|Preserving the history of Rockton’s Wagon Wheel Resort|
|Written by Dennis Hines/Stateline News|
|Wednesday, 13 February 2013 09:56|
Photo from the collection of Jim Moses provided by Gary Glaser
ROCKTON — Gary Glaser has fond memories of the former Wagon Wheel Resort in Rockton.
Back in its heyday, the resort’s Pigalle Hall was the place to be to dance the night away on New Year’s Eve.
The resort featured a theater, golf course, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis courts and horse-riding stables. However, Glaser said one of the more popular venues at the Wagon Wheel was Pigalle Hall, which hosted cocktail parties, banquets and ballroom dances.
“(Pigalle Hall) started out as a theater and then it was used as a venue for dancing. It was a real lively place,” Glaser said. “A lot of people played there. There were a lot of big-name performers who played there. It was then changed into a dance hall. It went back and forth between a theater and a dance hall.”
Glaser, who grew up in South Beloit and now lives in Walworth County, has been researching the Wagon Wheel to preserve the history of the once-popular resort that was a big part of his early life. Glaser said he has collected almost a thousand photos of the resort during the past few years.
(See some of the photos at Facebook.com/StatelineNews.)
“It’s neat how many people have donated photos,” Glaser said.
Glaser said he also has talked with people who have shared their experiences about visiting the Wagon Wheel Resort.
“ I just want to keep the information for history..,” Glaser said. “I know people who worked there. There were so many things that happened there that I can’t keep track of it all.”
When he was growing up, Glaser said he and his friends would spend hours at the Palace Ice Skating Rink.
“Most of the time (I went) to go ice skating. There were all kinds of things to do there. It had stores and a bowling alley..,” Glaser said.
“For 50 cents, you could skate inside all day,” Glaser said. “I was in high school at the time. It was marvelous. It’s so hard to describe. It was one of the first indoor ice skating rinks in the country. It just had an aura. It had a fireplace and an area with antiques. On the side, there was a snack bar. You would walk through the door, and it was just like being in a different place.”
The Palace Ice Skating Rink also was where 1972 Olympic ice skating bronze medalist Janet Lynn trained. The rink also hosted semiprofessional hockey games and was used as a pre-season training venue for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Portions of the rink’s roof collapsed in 1979 during a snowstorm and the rink closed in 1981.
The Wagon Wheel Resort opened in 1936 and closed in July 1989. Glaser moved to Walworth County in the early 1980s and he said he travels to Rockton occasionally to visit the area where the Wagon Wheel once was located.
“I lived in the area during the time (the Wagon Wheel was in business), but I just didn’t pay too much attention,” Glaser said. “Sometimes I will go back and play golf at the Macktown Golf Course, and I think, ‘That’s not how I remember it.’ I wish I would’ve taken more pictures to keep (the memories) going.”
Glaser has worked with the Rockton Historical Society to display artifacts and photographs of the Wagon Wheel Resort at the Rockton Township Historical Carriage House Museum in Rockton.
Glaser said his research has connected him with many people who also share fond memories of the resort.
“I love it. It’s a lot of fun,” Glaser said. “I’ve met a lot of people and heard a lot of stories.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 10:05|