A Rollerskating Pastime

White Night Carnival at the Wagga Skating Olympia, July 8 1910. Mrs Greer (nee Collins), Miss Essie Eyles, Mrs G Dunn (nee Eyles), Miss Merle Lammas, and Mr Audrey Headley. (RW5/103 – Deposited by the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society).

Roller skating has proven to be a favourite pastime for the people of Wagga Wagga, with a number of skating rinks existing in the town over the years.

This keenness for skating is supported by the fact that during the winter months of 1888 there was enough interest to necessitate the existence of two competing skating rinks.  The first to open on May 7, 1888 was the Wagga Roller Skating Rink located in the Freemason’s Hall, and was followed by the Victoria Skating Rink on June 1, 1888 which saw the Albion Flour Mill on the corner of Kincaid and Trail Street transformed into a first class skating floor.

However the height of skating popularity in Wagga came about with the construction of a purpose built rink in 1910. The proprietors of Wagga Wagga Skating Olympia were Collins and Hayes who spared no expense in ensuring a comfortable and attractive venue. The rink was situated in Kincaid Street near the junction with Fitzmaurice Street and had a skating area of approximately 116 ft by 50 ft (35m by 15m).

Wagga Skating Olympia hosted regular carnivals and competitions and was a thriving spot for local youth. The ‘White Night Carnival’ held on July 8, 1910 was a much anticipated evening of skating and fancy dress that did not disappoint the mass of onlookers and participants that were present.

The accompanying photograph was taken on that icy July evening, and captures the ‘whiteness’ of the occasion, along with an amusing display of fun and style.

It was a requirement of the event that skaters be dressed in white, which produced an array of inventive costumes including, a snowflake, moonlight, a nurse, a cigarette, winter, a cricketer, toothache-cure and a baker. Prizes were awarded on the night for the prettiest costume, most handsome costume, best comic costume, and also for the most graceful couple.

Among the prize winners were two of the ladies featured in the photograph, Mrs Greer with partner R.T Rees, and Mrs Dunn with H. Eyles who took out first and second prizes respectively for the most graceful skating couple competition.

Many locals may remember in more recent history the Rollerama in Hammond Hall at the showgrounds and again in Pearson Street, showing that roller-skating in Wagga has had a continued popularity.

(References: Daily Advertiser May 8 & 31, 1888; February 12, 1910; March 19, 1910; July 9 & 14, 1910)


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