Depression-era Parkites made their own fun
January 4, 2019
No one could ever say Parkites weren't resourceful! During the 1930s, times in Park City were tough. With the mining industry on the decline, the national economy trapped in the Great Depression, and international relations spiraling toward a second world war, townspeople pinched their pennies and crafted new sorts of fun. The boys pictured here, apparently not quite satisfied with a traditional game of basketball, strapped on roller skates to make things more exciting.
In the late 1930s, Cliff Parrish was the go-to guy for all things skating. In the winter, he managed an ice rink, keeping a sheet of ice clean and smooth for children and adults alike to enjoy the winter sport. As the late Mel Fletcher recalled in a 2000 interview with the Park City Museum, "keeping…an outdoor rink was very difficult. Because we had so much snow. We'd get a sheet of ice that was stable and nice and smooth and then we'd have a snow storm and we'd have to go out and shovel it off. Our nemesis was a blizzard."
The Parrish rink was used to host ice carnivals, in which Utahns from surrounding communities were invited to Park City for a day or two of games and celebration, including races and hockey. There was even a game of softball on ice.
"We went down and laid out some bases with blue ink," Fletcher reminisced. "We put blue ink out on the ice to color the bases and we'd play softball on ice skates." According to The Park Record, the sport was "rapidly gaining in popularity in Park City," at the time. However, it was unheard of enough in other towns that the Record questioned where there would be enough other teams for a proper tournament or "whether Park City teams would give exhibitions."
During the summer, Parrish managed roller skating rinks in both Park City and Coalville. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the dance floor in the Elks Hall on Main Street was converted into a roller rink with an admission price of twenty-five cents. Spectators were "always welcome."
Mel Fletcher and other boys used the opportunity to spice up their basketball games. With Parrish's "most up-to-date roller skates obtainable, being of the hard rubber wheel and adjustable type," Fletcher and his friends divided into groups of four and faced off on the rink-turned-basketball court.
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"We suffered a lot of scrapes and little floor burns a lot of time when we'd go down," Fletcher said. "But those skates were easy to handle. We had a lot of fun."