Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Hub Roller Rink & Axle Roller Rinks of Illinois.

The Hub Roller Rink opened in a desolate area in October 1950 at 4510 North Harlem Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. For those familiar with Chicago today, this area is now a shopping mall and small stores.
In 1950 there was nothing between the Roller Rink and Irving Park Road.
The "Harlem Outdoor Theater (drive-in theater)" was at the corner, and across the street was the Illinois State Police Headquarters. South of Irving Park was some small stores and a few restaurants that many Roller Rink regulars hung out at after the rink closed.
Hub Roller Skating Rink Concession Stand before the Axle Remodeled.
The HUB was a supersized roller skating rink for its time and housed a Giant Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, initially played by Leon Berry. The skating area was about 275 feet long and some 95 feet wide. The floor was much larger if you included the area outside of the rink railings that allowed skaters access to the rink floor.

Music by Freddy Arnish, Organist at the Hub.

The skating had set "styles of skating" displayed on a lighted sign when the organ music would change tempos. Most of the time, the skating style was "All Skate" Some other skating styles were: Couples Only, Waltz, Fox Trot, and a few fancy dances such as; Collegiate and the 14-step.
The Romp was when skaters joined hands in groups of 3, 4, or 5 people, and the end person would be "whipped" around the turns, which often would end in a group falling from the high speeds.
The rink was open every night and had matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Weekends always found huge crowds, some who never even put on a pair of skates. The lobby area was almost as big as the rink, and it had a sizeable oval snack bar about 40 feet long in the center of the lobby. Around the outside walls were coat rooms, shoe skate rentals (leave your shoes as security for the rentals), a skate store, and a skate repair window (minor adjustments to rentals or personal skates were free), as a small dance floor with a jukebox.
A two-story office and the coat room separated the lobby from the rink. The only access to the rink area was through a large opening at the west end of the lobby.
The Hub changed owners and renamed it "The Axle" in 1974. The company, "M&R Amusement," owned all three roller skating rinks.
The Pro Skate Shop in the Axle Roller Rink in Niles, Illinois, in my case, gave me the first credit account I had when I was only 14 years old. I put down $60 on a great pair of professional men's roller skates, a special order. It had leather above the ankle boot, high-end wheels, hubs, trucks, and a jump bar to keep the trucks from breaking off under stress. I set the trucks so loosely that they would wobble when I lifted my foot and jiggled it. After about 6 weeks (about 15 skating sessions), the shoes were broken in, and I could wear thin socks without getting any blisters!

They were expensive, $175 ($630 today), but I skated there on weekends (2 or 3 times, including Sundays) for 5-6 years, so it paid off for me. Here's how it worked. Every time you went skating, you'd have to give the Pro Shop at least $5 and your shoes to store. After skating, you return the skates to the Pro Shop and provide them with the roller skates to store until you return the next time. I never told my parents until the day I paid them off (in a little over a year) and brought them home. 

During the Intermissions, the rink held age-related speed races. I won a lot! The winners would get a free pass for their next admission. 

The Axle locations were:
  • Countryside, IL: Route 66, just East of LaGrange Road. (Closed Mid-1978)
  • Norridge, IL  4510 North Harlem. [Formerly: Hub Roller Skating Rink, Chicago]
  • Niles, IL: Milwaukee Avenue just north of Golf Road (Closed August 8, 1984)
The Axle closed its doors in October 1985.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. Are any of these photos of the Countryside location?

    1. None of the photos presented are from the Axle Countryside location.

    2. the one picture was taken by me that was the last day that the axle Hub roller rink was open my old station wagon is pictured in front of it. There doesn't seem to be a lot of pictures of the outside of the building.

  2. The Axle on Harlem used to have a video arcade in the front. I think it had a different name from the rink? They were one of the first to have the groundbreaking Laser Disc game, Dragon's Lair. Although the rink is gone, the building is actually still there. When it was all remodeled, they built a small "strip mall" in front on Harlem, but if you look at the sides, you can see the old structure behind.

    1. Novelty Golf in Lincolnwood also had "Dragon's Lair" game just when it was released in 1983. I wasted a lot of quarters on it. LOL

    2. Hi Joe, the arcade (s) were called Wizard of Games, both Norridge and Niles had them.

    3. The rink was called "The Hub" before The Axle bought them. My husband & I had our very 1st date there....and many more after that! That was 45 yrs ago, and we are still skating!

    4. I skated at the Hub a couple nights a week with Leon Berry at the keyboard. The girls used to dance in The lobby by the juke box. I tried last week to skate but at 83 years old l didn't do very well. But l loved the Hub in My youth!

  3. The Axle in Countryside became a Spiegel Outlet Store, sometime around 1984-1985, complete with the wood skating floors, groovy paint scheme and I even think they kept the paging system and phones from the roller rink. The music and paging was tied into an enormous 360 degree system of tens of speaker horns tied together. It was kind of a scary old place to shop with my parents as a kid. Good reuse of space! I think it closed around 1994 and then a Circuit City was built there which is now a Harley Davidson store.

  4. Sounds like you were a great rollerskater. Do you still rollerskate?

  5. Wowowow! I grew up at the Hub! My parents were Riverview junkies. I started skating when I could walk! I won the Halloween costume contest as the purple people eater at 5 years old!! 1960 Halloween party!!! What awesome memories! Thanks so much!!!

  6. I was a guard at the Niles Axle back in the day.

  7. Axle in countryside closed in mid june 1978. I know this because I graduated then and I had to find a new place to skate most of the time I went to norridge.

  8. Back in my best roller skating days,(1980-1983) the Axles were my A-1 hangouts. I totally loved both the Niles and Norridge Axles, though if I had to pick just one of the two, I'd go with Norridge--I liked the "grip" the Norridge floor had compared to the slicker/faster floor at Niles and the girls there, come time to ask them to skate on couples only, were way easier to muster up the courage for--the suburban girls at Niles were a bit snobbish at times and more likely to say no compared to the northwest girls from Norwood Park, Oriole Park, and Edgebrook! Also, I remember the music played on Friday and Saturday nights at Norridge leaned heavier towards mainstream rock and Top-40, as opposed to the more disco-oriented music played at Niles. I can still hear the song DJ Snuffy would play to open every Saturday session at Norridge (Souvenirs by Voyage) as well as "Hot Hot Give It All You Got" by Debbie Jacobs played during the Jam. (Don't remember the name of the young woman who often DJ'ed on Fridays at Norridge who always played this) I remember they DJ'ed from the mezzanine that overlooked the floor in Norridge. Lot of great memories at the Axle. It's where I met my first girlfriend and prom date, a sweet Madonna HS girl. Man, those were such good times!

    1. The dj Tuesdays and Friday was Barb Walsh

    2. I was going at that same time.
      Back then I was a senior in high school. I went on Thursday nights for all the dances. I'm thinking about going skating again, hope I'm not too old now.

  9. The title under the video of the session foxtrot mentions Leon Berry. That was NOT Leon playing the music in the video but Freddy Arnish!!!!!!!!!!

  10. I skated at The Hub from the mid 70's until it closed.
    I knew Freddie Arnish's kids, who would hang out in the loft with the organ, and their Dad, who was used to me asking for specific songs...
    I was there 7 days a week, and taught forward and backward stop for free passes.
    The manager...Bill was a great guy who I'd help whenever I was needed.
    The guards, Rich in particular was a sweetheart and I knew the Rizzo brothers who were students of my mom.
    No other rink since has been as wonderful skate at... the new floors are like skating on black ice, and I can't risk the injury anymore!
    Jeanne Templin Alter


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