The Day – History Remembered: Groton’s ice rink is gone, but the memories roll
Groton’s Galaxy Roller Rink, the only roller skating facility in Southeast Connecticut, closed just over three and a half years ago. The recent announcement of the sale of the building that housed the ice rink, and the high probability that it will be demolished, has caused considerable disappointment to those who have enjoyed it for more than half a century.
After receiving several inquiries about the history of the building and the rink, I decided to put on my “research hat”, dig into the past and write a short article to tell the story of this business. unique of Groton.
So let’s get started.
In the 1950s, Elias “Lou” Trefes, an energetic Westerly entrepreneur, along with his father, Harry, and brother, Charles, conceived the idea of building a large roller skate facility on Bridge Street in Groton, near from the Interstate 95 entrance ramp. They felt the location would be convenient not only for residents of Groton, but also for skating enthusiasts from the surrounding communities, east and west of Groton.
At the time, the Trefes family owned and operated several businesses in the Westerly and Misquamicut Beach areas of Rhode Island, including the Atlantic Park and Casino, which offered several rides as well as a large 50ft by 100ft reel. . ice skating rink.
On the evening of October 14, 1955, after investing nearly $ 100,000 in this business venture, the Trefes family organized the opening of the Melody rink. The building, one of the tallest flat-roofed buildings in Southeast Connecticut, was 206 feet long and 180 feet wide, and housed an 80-by-180-foot wooden ice rink, as well as a larger area. small for “beginners”.
The opening was attended by hundreds of fans and skating enthusiasts who not only enjoyed an evening of skating, but also enjoyed dancing and free skating exhibitions by state, regional and national champions.
The new sports and entertainment business has become extremely popular with people of all ages. Beginner, intermediate and competitive skating lessons were given at the rink by trained and experienced coaches and professionals.
Bill Beebe from Groton, who eventually worked for the Trefes family on their rinks, says he was around 12 when he started skating at Melody. It seems that skating was a “natural” for him. After years of experience and training, he not only became a trainer at the Trefes rinks, but he also competed and won awards in various skating competitions at state, regional and national levels.
Beebe relayed some interesting stories that showcased examples of Lou Trefes’ broad business interests. He recalled that Lou had created a special cleaning formula for skating shoes. Called “Boot Glo,” it was produced in bulk and then placed in smaller, labeled bottles for sale to other skating companies.
Trefes also designed a special wheel for skates which not only reduces damage to skating floors, but also improves skating speeds. A company in Connecticut made the wheels for Trefes, and then Beebe was tasked with removing excess molding material from them.
The wheels, named “Mercury Wheels”, were then packaged and sold to other roller skating facilities.
The melody continued to maintain its popularity; however, for reasons unknown, in 1965 Trefes leased the building to the Electric Boat Company for use by its purchasing department.
By talking to former employees who worked in the building, we learned that about 200 workers were assigned to the building. The offices and workspace of the vast majority of employees were located in what was once the main skating area.
Managers have maintained closed office spaces in the area surrounding the ground floor. There was also a separate area around the perimeter of the ground floor where the copying and printing facilities were located.
Interestingly, there weren’t any partitions separating the workspaces, and it was quite a noisy work environment. It was reported that at the time, smoking was allowed in the workplace and that smoke often permeated the work area.
In mid-1977, shortly after the rental agreement with Electric Boat ended, two EB employees came up with the idea of transforming the roller skating rink into an ice rink. After pursuing the idea and securing the necessary funding, the owner of the ice rink (Trefes) refused to grant a lease for the business.
In November 1977, a new roller skating rink, “Roll on America” opened in the building. The rink was managed by Kenneth Perkins, who at the time was a partner of Lewis Quintin, who had managed eight rinks in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
It was necessary for Perkins to rehabilitate the wooden rink and also to patch up the holes in the floor, which had been made to accommodate the electrical and telephone wiring used by EB.
Perkins, along with his wife Susan, who was a skating coach and instructor, taught beginner, intermediate and advanced rink lessons and revitalized footfall at the business. Within a year, crowds of an average of 400-600 per day were at the rink every weekend day.
The rink had to order an additional 1,000 pairs of (rental) skates to add to their stock of 700. They also added a small pizzeria to the rink in 1985.
The Perkins remained in business until 1987, when their lease expired. At the time, Trefes was considering leasing the facility to JC Penney for use as a warehouse. Eventually, JC Penney gave up leasing the building.
The rink remained empty for the following years.
In 1990, a lease was granted to “Skatetown USA” under the direction of Edgar Watrous, five-time United States roller skating champion. Little basic information has been discovered regarding this company.
In 1995, and for the next 12 years, two policemen from the town of Groton, David Thomas and Randy Gerovitz, rented the building and opened it as the Galaxy Roller Rink.
Thomas and Gerovitz, through their experience in the police force, had developed a lot of respect and relationships among the local youth and the local community, and oriented the company towards a “family orientation”.
They instituted various security measures and policies to deter problems from occurring at the rink.
The Galaxy Roller Rink has developed many programs to attract its business base, including special parties for school-aged youth and adults. They have organized special private skating parties for school and church groups, as well as private birthday parties. Overall, the ice rink has gained an excellent reputation as a place of entertainment and entertainment for families and children.
In 2007, Matt Longino, a young man who had worked as a DJ at the Galaxy and obtained a college degree in business administration, approached Thomas and Gerovitz with an offer to take over the company. Confident that Longino would continue to run the rink like a family business, they handed over the reins to him.
Longino continued to run the rink in a thoughtful, family-oriented way for the next 11 years. Unfortunately, the building’s lack of maintenance created conditions that began to impact attendance. In 2018, Longino had to make a business decision based on the lack of attention to landlord maintenance and did not renew its lease.
With recent developments regarding the building’s demise, the story of Groton’s one and only ice rink comes to an end.
Jim Streeter is the historian of Groton Town.