Skylite skating rink rolls to 30th anniversary
WORCESTER — he doesn’t remember what song was playing when he walked by the Skylite Roller Skating Center on Park Avenue that day in 1981, but the music drew him inside. Mike a. Beremian had arrived in Worcester not long before. “I was 18, fresh from Iraq, Baghdad,” he remembered, and, “not a word of English and I came here illegal on a plane with 36 people.” the late Richard “Richie” Fors, who ran the rink with his wife, M.J. Fors, welcomed the teen, who helped break up a fight. “he gave me these skates and he told me I could work for him,” mr. Beremian said last night as folks crowded the rink to celebrate the roller rink’s 30th anniversary. a slight accent still detectable, mr. Beremian, who earned his U.S. citizenship, said without the rink and the Fors, he might not be where he is today. his hair is grey and the tongues are gone from his worn black roller skates, but he wears them still. the same is true for Walter P. Pope and Shawn M. Babkauskas. mr. Babkauskas was a small white kid just 8 years old when he started coming to the rink. “I was here on opening day,” he said, and having been there was a badge of honor among those who attended the anniversary celebration. mr. Pope was a little older and looked tough — still does — but despite the earring, tattoos and ebony skin stretched over muscular arms, he bills himself a “gentle giant.” he is also the first man to moonwalk on skates at Skylite after learning how on a trip to the Midwest. he taught mr. Babkauskas and they, along with a few others, would amaze people who thought they were unlikely friends. “no one would expect him to break-dance,” mr. Pope laughed. “But I still can,” mr. Babkauskas said. mrs. Fors said the rink was her husband’s dream. he won national championships roller skating and taught others to skate in Taunton, she said. They had been married for 25 years when he died in 2003, and she wondered if she should keep running the rink on her own. They’d worked at it together and she wasn’t sure. when she decided she would continue, she found it was a great solace when friends from the old days would stop in to see her. Her staff members (there are about 10 employees at the center) have been “incredibly supportive,” she said. “we always said this was like a big family, and it is,” she said. “these people have helped me out so much.” she also maintains her husband’s no-nonsense approach so the rink can be a safe place for families to come and have fun. Kids learn to help out when they skate there, she said. mr. Pope and mr. Babkauskas said the rink was where they wanted to be and they tried to behave so they wouldn’t get grounded by their parents who would ban them from going if they acted up. “we were always looking for a place to go and when this opened up, it was like a dream come true,” mr. Pope said. “we all tried to stay out of trouble so we could come.” the men remembered all-night skates and the fun they had, as they laced up again last night and tried to cajole mrs. Fors onto the floor. both of them, along with mr. Beremian and many others, met their future partners at the rink and there’s even been a wedding hosted there, mrs. Fors said. Steven Melendez Jr. was in skates at age 3 and was picking up fallen skaters when he worked as a guard at the rink years later. last night, he was back at it. “Once a guard, always a guard,” he said, laughing as he remembered picking up a child one night and being hit in the head by a passing skater. the collision knocked him out. Judith Solomon has been at the rink since the early days, too. she still works there and helps out her friend. “I painted the building,” she said. “I did it when I was 12 and I just did it again at 40.” It’s been painted a few times in between though, mrs. Fors said. the crowd last night filled the floor, some of the skaters spending more time down than up while others glided along smoothly or waved pulsating light sticks about. They were young, old or middle-aged, all with happy memories. Most were fondly remembering mr. Fors, because, as Christopher J. Charron said: “some of us didn’t have parents and he kept us on track.” After 30 years, those are the stories that bring a smile to mrs. Fors’ face and she hopes those who skate at the rink today will be talking the same way a few decades from now. Most Read Stories
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