Skating down Memory Lane

Area residents remember letting good times roll at LaFleur’s Roller Rink

{{tncms-inline alignment="left" content="<p><strong>‘Those were some good times. I remember when the rink first opened and it was always packed and people would come from all of the surrounding areas too.’</strong><br /><strong>John LaFleur</strong><br /><span>Current owner of LaFleur’s Roller Rink building</span></p>" id="92c5c27f-8a5e-45c0-8390-0ae3fdcf047d" style-type="quote" title="Pull Quote" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

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Weekends were especially golden times at LaFleur’s Roller Rink in Sulphur during its heyday when lights blazed, music blared, and people skated their hearts out.

</div></div><div class="Content"><p class="indent">The rink opened in 1958 on Ruth Street, closed its doors in 1998, and the building is in the process of being dismantled to make way for a fastfood restaurant. The property recently sold for $421,000 and a KFC restaurant will soon open at the site.

<p class="indent">But for many people, nostalgic memories of the rink remain strong.

<p class="indent">Mike Dronet of Sulphur, who recalled that he lived just down the road from the roller rink, said, “I think I could skate before I could walk.”

<p class="indent">For Crystal G. Duhon, there is one memory of her skating days that has stayed in her mind all these years. “LaFleur’s is where I got my first kiss,” she said.

<p class="indent">How many people can say they met their future husband at the roller rink? Kim Chapman can.

<p class="indent">“I was 16 and Joey was 19 when we met at LaFleur’s,” Chapman said.

<p class="indent">“I literally spent my childhood at that rink and have so many happy memories from those times.” Within a couple of years of meeting, they got married and eventually had two children together.

<p class="indent">“He passed away several years ago,” Chapman said. Asked if she had a photo of the two of them from LaFleur’s, she said, “No photo; just memories.”

<p class="indent">Rick Veal grew up in Sulphur and although he now lives in Texas, he has fond memories of the skating rink and the times he spent there with friends and family when he was growing up.

<p class="indent">“One of the main things I remember is trying not to fall during ‘couple’s skate,’ ” Veal said.

<p class="indent">Andrea DelPapa Bertrand, on thinking back to her skating days, said, “When I hear certain songs, I still tell my kids, ‘I used to roller skate to this song.’ “

<p class="indent">Lelan J. LaBorde of Sulphur has great memories of skating at LaFleur’s. “My favorite song was “Rinky Dink” by David Baby Cortez,” LaBorde said. “They (rink employees) would play hit music while you skated and tried to impress the ladies.”

<p class="indent">Mike Cormier said the rink was the perfect place to hang out with friends.

<p class="indent">“Tony was the owner and he was a great guy who wouldn’t tolerate bad behavior so it made for a good atmosphere to play video games, skate, and shoot pool,” Cormier said. “I believe if the place was still open that I would be there every weekend. With the same music on the old jukebox from the 80’s of course.”

<p class="indent">Billy Bertrand recalled having his 11th birthday party at LaFleur’s Roller Rink.

<p class="indent">“My mom had planned for me to invite 15 friends,” Bertrand said. “But I must have invited about 75 people. My mom wanted to kill me. But everybody had a great time.”

<p class="indent">Kenny Viator said he has lived in Sulphur all his life and said he remembers sock hop dances at LaFleur’s too.

<p class="indent">“But most of us went for the skating and Tony LaFleur (a rink owner) was so good at skating that we would get off of the floor to watch him,” Viator said. “I have some great memories that were made there and I wish we could go back to that time.”

<p class="indent">John LaFleur is the brother of the late Tony LaFleur and he has owned the building and land where the rink has been all these years. He has his own wonderful memories of the place. But he and his family have been busy the last couple of weeks as they have begun dismantling the building after they sold the property.

<p class="indent">LaFleur said his parents, the late Goldman J. LaFleur and Agnes LaFleur, originally from Elton, were the ones who had the idea to build the rink.

<p class="indent">“Daddy thought that Sulphur would be a great location,” LaFleur said. “There wasn’t much to do in the area back then. All of us helped build it and my brother, Tony, ran the rink most of those years. Those were some good times. I remember when the rink first opened and it was always packed and people would come from all of the surrounding areas too.”

<p class="indent">Although many people have told the LaFleur family for years that they hoped they would re-open the rink, LaFleur said it just wasn’t feasible and would cost too much – financially, and in sweat equity as well. “When you own a business, it’s 24/7,” he said.

<p class="indent">Even though the rink has been closed for years, as recently as a few days ago there were rows and rows of dusty roller skates lined up inside the building – sitting in the same spot where they were left on the day the doors closed for good. Old 45 records and vintage signs were in abundance as well.

<p class="indent">Members of the LaFleur family pulled up floor boards from the rink this week and plan to make tables for their homes out of the wood as a way to preserve memories of a bygone era.

<p class="indent">Aunjelle Burton, LaFleur’s daughter, said the boards are solid oak and that she was also planning to make shadow boxes filled with rink memorabilia for family. The LaFleur’s plan to donate some things from the rink to the Brimstone Museum in Sulphur too.

<p class="indent">Burton remembers going to the rink a lot when she was a little girl and also recalled her father, uncle, and grandfather sharing their memories of the early days of the rink.

<p class="indent">“When the rink was built, there was no interstate,” Burton said. “Where the rink is now was basically the country back then; Ruth Street was gravel at that time.”

<p class="indent">Burton said that the sale of the land has been bittersweet for her family as they prepare to say goodbye forever to LaFleur’s Roller Rink.

<p class="indent">“We’re happy about it but sad at the same time because a lot of our memories are wrapped up in that place,” she said.

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<strong>‘Those were some good times. I remember when the rink first opened and it was always packed and people would come from all of the surrounding areas too.’</strong>

<strong>John LaFleur</strong>

<span>Current owner of LaFleur’s Roller Rink building</span>