Skaters take nostalgic trip to Top o’ the Strip

CORTLAND – Any child of the 1980s certainly remembers pegged pant legs, denim jackets with collars decorated with rock ‘n’ roll band buttons, teased hair and neon clothing and, of course, roller skating rinks – THE place to hang with friends, drop a few quarters in Galaga and grab a slice of pizza.

For so many of the local teens then, the roller rink that provided the memories of their youth was the Top O’ the Strip Roller Rink in Niles. Even though it was destroyed in 1985 by a tornado, local skaters still gather nearly three decades later to reminisce with old friends and celebrate the, like, totally awesome, era.

They got together for the fourth year in a row Saturday night at the Cortland Roller Rink.

The idea started about four years ago when a group of friends on Facebook began sharing memories of the old roller rink. Someone suggested it would be a good idea to reunite and go skating one night, said the event’s organizers, Cindy Weiss Rogers and Justine Thomas.

For many who attended, the night brought back fond memories of their time spent at Top O’ the Strip with friends.

”We would meet everyone from school there, it was the hangout,” said Thomas. ”We met our boyfriends there.”

”Boyfriends we weren’t supposed to meet,” said Becky Vandegrift of Howland, wearing the white skates she wore as a teen, missing only the pom-pom on the toe.

For part of a year or so, Barry Bulford worked at Top O’ the Strip as a floor guard – someone who kept the peace on the skating rink and an eye after skaters. He wore a frog costume on weekends during family time at the rink.

”Skating with the little kids, it was fun” the Howland resident said.

Bigger kids who got rowdy, said Bulford, were put in an area of the rink called the ”jail,” a corner the troublemakers were sent to cool down.

He did not skate Saturday. ”At 50 years old, I’m wiser.”

The popularity of skating then was high because, Vandegrift and Thomas said, they and their friends didn’t have the same distractions as the youth today, like iPhones, iPads and sophisticated video game systems, unlike the Atari system kids had then.

Trish King and Penny Meadows, both of Howland, wore neon clothing head-to-toe. For them, the old rink ”was all about friends and just hanging out,” said King, 35.

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the tornado that ripped through Trumbull County on May 31, 1985 and the fifth year of the skating event, so Weiss Rogers and Thomas are planning an extra special blowout to remember Top O’ the Strip and their childhood.

At least 120 people attended Saturday’s event.