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Roller skate night at The McCarthy brings back memories for group of Skate 98 alum

By Howard B. Owens
Doug Palmer roller skate
Doug Palmer takes a turn around the rink on an 80 and 90s Skate Night at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena in Batavia on Friday night. Palmer is one of a group of friends who remembers Skate 98 fondly.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Some of the Skate 98 family was back together at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Friday night for an 80 and 90s adult-only roller skate party.

It was perhaps most evident when the smash 1979 hit from Sister Sledge, "We Are Family," came on the sound system.

Just like old times, a group of six long-time skating friends formed a line and skated together -- as they did when they were all much younger -- around the rink.

"We're all older now," said Doug Palmer. "As much as we all want to skate to 'We are Family,' we can't do that whole song. We started doing our line during 'We Are Family' to kind of do that throwback to Skate 98, but these guys are like, 'Doug, you can take the front,' and I'm like, 'I'm on point Oh, God! So as soon as your legs start feeling it, you slow down there's somebody else right there behind you, so you ditch out and let somebody else take point."

Still, it was a fun night, all agreed.

The group included Mark Mcvay, wife Kelly Mcvay, Mark's brother Craig, along with Palmer, Alan Gilford, and Pat Gaudy.

It was the first time in a rink in 30 years for Gilford. Mark was wearing skates from 1977, while Kelly, her skates were from ninth grade, and Gaudy's skates he bought when he was 17.

The old adage that you never forget how to ride a bicycle must also apply to roller skating.  Even Gilford exuded a confidence moving around the rink, not as evident in some other skaters.

"The skate was all right," said Gilford, a former skate guard at Skate 98 and so is a bit older than the rest of the group at 71. "My legs are fine, but my ankles felt a little jittery."

They all agreed that the arrival of The McCarthy as a roller skate rink is a welcome development but said not all the music being played is appropriate for skating.  Some of it needs more of a dance beat, they said, a bit more Funk, perhaps.

"It can't just be any music from the era," Palmer said. "It's got to be skate music."

Palmer has been coming to the open skates on Friday nights since they started a few weeks ago just to "get the webs off."

"I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of these guys," he said.

They all have fond memories of Skate 98, a roller rink that was once on Route 98 heading toward Alexander.  They remember the all-night skates, the game room, the contests, hanging out with friends, and the skates guards -- during a skating break -- throwing out rolls of quarters on the floor and the mad scramble for the kids to pick them up.

"They all went right back into the games in the game room," Palmer recalled.

Gaudy said, "I met all my friends there, even met most of my girlfriends there." 

Which reminded Palmer of "make out corner."  

A place he had to avoid once his dad became a skate guard.

"Or my ears would get a lot longer," he said.

When Skate 98 closed after a fire, it was the end of an era in Genesee County and for some the end of roller skating for a while.

"When it went away, it kind of sucked," Palmer said. "Everybody had to go to Buffalo or Rochester to skate, then they didn't want to drive with their kids 45 minutes to go roller skating, so having a place that is local again, even with this here, I would love to have a place in Batavia again."

Meaning he would like to see a year-round, full-time roller skating venue.

Skating has always been a family affair in the Mcvay clan, Kelly said.

"It’s continued to be a family thing for us," Kelly said. "We go to Lockport and Tonwanda, and our kids come with us, and our grandkids now skate with the little walkers, so it’s nice to have this, even if it’s only to August."

roller skating
Photo by Howard Owens
mark and kelly mcvay skate night
Mark and Kelly Mcvay.
Photo by Howard Owens.
skate 98 group
The Skate 98 group at the skate night: Alan Gilford, Doug Palmer, Kelly Mcvay, Mark Mcvay, Craig McVay, and Pat Gaudy.
Photo by Howard Owens.

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