I have taken a break from writing for a while.
Saturday night was amazing. The National Roller Derby Association had a 75th anniversary function at the Clarion Hotel at the SF Airport to honor all the wonderful skaters and personnel from the start until today.
It was the first dinner that I had attended that had both the original skaters and today’s participants. Because the Bay Area Derby Girls were skating in San Diego they couldn’t attend, and the Silicon Valley Roller Girls were also competing. On hand were representatives from Chico, from East Bay Roller Derby and from Sugartown (Oxnard CA) Roller Derby. Interestingly enough, all the Roller Girls (who were dressed up and gorgeous) sat on the left side of the room, and on the right side (also dressed up and gorgeous) were the skaters, fans, and family from the first 40 years.
Representing the players from the ’30s was Mary Youpelle, who skated as “Pocahontas” Youpelle – there was no worry about politically correct in those days. Mary is part native American. She took the microphone and chided today’s skaters for using toe stops. “They are for dancing, not for Roller Derby.” She also gave instructions on wheels, suspensions and bearings. Once a Roller Derby Star, always one.
Carole “Peanuts” Meyer had recently had knee surgery, but she was there with Mark and the rest of her family. Bomber women’s captain Margie Laszlo came up from Las Vegas with the irrepressible Loretta “little Iodine” Behrens. All the greats who lived nearby including Eddie Krebs, Jan Vallow and more attended, as well as Pete Boyd from New York and many more. I am doing a disservice by not naming all. And of course Cliff Avery (Butler), who along with Karlos Ray, “Blades” Gallagher, Georgia Haase and Bob put together the whole awards program and music.
So what was the purpose? The NRDA is preparing for the next step: training skaters on the banked (and flat) track for a professional career, even though none is available now for a fully legitimate game. The Sugartown Derby Girls raised over $25,000 and are building their banked track in Oxnard. Soon a number of leagues will be following. And I understand that Judy Sowinski is doing the same in Philadelphia.
The ultimate purpose is to provide a professional outlet for those who want it, and hopefully help support the amateur leagues in existence. It is apparent that funding is required for all of the leagues and although some can make it on their own now because of the ability to draw sufficient crowds in their facilities to bear some of the league costs, but they represent a miniscule amount of the total leagues. And there is a catch 22 here: to move the large arenas and to promote the matches sufficient to get a large crowd requires a large amount of money.
This fact is why I feel some major promoters who see the future of this game will step up when they realize how successful this game can be given the proper exposure.
The evening ended with Anti Social bringing her team across the room as well as Sugartown and the other Roller girls on hand to meet and mix with the prior generations of skaters. And they all agreed that Roller Derby was the greatest thing in their life. Today’s Roller Derby may be very different than my father envisioned, but it is wonderful as are the people in it and the hundreds of thousands who follow it world wide and on the Derby News Network and all the other media outlets and social networks.
It is doubtful if I will be around for the 100th anniversary, but most of you will, and you can look back and say I was a part of it or I helped support it so it could continue to prosper and grow.
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