Monday, February 6, 2017

The Mill Bridge Roller Rink, Lyons, Illinois (ca.1936-1992)

The Mill Bridge Roller Rink at 8027 West Ogden, Lyons, Illinois, opened in the late 1930s when a man named Jachim "Jokes" Fonter and his first wife, Mary, converted an old Hudson Car Dealership and their service center into a popular destination for children, teens and their parents.

Both sets of the couple's parents ran concession stands at the rink and another man known as "Red" held the job of bouncer. Red was so adept on wheels, he skated backward the whole evening, swooping in to help skaters who fell by stomping his skates loudly so people would know to maneuver around them. 

Regulars knew to expect well-dressed crowds and well-behaved skaters. Fonter didn't tolerate mischief in his rink, forcing skaters who broke the rules to sit in a wooden booth cordoned off with a rope and known as the penalty box.

Many skaters had their own indoor skates. They brought their skates to the rink in hard-sided cases. Those who didn't own skates rented them at the rink; white high-tops for the girls, and black, lower-cut styles for the guys.

Unlike many of the former roller rinks that people regularly write in to reminisce about, the Mill Bridge managed to stay open past roller skating's heyday of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Fonter and his first wife separated, but the rink remained open. He and his second wife, Nancy, lived above the rink with their son.

But by 1990, skating crowds were nowhere near what they once were. Fonter, who struggled with Parkinson's disease, decided to close the rink and put the building up for sale. 
On Mother's Day 1993, the roller rink building caught fire, going up quickly because of all the floor polishes still in its back room. The Fonter's had stopped insuring the building years earlier because they couldn't afford the premium. Fonter died in 1997.

Visit our Souvenir Shop. 


  1. My my wife and I courted on wheels at Mill Bridge during the early 40s. Great memories. I'm now 95.
    George L.

  2. I remember many many evening skating there in 1978,79,80... It was a melancholy night I watched it burn to the ground. I was wondering what ever happened to Jokes.

  3. A wonderful place with many memories. 1968,1969. I always wondered what happen to the rink. Would to see any photos people would like to share.

  4. Loved going there after school ( went to Washington) in the early 70’s… was a fun place to have birthday parties!!!!

  5. I spent many a day there in the 70's. Lots of fun. Fond memories of the penalty box:)

  6. So enjoyed going there with my (Cicero) church teen group !

  7. Went on many Girl Scout outings there in the 60s and 70s and drank many a Purple Cow

  8. Went on Many Girl Scout outings there in the 60s and 70s and drank many a Purple Cow
    Surprise there is no mention of the monkey that rode in his shoulder.

  9. In the late 80's just around the time Jokes was diagnosed with Parkinsons, he still skated & was opened to the public. When the day was done, Jokes locked the doors to the public & only the die-hard "regulars" stayed inside & skated, partied, ate food we all brought over & his tiny little dog & his wife would come downstairs & join us! Having the rink to yourself was thrilling! My name is Tami & I wonder of anybody from that group is sill around.


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