Saving Skateland’s Neon

For decades, the giant Skateland neon sign stood near the corner of 11th and Sheridan in Tulsa. The roller rink there just off Route 66 was a Tulsa mainstay for decades. Ed and Wanda Enlow, who had been teaching skating at the Continental Roller Rink near 11th and Peoria, opened the family skating rink on October 23, 1968. It was a great opening (several hundred people came out on a Wednesday night) and the 1970s turned out to be the height of the roller-skating boom.

Skateland’s sign as it appeared in 2020

For the first year, the family (which included 12-year-old Steve) lived at the rink. When the last skaters left, they set up the pull-out couch in the office. It remained the family business for over 50 years; the wood floor hosted generations of Tulsans.

By 2021, Skateland was the last surviving roller rink within city limits. Steve and Sheila Enlow were ready to retire.

Out of the blue, I received a message from the Enlow family letting me know that Skateland had sold. The new owners weren’t interested in the large neon sign, which I’d long hoped would take advantage of the local Route 66 Neon Sign Grant Program as it hadn’t been lit in years. The challenge: whoever wanted the sign had to act fast as it had already been taken down and placed beside the dumpster. 

There was only one place in Tulsa I knew that might be able to handle a sign of this size, with urgency, and a desire to restore it. The Stokely Event Center.

The inside of the event center is chockablock with signs, too!

Stokely’s had acquired and restored several signs from the Tulsa area, including the Metro Diner and Swinney’s Hardware. I called and spoke to their owner and told them of the situation. The sign would be free, but they would have to transport it. I had already priced moving the sign to a secure location and I was told it was over $1,000. I didn’t have that kind of money.

STEADY NOW

Thankfully, they were interested! A few days later, I watched them load the giant sign onto a flatbed trailer with the promise of a full restoration. At the end of September, work was completed and the sign was installed among the rest of their neon garden.

Preservation is so important and this story very nearly had a sad ending. Would I have loved to have the sign restored in-place next to the Main Street of America? Of course. Am I happy with this next chapter of life for the Skateland sign? Absolutely. I know it will be taken care of and that the Enlow’s legacy will roll on.

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