Roll Land

On Thanksgiving Day in 1938, Charles, John and Peter Santoro opened Roll-Land roller skating rink at 942 Providence Highway, close to the corner of Dean street. It was the first business built in the surrounding farmland.

Peter enlisted in the Marine Corps in World War II, and a fellow Marine wrote a letter home about some of his heroic actions.

Charles gave skating lessons and at one point had over 500 pupils, among them many Girl Scouts taking lessons for merit badges.

Roll Land price list, 1939

A fire on June 9, 1942 caused $25,000 in damage but the damage was repaired and Roll Land was reopened soon after.

In 1957 a group of skaters arrived with a number of disabled children among them, who could only sit and watch. Charles started thinking about what kind of activity these children could enjoy, so he created an 18-hole mini golf course in the land behind the rink in time for their next visit in the fall of ’58.

The mini golf course behind Roll Land

Roll Land hosted many championship events including the North American Amateur Roller Skating Championships and the RSROA. Untold numbers of Norwoodians went on their first date there and several married couples first met at the rink.

MISS ROLL-LAND—The honor of being chosen Miss Roll-Land for 1955 went to dainty Miss Lillian Carlson of Norwood. Two former winners of the top honor acted as judges for the sale-ethon. They were Nancy Olson, 1954 winner and Linda Flynn who won the title In 1940. A large crowd attended the elimination contest at which Miss Carlson won the title

On December 29, 1955, Roll Land champions skated in a special program, with proceeds benefiting the local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 90.

The original building was completely destroyed by fire in March of 1962.

In 1963 Roll Land was totally rebuilt.

The new Roll Land in 1964
Roll Land Interior in 1965.

As disco became popular in the mid to late 1970’s, the number of skating rinks doubled and many rinks incorporated disco or nightclub-style music and lighting. Roll Land jumped on the bandwagon, and survived when other rinks didn’t. Weekend crowds swelled from a typical 400 people to 800 or 900 by the winter of 1979.

Throughout the 1980’s Roll Land offered public skating during the week for $4 plus $1 for skate rentals, to the tune of traditional organ music. They stayed afloat hosting functions like church groups, birthday parties and PTA nights and continued to host competitive skating events. By this time Charles Santoro’s nephew John Maddocks was co-owner of the rink and the disco skating boom was waning. By the end of the decade the number of skating rinks across the country had dwindled from a high of 2000 to 1350.

In the early 1990’s inline skating, also known as “rollerblading”, became popular and this gave a short-term boost to the roller skating industry, but within a few years rinks were struggling again. By 1997 Roll Land was one of only 2 skating rinks still open in Massachusetts.

In May of 200. after 62 years, Roll Land closed its doors. The building was turned into Work Out World, a fitness center and gym.

When the gym moved to the other side of Route 1 in 2015, the building was empty for almost 2 years before eventually becoming Yankee Spirits, the largest volume spirits, wine and beer store in New England late in 2017.

Got some information, stories or photos about Roll Land you’d like to contribute to the Norwood Historical Society? Send them to us!

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