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Thursday, November 30, 2023
Nov. 30, 2023

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One last go-round at Golden Skate

Skaters lace up shoes, bid fond farewell on final weekend for Vancouver roller rink

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter
4 Photos
Children and families came out Saturday to take one last turn at Golden Skate, a Vancouver institution for more than seven decades.
Children and families came out Saturday to take one last turn at Golden Skate, a Vancouver institution for more than seven decades. The owners of the roller rink are selling the land to the city, which plans to tear down the building to make room for a Public Works Operation Center expansion. Photo Gallery

If You Go

• What: Golden Skate’s last day as an operating concern.

■ When: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

■ Where: 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, dozens of families and children stayed indoors to say goodbye to a Vancouver institution they’ve known their whole lives.

Golden Skate, a hallmark of 20th century culture and recreation in Vancouver, closes its doors for the last time Sundayt evening after 71 years in operation.

Owners John and Janie Wainwright are retiring, and recently decided to sell the land to the city. The city plans to tear down the building to make more room for the Public Works Operation Center next door. The Vancouver City Council recently inked a $1.5 million deal to purchase the Wainwrights’ 2.2-acre property at 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, about 150 people had shown up to take one last ride around the rink. It was an emotional sight for John Wainwright, 78, who said most of all he’ll miss all the happy children.

“I just want to thank the community and the city, because everything’s worked out,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where life moves on, so we just have to move on, too.”

If You Go

&#8226; What: Golden Skate's last day as an operating concern.

? When: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

? Where: 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

Wainwright has bittersweet feelings about closing the business. But he’s come to a point of acceptance, seeing it merely as a sign of changing times.

“We’ve outlived the community,” he said. “When we first came here, 50 or 60 percent of the kids used to walk here or ride their bikes. Now, you’re lucky if you get five who’ll walk here.”

Wainwright said he’s astonished at how much childhood has changed in the past several years with the rising popularity of computer tablets, smartphones and other technology. Glued to their screens, kids are less interested in getting up and strapping on a pair of skates, he said.

In its heyday, Golden Skate used to have a few hundred customers on a typical Friday or Saturday night. Now, fewer than 100 show up, Wainwright said, but the rink still has loyal customers who’ve skated there for decades.

“I’ve got some who met here, got married and had kids, and they’re bringing them now,” he said.

Golden Skate’s history dates to the early 1940s. It was originally named Holcomb’s Recreation Hall, after the family who built it.

During the war, it was a popular hangout for Kaiser Shipyard workers. Holcomb’s was well known for being the largest dance hall in Clark County. During the day, customers would skate and relax at the restaurant, and at night, the floor would be cleared for dancing couples.

Holcomb’s also grew into a lively concert venue in the 1960s, when bands like The Kingsmen played there and hundreds squeezed onto the dance floor to watch.

The name of the business eventually changed, and the place traded hands several times before the Wainwrights bought it in 1984. Aiming to draw in more customers, they added a separate section for laser tag, a feature that’s lasted to the end.

Golden Skate used to host a number of clubs for roller skaters, hockey players and speed skaters. The Wainwrights also taught skating lessons there, and they’ve held many events to help raise thousands of dollars for schools, churches and other community organizations.

Over the years, the Wainwrights have stayed true to Golden Skate’s character, making hardly any changes to the building in all the years they’ve owned it. Today, the building is in pretty bad shape, he said.

“People say you ought to remodel,” Wainwright said. “I say, ‘What are you talking about?’ You move one brick in this place, the whole place will fall down.”

Golden Skate opens one last time from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. After that, the Wainwrights plan to liquidate just about everything inside the building. The liquidation sales will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 19 to 21 and June 26 to 28.

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