By guest contributor Sarah Yowell
No matter where people grow up, there are places that are linked with childhood. There are buildings that even if they are closed, can instantly transport someone back to better times, to the innocence and friendships of youth. In White Settlement, it seems these businesses once so closely linked to childhood – Rickey’s, the old Cherry Lane drive-in , Dairy Queen, UA8 – are all long gone. However, the Silver Wheel skating rink is still standing and open for business.
Silver Wheel is more closely linked to White Settlement’s history than many are aware. Back in the thirties and forties when White Settlement was still named Liberator Village, portable skating rinks were a popular attraction. These were taken off a large truck and had wood floors and canvas roofs. They generally only stayed in one area for a few weeks, only lasting several months if there were enough skaters.
Those that remember say that one such old tent top rink was set up on White Settlement Road in the 1940’s. It was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Pemberton in 1946 and moved east near Grants Lane. After a storm in 1947 blew the canvas top away and new roads were built, the rink was moved to its current location at 7628 Corina Drive in 1952. The new building was named the Silver Wheel, had a café on one end, and was the permanent home for the skating rink.
Over these past six decades it has been open at its current location, and Silver Wheel has meant a lot to many White Settlement residents who have made memories there. Citizen Debbi Barton can attest to that.
“I only got to skate there a couple times before I moved when I was 13,” Barton said, but when she moved back and thought her daughter was old enough to get skates on, she eagerly brought her for the Friday morning skate. “My daughter and I loved it so much that when she had kids, I couldn’t wait to take the grandchildren.”
Barton now takes the three grandkids every Friday for the morning skate in the summer, just like she did with her daughter.
Another White Settlement resident, Stephanie Behrens, remembers Silver Wheel fondly, too.
“One of my favorite birthday parties was held there, my 11th,” Behrens said, “and I remember going a lot on the weekends as I got older to socialize. Those are some great memories. I’m looking forward to taking my own kids there to skate one day.”
Since opening at the permanent location in 1952, Silver Wheel has had only three owners. Leonard and Ruby Pemberton took a great deal of pride in it from its opening in ‘52 until 1972 when it was sold to Ed and Erma Stites. The Stites owned it until 1999 when their daughter, Renee Smith, eagerly purchased it from her parents. Throughout the years and owners, Silver Wheel has very much stayed the same inside and out, including the light-up disco floor and ball. Few changes have been made, like the addition of laser lights on the rink.
Silver Wheel still stays active with the people of White Settlement. Where they were once sending skaters to compete in national competitions (in which a Miss Pemberton, representing Silver Wheel, won second place in a National Skate Queen contest in 1957), Silver Wheel is now host to the White Settlement Fire Department’s annual Christmas party.
Present owner Renee Smith said there are interesting events taking place at the skating rink all the time. Some of which include “several rollerskate weddings, photo shoots, and scenes from the movie Element 245 was just filmed [there] this winter,” Smith said.
Smith also mentioned that Silver Wheel is working with the White Settlement ISD giving skating passes to students who hit the A/B honor roll.
Many of the places of Old White Settlement may have shut down, some of the buildings aren’t even standing anymore, but anyone wishing for a reminder of days gone by can still stop by Silver Wheel and let the nostalgia take over. They welcome visitors on Friday and Saturdays with morning and evening skate times.