Black Zephyr Orchestra
Blue Mountain Eagle
Little Bill & The Bluenotes
Buddy Miles Express
Lydia Pense and Cold Blood
Sir Walter Raleigh and the Coupons
Don & Company
Every Mother's Son
Five Man Electrical Band
Tony Ford (The Outlaw)
The Fragile Lime
George Washington & the Cherrybombs
Don & The Goodtimes
King Biscuit Entertainers
Jerry Lee Lewis
The Lovin' Spoonful
Merrilee & The Turnabouts
Mr. Lucky & The Gamblers
The Pleasure Seekers
Paul Revere & the Raiders
Rail and Company
The Revolution Kind
Rocky & His Friends
The Rogues (Bellevue)
The Rum Runners
Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs
Sir Jonathon and The Nightriders
Tiny Tony & The Statics
Thee Younger Generation
Tower of Power
Toulouse & Mr. Karate
Thee Young Generation
The Young Gentry
Viceroys and Nancy Claire
White Heart (aka Heart)
Wailers with Gail Harris
My father was a carpenter and made cabinets in the 1930s and 40s. In 1949 and 1950, at ages 12 and 13, I was involved in freestyle and pairs roller-skating competition. In 1950, the man leasing the Vasa Park Hall for skating (Dell Carlino) asked my father to do some remodeling in the building. He could not afford to pay for the work, so he asked my dad if he wanted to become a partner. A part-time business was formed, with dad handing out skates, mom working in the snack bar, and me assuming the position of floor guard – telling kids to slow down. I also assumed the duties of janitor.
Mom and Dad had to get by without me from late 1956 until my return home from an enlistment in the Air Force in 1960.
Sometime in either 1960 or 1961, my father was approached by Pat O'Day. Pat needed a hall for a Conway Twitty concert. With a little prompting by me, my dad agreed to rent the hall to Pat, and was very impressed by the success of the show. My mother bragged for years afterward that Conway Twitty autographed her roller skates.
In 1961, I began urging mom and dad to get out of that nine-month / year-to-year lease at Vasa Park, and get a full-time skating rink. I found signs in the Lake Hills (Crossroads) area of Bellevue that advertised property available for businesses. The property owners added the words, "Will build to suit," back in those days deals were done by word of mouth and this was pretty tempting for people who were relatively poor. We met with Mr Conners, who owned most of Crossroads and the residential area east of Crossroads that was developed by Bell & Valdez. At that time, there was some housing development, but very little business development. The entire crossroads area was mostly comprised of trees and brush. (As shown in the attached 1962 photograph of the rink)
After meeting with Mr. Conners and a representative of Soule Steel Corp., a design for the Lake Hills Roller Rink was created. The rink was completed in 1962, and we began the first year of the expensive twenty-year lease agreement. The skating business in Crossroads was continually improving, but we knew it would be difficult to make the lease payment during the slack summer skating season. As we approached the Spring of 1963, I recalled the success of Pat O'Day's show at Vasa Park. I convinced my dad to allow me to contact Pat to see if we could partner up with his teen-dance circuit. Pat returned our call, and we came to an agreement to begin Thursday night teen dances in the summer of 1963. If my memory serves me correctly, we opened with The Viceroys. The second week we featured The Wailers. We were overwhelmed and most grateful for the popularity of the summer dances.
Of course, the Thursday dances had to end when the school season started. I wanted to continue into the winter months on Saturday nights. Dad did not want to give up his Saturday skating schedule. I argued and argued, and finally he reluctantly agreed to every other Saturday night. Once again, the Pat O'Day dances were magnificently popular. Within a month or two, we cancelled skating for Saturday nights and had weekly teen dances. Our success was just one more feather in the cap of Pat O'day. All of this was the result of an agreement and a handshake with one of the greatest entertainment promoters of all time. Not long into our adventure with the Pat O'day dances, we had the pleasure of working with Pat's associates, Dick Curtis and Mac Keith. This was all like a dream that was too good to be true.
My wife, Liz (Betty), and I were involved in the dance/concert business at Lake Hills until the building was subleased in 1979. During those exciting times, I had to divide my time with the City of Seattle as a firefighter (1961-1966), U of W student (1966-1968), and police officer (1968-1997) Betty was the mainstay of the business, acting as manager, troubleshooter, and ticket seller throughout the history of the dances. Betty started out working in the lunchroom, but the front office soon became overwhelming for my mom. Betty (Liz) took over. Much credit for the success of the Lake Hills Dances must be given to Betty, and also to the security officers. They are King County Deputies Gene Steinhauer, Nat Davis, Denny McCole, Jim Vey, Danny Nolan, Gordy Hartshorn and Ron Moore & Seattle PD Officers Tom Sutton, Jerry Hofstee, and Michael T. Scott. Many will remember Vicky Dobbins (Dobbins' Lumber Co., Eastgate), the wonderful lady who took over lunchroom duties, and her kindness to the young dance customers.
