Wheels, wheels and more wheels

Most Evansville residents know the building at 128 East Main as the Roller Rink.  However, it was built as a Ford garage and with the exception of a few years in the 1940s, things on wheels have found a home in the building since it was constructed in the early months of 1921.

Albert Winn and his partner Stanton Miller owned the Ford dealership in Evansville and as their business increased, they needed room for their expansion.  Winn and Miller purchased a lot of East Min Street from Elmer Sherger and hired the construction firm of Willis & Deeson from Janesville to build a modern fireproof garage for their dealership.    “Ford agents will have new home for popular ‘Lizzies’” the Evansville Review announced to readers of the February 17, 1921 issue.

Willis & Deeson began construction in early February 1921 and the Winn and Miller dealership occupied the building by the first week in April.  The new building was 60 x 128 feet with a pressed brick front and hollow brick tile sides.  The entrance for the cars was on the side of the building.  A large area with a cement floor was used for car storage and repair rooms.  The firm’s office and display rooms had an East Main Street entrance.  Large plate glass windows facing East Main offered an excellent show space for the display of new Fords.

The following year, Winn and Miller sold the Ford dealership to W. F. Schultz and his partner, a Mr. Bray.  The firm incorporated as Schultz-Bray Auto Sales Co. Albert Winn retained ownership of the building.

In 1926, Schultz sold the Ford dealership to Lester Thompson.  The new owner was from Madison, but immediately entered into an active social and civic life in Evansville.  When Evansville’s Lions Club received its first charter in 1926, Thompson was its first president.  He helped to organize kitten ball tournaments, park projects, and offered support to the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations.

Albert Winn continued to own the building and rented the space to Thompson.  In 1927, Winn built a filling station just east of the Ford Garage.  The station was built of steel and lined with “a patent insulating material which test have proven to make equal to any wooden building,” according to the June 30, 1927 Evansville Review article announcing the new construction.  These two businesses were operated separately throughout the next decades and eventually the filling station business ceased to exist.

Within ten years after purchasing the Ford dealership in Evansville, Thompson had increased his business to the point that he needed larger quarters.  In 1936, he purchased land and built a new building on South Madison Street.

The Winn garage was once again for rent.  Green & Co., a trucking firm, rented the building at 128 East Main from Albert Winn.  Green’s had fourteen large trucks and seven salemen’s cars that the stored in the building.  To accommodate the large vehicles, new double doors were cut into the front of the building.  Plate glass windows remained on the southside of the building “for good light and a nice appearance.

By 1939, the Green’s had moved out of the building and Winn rented the facility to Harry Buhrow and Truman Bloss.  Buhrow and Bloss planned to operate a bowling alley.  Once again the interior of the building was remodeled to accommodate the bowling lanes.

The walls were paneled with knotty pine and the Sure Strike Bowling Company of Milwaukee was hired to design and build the bowling alley.  The new alleys would “comply with every detail of the American Bowling Congress’ specifications”.

In 1940, Bloss purchased his partners interest in the firm and hired Harry Carey to manage the bowling alley for him.  The alleys were open during the fall, winter and spring months, then closed in the summer for resurfacing of the lanes and redecorating the rooms.

Carey ran both men and women’s teams and attracted large crowds.  V. H. Laufenberg, Carl Wissbaum, and William C. Schneider were the leaders of the men’s teams when the season opened in 1944.

Bowling became so popular in Evansville that Dan F. Finnane financed the building of a new facility in the next block west from the Winn building.  In 1946, the alleys moved into the new building, with Harry Carey as the manager.

Once again, Winn looked for new occupants for his former garage.  C. H. Patterson, a local grocer had a market across the street at 137 East Main and was looking for more space.  He intended to increase his business and bring his son, James, and son-in-law, Jack Lowrey, into the firm.

Patterson thought the Winn property would be an attractive location for his expansion.  In June 1946, C. H. Patterson and Sons General Store moved across the street to 128 East Main.

Pattersons added a soda fountain and ice cream parlor, women’s and children’s clothing and novelty items, groceries, and meats.  At the grand opening Patterson advertised potatoes, 56 cents a peck, radishes, 3 bunches for 10 cents, and bananas at 11 cents.

A year later, Willard W. Waefller rented space from the Pattersons and moved his appliance store into the building.  Product lines carried by Waefller included Gibson appliances, Chore Boy milkers, and Stewart and Clarion radios.

Patterson and Waefller were in the building only a short time.  Pattersons and their son, Jim, decided to move to California and in January 1949 announced that they had sold their stock of groceries to Mercy Hospital in Janesville and had sold their building and equipment.

The building was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Everill and by March 1949 had remodeled the building into a roller rink.  The Everill’s began to advertise a skating rink and wheels, though much smaller variety than had originally occupied the building, once again dominated the business at 128 East Main.

Everill’s had  the skating rink open every day of the week.  The skating rink could be booked for parties and the Everill’s also sold skates to those who were serious about the sport.

In late December, the Everill’s also rented the skating rink for the annual Evansville Little Theater Snowball.  This was an evening of glamour and glitter, when couples could dress in formal attire and enjoy an evening of dancing to benefit the theater group.

The balls started in 1947 and for the first two years were held in the high school gymnasium on South First Street.  When the Everill’s opened their skating rink in 1949, the ball was moved to that location.

Lee Richardson served as general chairman of the event.  The committee included Mr. And Mrs. William Keeys, Mrs. Clyde Fisher, Mrs. George Low and Mrs. Edward Culver.

One of the highlights of the Snowball was the choosing of the Snow Queen.  In 1949, Virginia Hartl was chosen.  Her court included Kathleen Kennedy, Ione Curless, Joan Lee and Alice Coyne, all actresses in the Evansville Little Theater.

The orchestra of Benny Her was hired to provide the music. Tickets cost $2.40 a couple and covered the cost of the dance and still return funds to the Little Theater.

At the Snowball, each lady was given a dance card in the shape of a snowman, to keep a record of each dancing partner.  Women were dressed in long flowing gowns of satin, taffeta, velvet, lace and net.  Men wore tuxedos, and business suits. The dance was regarded as the social highlight of the year and was so popular the organizers threatened to limit the number of couples who could attend.

Although there have been many changes in ownership since the Everill's owned the skating rink, for more than fifty years, the building at 128 East Main has provided recreational facilities for Evansville’s young and old.  Wheels, Wheels, and more Wheels, seems to be an appropriate theme for this structure.