Monday, March 29, 2010

And In Local News....

A couple years ago I was out taking pictures with a friend of mine, and we ended up on Del Paso Blvd., what had been US Highway 40 heading northeast out of Sacramento towards Roseville, Auburn, Reno, and points east. Del Paso Blvd. isn't really my neck of the woods, and I was surprised to see what appeared to be a 1940's-style ice skating rink in that neighborhood.

Not too much later, while channel-surfing on a weekend, I saw a show about this particular rink on our local PBS station. Having just seen the building, I started watching, and was enthralled at the history, the story, behind this rink that was, in fact, built in 1940. Part of that story is in the major Sacramento newspaper today:

Rob Kerth said his parents weren't the only people to find romance at the rink.

"My aunt kept a list for many years of couples who met at Iceland and later married," he said. "There were several hundred names on it."

His grandfather, William J. Kerth Sr., started the American Ice Co. on Del Paso Boulevard in 1923.

When electric home refrigerators began to freeze out the old iceboxes in the 1930s, he used the ice plant's equipment to create an ice skating rink next door. Water from the ice plant also supplied the nearby neighborhood pool.

Iceland achieved some prominence in 1961 when it held a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs for the U.S. figure skating team. On Feb. 15, 1961, the plane from New York carrying the team, along with parents, coaches and judges, crashed on a failed landing in Brussels, killing all of them. They were on their way to the world championships in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Iceland was packed for the nationally televised event, Kerth said. With bleachers placed on the ice, the building could seat up to 900 spectators, he said.

Over the years, Kerth said, the rink ceased being a money-making proposition. "The ice rink has been for a long time a labor of love," he said. "There hasn't been any rent paid or money expected for at least 20 years.

"We think of it as our contribution to the community."

Today, the rink itself is owned by a daughter and a daughter-in-law of the founder. Beverly Jeanne Kerth, Rob Kerth's mother, became owner when her husband died in 1993. Co-owner Eva Kerth Brandt is Kerth's aunt.

Sadly, in the early morning hours yesterday, Iceland burned down.

As flames jumped high into the sky at 3:30 a.m., the roof collapsed, obliterating the ice rink that opened on Del Paso Boulevard in 1940.

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Capt. Jim Doucette said firefighters' strategy became clear early on: Protect nearby buildings in the 1400 block of Del Paso Boulevard.

"They went inside and realized that it was a lost cause," he said. "The fire was starting to roll over their heads. Stuff was dropping on them. The way the air was being sucked over their heads was a sign that the whole building was about to collapse"...

Officials estimated the blaze caused $1 million in damage; the actual ice rink and cooling system apparently survived. Founding family members said the building was too old to insure against fire loss...
In the grand scheme of things, this loss isn't so much to lament. Still, knowing the story, I can't help but regret that a small piece of local history is now lost--not to the ravages of time, or to the steady drumbeat of "progress", but to the waste of a burning car in a back alley.

Update: For as long as the link is good, here's a collection of 17 pictures of the rink.

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