JoAnne Jones holds a newspaper ad announcing the rink’s opening. JoAnn Jones, wife of the late Delmar Jones, has an extensive collection of skating memorabilia and family milestones. Delmar Jones, who owned the Roll-o-Rena in Longmont and brought roller skating to the city, died earlier this month. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Delmar Jones had many unique hobbies and interests, but if one stands out from the rest, it’s roller skating.
“Skating was just in his blood,” said JoAnn Jones, Delmar’s wife of 70 years.
Delmar Jones died earlier this month at age 95, leaving behind a legacy of service to Longmont as the founder of roller skating rinks that brought joy to families for decades. He and his wife ran three ice rinks in the city from the early 1950s to the mid-1980s.
“We got skaters from Lafayette, from Louisville, from Frederick, from all over,” JoAnn Jones said. “And we were proud of our company, that’s for sure.”
Delmar Jones was born in Longmont in 1927 and grew up in Niwot. After graduating from Longmont High School, he attended the University of Nebraska. There he learned about roller skating and a lifelong passion for the sport developed.
In 1950, Delmar Jones began hosting roller skating events in the gymnasium of the St. Vrain Memorial Building in Roosevelt Park. These events proved popular with Longmont residents and paved the way for the first Roll-O-Rena, which opened on South Main Street in 1952.
Skating was a bonding factor between Delmar and JoAnn, who met at a rink in Boulder. JoAnn Jones’ father built the original Roll-O-Rena and constructed an apartment above the rink for his daughter and Delmar to live in.
“The day we opened … people were lining up to get in,” JoAnn Jones said. “That was our first home and that was the first rink in Longmont.”
After spending eight years in Colorado Springs – home of the second Roll-O-Rena – JoAnn and Delmar Jones moved back to Longmont in 1968. They then opened two more rinks in Longmont: Al-Du-Rena in 1970 and the third and final Roll-O-Rena on Sunset Street in 1979.
According to JoAnn Jones, the family made sure their rinks were kid-friendly, gave students free admission if they had an “A” on their report card, and hosted “thousands” of birthday parties. The rinks were places where kids could hang out after school, and theme parties were a big hit on holidays like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
“We had 600 (skaters) almost every Friday night,” said Duane Jones, Delmar and JoAnn’s son.
JoAnn Jones said her husband made it a priority to let people, especially children, skate regardless of their ability.
“He said, ‘It has to be for everyone,'” JoAnn Jones said. “You don’t have to be a professional, you don’t have to take lessons, but you have to participate. And that’s what he lived on.”
For Delmar and JoAnn’s three children, roller skating was also an important part of their lives, as they both learned to skate at a young age. Her daughter Doreen Schmidt remembers running the snack bar at the third Roll-O-Rena while her brothers repaired skates and played music.
“Basically we learned to skate,” Schmidt said.
The Joneses sold the Roll-O-Rena in 1986. In retirement, Delmar and JoAnn traveled frequently, driving across the country to visit every state in the United States. Delmar Jones also took up artistic projects, including painting, wood carving and building model airplanes.
In addition to his contributions to roller skating in Longmont, Delmar Jones is also known for his military service and flying skills. At age 17, he became the first student pilot to perform a solo takeoff from the city’s Vance Brand Municipal Airport. He later served in the US Army from 1946 to 1948.
JoAnn Jones said people who grew up with the Roll-O-Rena often tell her they wish their grandchildren had a similar place to skate in Longmont today. Looking back, she said running the rinks could be difficult, but she and Delmar were both extremely happy with what they accomplished.
“We are proud of what we have done and our service to the community,” said JoAnn Jones. “We didn’t do much else, but we entertained their children, I know that.”