The terrible tragedy we suffered in the summer of 1968 should be mentioned before I close this presentation. Betty and I lived 2 blocks from the roller rink. About five o'clock one morning, the newspaper delivery kid knocked on our door and woke me up. He said, "Howard, your skating rink is burning." I was confused, because the building was constructed of cement block and steel. I hurried over there and was shocked to see fire coming out of the office window, and heavy smoke pouring out of the roof vents. I told the fire captain that I had experience as a firefighter, and asked if I could help. He said that if I had the key to the back door, I could open the building so that the smoke and fire could vent to allow them to get inside with water hoses. I entered the back door and observed fire shooting across the floor from a severed natural gas pipe that was hanging down from a furnace. I held my breath and started running the length of the main floor in an attempt to open the rear fire door. As I reached the area of the stage, I ran right into a large scaffold that my dad had left in the middle of the floor. My wind was knocked out of me, but I managed to struggle to the rear door and burst out to the fresh air. We lost six years of records along with precious and irreplaceable souvenirs in one terrible morning. We had to close the business for 3 months during the rebuilding process. During that time I managed to rent the Vasa Park Hall for Saturday night dances. Those events were also a moderate success, thanks to Pat O'Day and Dick Curtis.
There is not much more to say about the history of the Lake Hills Roller Rink, except to name all of the exciting performances by the many wonderful local groups and national groups to grace our stages. They were all so spectacular, and there were far too many to name them during my brief appearance here tonight.
Before closing, I should mention a few of the humorous experiences that I enjoyed as a result of notoriety I achieved as the announcer man at the dances. During the early years, Pat made appearances on the stage during intermissions to announce the coming attractions. Pat's overwhelming music business success soon made it impossible for him to attend all of our events. The task of facing the large crowds of teen music fans fell upon my shoulders. That was a strange responsibility for a firefighter and police officer (my day jobs), but soon became a great pleasure. On occasions I would dress up in costumes and wigs to get a laugh. My job with the Seattle Police Department sometimes placed me on street corners directing traffic downtown. Young people on the street would recognize me and come up and talk about the dances at Lake Hills. On one occasion I was directing traffic in the middle of the intersection of 3rd Ave. and Stewart St. by the Bon Marche store when a teen driver stopped in the intersection and said, "Hey Howard, who is playing at Lake Hills this weekend?" That was something I will never forget.
I thank all of those who attended events at our family business, who were so dear to our hearts. I hope that your memories of the events and the wonderful people whom you met there are as precious to you as our memories are to us.
Merrilee Rush and Howard Monta at a special dance at Lake Hills in memory of Buddy Holly
Howard A. Monta (and Betty), November 2004Here are some photos that were taken at some special events at Lake Hills RR in 1970. One was from a costume contest and two photos of me dressed in the biker outfit was from what we called our "Freak Festival". I looked kind of strange for a Seattle Cop didn't I?
The Viceroys were the first band to play Lake Hills Roller Rink when they first started playing bands there.
"Hoss" Amans, March 2011
Band Boy for The Viceroys
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Last Update: 5 July 2014
Credits: S. Carlson, Marc Lagen, Stan Foreman, Jim Hawkins, Randy Solvang, Steve Feary, Denny Randall. Don Gardner, Liz Monta, Mark Benzion, Keith Craine, Ray Kennedy, Greg Thacher, Gary Draper, Robert Lovy, Don Ross, David Wills, Dean Gartin, Joe Cox, Don Wilhelm, Jim Sola, Gary Odegard, Kevin Mason, Belinda Harris, Michael Kaup, Peter Simpson, Ron Griffin, Tom Dietz, Howard Monta, Dick Barrere, Cole Flegel, Tony Mamon, Randy Eide, Bob Cole, Nina Mabalay, Ted Vanderford, Larry Bennett, Tom Smith, Thomas John Segers, Brett Milller, Ron Villa, Mark "Hoss" Amans, Steve English, Doug Carr, Christopher Freeman, Ron Hind, Keith Sorensen, Little Bill Englehart