Wheeler’s Family Entertainment Center in Moss Bluff has closed its doors. It was the last remaining skating rink in Southwest Louisiana. In a way, it marks the end of a way of having fun and getting a little exercise future generations will never know.
“We’re ready to get out, but I cried when I posted the news,” said Greta Laborde Huval. The memories just came flooding back.”
Her husband’s parents, Harold and the late Dorothy Huval, built the family entertainment center in 1983.
“I thought it was a good investment,” the 94-year-old Harold Huval said.
Greta, and her husband David, leased the building before taking full ownership in 1992. Parents who brought their children to skate were once skaters at the rink themselves.
“I ran into a mom whose kids skated here,” Greta said. “She told me one of her sons, who is now in med school, loves telling the story about how his mother left him for an hour with a broken arm at the skating rink before she showed up to get him.”
Greta and the mom laughed together, remembering. When Greta called to tell her she thought her son had broken his arm and probably needed medical attention, the mother suggested her son could be a bit dramatic.
“One child lost his tooth, root and all,” Greta said. “David put it in water and made a dentist appointment for the boy. Then he called the mother to tell her the dentist was expecting her. The dentist saved the tooth. That boy is 37 years old now.”
Such minor injuries were inevitable. More bonds were made than could be recalled in the conversation between the Southwest Daily News and Greta Huval.
“David had nicknames for all of them,” Greta said. “He’s the one they remember. One boy mentioned he was thinking about joining the Air Force and David told him that might be a good move for him. He did. He never lost touch with us, and he’s a state trooper now.”
When she thinks of the best memories at Wheeler’s Family Entertainment Center, the background sound is full of laughter, she said.
“Just the other day David and I were talking about the all-night skates (7 p.m. until 7 a.m.) and the womanless beauty pageants,” she said. “Those boys could be so silly. I could just picture this one little boy — he passed away — coming down the ramp dressed up and everyone cheering him on.”
David was in charge of the dead bug game, enjoyed by younger children from the local day care center. “He would skate around and call out, ‘dead bug.’ The children would pretend to fall dead, making these awful faces,” Greta said.
He would make them remain as still as possible as he skated around and looked at each one. Finally, he would announce the name of the best dead bug. Older children enjoyed the duck game in which skaters were required to squat on skates with one leg out and continue to roll for as long as momentum would allow. The winner got to push the other squatted skaters down.
Wheeler’s Family Entertainment Center also offered laser tag play, pool tournaments, dancing competitions, foot races, bumper cars and a Thanksgiving turkey shoot that involved throwing a dart at a turkey and taking a frozen one home.
“At the all-night skates, kids lined up early to ensure they’d get a certain pair of rollerblades,” Greta said. “There would be so many kids, as many as 200, it would take an hour-and-a-half to get everyone inside. Kids would be pouring sweat when it was time to go home and they didn’t want to leave. Kids have changed. Some come these days and don’t even skate. They just stay on their phones.”
The way music was piped into the rink has changed through the years, going from cassettes, to CDs, to a paid music service and finally the computer.
David and Greta said they are ready to spend more time with their own children and grandchildren who live in Houston and Austin. Two Christmases ago, they all got together, played laser tag and skated, a first for some of the grandchildren.
Wheeler’s Family Entertainment Center was damaged by the hurricanes, and has been repaired. The building, and about three acres of land at 1130 U.S. 171 is now for sale.
Moss Bluff Pentecostal Church is leasing the property, giving the church members an additional opportunity to use the term “Holy Roller,” according to the church’s pastor, Jared Pugh.
“Last Sunday we wore Tshirts we had made with ‘Holy Rollers’ and the image of vintage roller skates,” he said.
The skating rink gives the congregants plenty of room to socially distance, yet worship together as one in a space where children laughed, didn’t mind working up a little sweat and made decisions that affected a lifetime.