fredericksburg making preparations for one here.
Work on the immense building which would accommodate more than a thousand people with 250 on the skate floor, progressed rapidly. The grand opening of the Park Skating Rink was held Wednesday night, May 20, at 7:30. Music was provided by a band and, with flags flying, the skaters filled the floor. The admission price was ten cents; skate rental, fifteen cents.
Instructors took special care to teach beginers the art of skating. There were a few good skaters, but as most were beginners, the instructors were in much demand.
For those who did not skate, the big instrumental band performed enjoyable music and the many spills of the beginners furnished much amusement. Within a month, special attractions were offered. Half-mile races involving eight laps around the rink were common and the cheering of the spectators was so great it could be heard for several blocks.
On June 18, before a crowd of 1,200 consisting of all ages from tots to gray-haired men and matrons, 16 contestants competed for a pair of roller skates valued at $7.50. The event was a "barrel race," involving four heats of four contestants each.
Each race began with the contestants skating to the numbered sugar barrels from which both heads were removed. They got into the barrels, then skated with them for five laps. On that evening Robert Viser was the winner with a time of one minute 45 seconds. The rink was available for private skating parties and for benefit tournaments. Mrs. W.L. Brannan and Alice G. Cole gave a private party on June 30. The floor was so polished you could almost see your face reflected. Decorations were palms and sweet peas. Refreshments were fancy ices and fruit punch. The big rink orchestra furnished the music for 125 guests, 60 of whom were skaters.
On July 3, the City Mission, under the direction of Jennie Hurkamp and Margaret Shepherd, sponsored a grand tournament. The ladies wore paper caps; the gentlemen, paper badges. A thousand people attended, 250 skating, and $55 was netted for the Mission.
Because of the heat, the rink closed on July 20 with the promise of reopening in September.
Perhaps the next time you're in Hurkamp Park you will look to the homes on the opposite side of George Street, close your eyes, strain your ears, and sense in that dream-like state the presence of the Park Skating Rink.
Historian Robert A. Hodge's contributions to the understanding of Fredericksburg's history have been invaluable. Mr. and Mrs. Hodge have returned to their native Kansas where Bob continues his historic research and Lois continues her work with the hard of hearing.
This article was originally published in the January 1998 issue of the Fredericksburg Times, on pages 39 through 40.