James “Jim” Liebendorfer (1878-1968) was born in a log cabin in Wurtemburg, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. His family had settled the area was long before and was well entrenched in the local community. In 1896, when Liebendorfer turned eighteen, he opened a general store, which he sold a few years later to James Newton Sr. Over the next four decades Liebendorfer established and operated a hardware store, bakery, taxidermy service, cleaning business, car dealership, several restaurants, and numerous other ventures throughout the region. His last project was to open a roller skating rink along the Portersville Road in Ellport sometime in the 1940’s.
Liebendorfer operated the fink for some time before selling it to Thomas E. Shelar (1909-1985) and his wife Alberta in 1955. Liebendorfer, at the age of about seventy-seven, settled into retirement in Wurtemburg. The Shelar family of Princeton, Slippery Rock Township, managed the rink for the next twelve years. The sold the rink in May 1967 and retired to Florida.
The new owners were Jim and Shirley Stover of Huntington, West Virginia, who also acquired skating rinks in New Brighton and at Parkstown Corners. The Stover’s sold the Ellport facility to Harold “Sonny” Rough (1927-1990) and his wife Sally in 1971. Sonny Rough was a longtime employee of the National Tube Mill and resided in Ellport. Under the care of the Rough family the skating rink became a very popular place for kids to hang out at during the 1970’s and 1980’s. While the jukebox played all the top songs kids skated with friends, played games of “Four Corners,” took part in couples only skates, practiced their limbo skills, participated in skating lessons, played the pinball and arcade machines, drank cherry pop and gobbled down slices of pizza, and stayed over for the all-night skate parties. The Rough’s three sons, Ronnie, Jeff, and Timmy, were all involved in the business as well. Timmy Rough (1959-2015) was an exceptional skater who participated in numerous regional and national competitions throughout the 1970’s and also provided beginner and expert skating lessons.
Sonny Rough passed away at the age of sixty-two in January 1990. His son Timmy took over the rink and managed it for the next nineteen years. Timmy Rough continued to provide skating lessons and coached several kids who went to national competitions in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Rough completely remodeled the facility in the summer of 1995 and added inline skates to the inventory.
An article in the New Castle News of August 25, 1995, provided details about the history of the rink and mentioned, “Rough was 12 years old when his father, Sonny, bought the rink in 1971 and Rough’s life on wheels began. For 10 years, Rough competed on a national level and, for 12 years, he taught skaters who competed at the national level. When his father died in 1990, Rough became the sole owner of the rink with all the responsibility that goes with it. “I never realized how much my dad did, until I was doing it,” he said. “I eat, sleep and breathe the business. It’s my own pride to fix it up and make it nice,” Rough said. “My name’s on it.” A skating rink experience can embody all the best small-town values, fun, friendship and lasting memories.”
The rink was closed sometime in early 2009. Timmy Rough soon moved away to operate a rink in Donora, Pennsylvania. Rough, at age fifty-one, returned to competition in June 2010 and took first place in the master’s division of a regional competition in Delanco Township, New Jersey. He returned to coaching and relocated to manage a rink in Huntington, West Virginia. Sadly, Timmy Rough, a true guru of roller skating in Lawrence County, passed away at the young age of fifty-five in January 2015.
The once vibrant roller skating rink, which gave the kids of Ellwood City so many great memories, sits abandoned off of the Portersville Road.
Kids receiving skating lessons at the rink. (c1958) Full Size
A group of kids pose at the rink. (c1958) Full Size
Thomas E. Shelar and his wife Alberta, of Slippery Rock Township, operated the rink from 1955 until 1967. The sold the rink in the spring of 1967 and retired to Florida. (c1958)
The outside of the roller rink during the winter. (c1964)
Harold “Sonny” Rough and his wife Sally acquired the rink from the Stover family in 1971. Rough, a resident of Ellport, was a longtime employee of the National Tube Mill. (c1972)
Sonny Rough owned the rink from 1971 until he passed away in 1990. (c1978)
Timmy Rough, an expert skater, gave lessons for many years at the rink. His father Sonny Rough is behind him. (c1975) Full Size
Timmy Rough and his sister-in-law Jeri Rough. Jeri, married to Timmy’s brother Ronnie, worked at the rink for many years. (c1988) Full Size
Inside the Ellport Roller Skating Rink. (c1988) Full Size
Kids taking a break at the rink. (c1988) Full Size
Tim Rough glides along the floor of the Ellport rink. (c1992)
The snack bar and arcade area inside the rink. (c1988)
(Dec 2011) Full Size
(Dec 2011) Full Size