Before Now – Secret Ice Rink

Ocean Beach ice skating rink

48th Avenue Ice Arena. Photo courtesy Tim Dineen.

I first went there with my Cub Scout troop for a special evening outing.

We followed our den leader down a dark residential street, passing one stucco house after another. The fog was in and the few streetlights had a yellowish aura around them. We 9-year-old boys walked in a snaking line behind the adults. A block off the relative bustle of Judah Street, with its streetcar line and small restaurants, I decided that Mr. Smalley must be lost. Then, in the middle of the block, I saw light slanting out the doorway of a big building up ahead.

The adults paid and we all shuffled into the light.

Cold air with a strange metallic smell enveloped us. Colored lights were flashing and Robert Plant was moaning about “ramblin’ on.” Longhaired teenagers skated around a wide ice rink fenced off like a corral. One girl practiced little spinning hops by herself in the center. I’d grown up in San Francisco. I’d never seen snow. I’d never seen anyone ice skate, even on television. I was baffled that that such an amazing place could be hidden in the middle of a block in the Outer Sunset district.

The San Francisco Ice Arena opened in the mid 1920s at 1557 48th Avenue with a 1.35-ton ice machine and a steel-and-glass wall facing the ocean. The Ocean Beach area had become San Francisco’s recreation zone, from Sutro Baths and Playland down to the then-new Fleishhacker Pool and Zoo at Sloat Boulevard. An ice-skating rink fit in perfectly with the roadhouses and waffle stands that dotted the Great Highway. In the 1920s there were still plenty of empty lots to build on, and the rays of the setting sun had free access through the rink’s glazed-glass back wall.

Frances Larkin lived on Kirkham Street, around the corner from the rink. Her family didn’t have the money to let Frances skate, but she found the Ice Arena provided a cheaper form of recreation in the 1930s.

“When they would scrape the ice, they’d push it out the back door,” she says. “We just thought those were piles of snow. We’d get a bucket and gather it up to make what we thought were snowballs. We’d throw them at the automobiles as they went by. The people didn’t like that very much.”

J. Hugh Visser, who lived on the 1400 block of 48th Avenue, was one of those boys pushing the used ice out through the back door. His crew used squeegees with long handles, in those days before the Zamboni machine. “Ma” Campbell, who ran the ice rink like a military ship, paid Visser with free passes to skate. “At one time I had a stack of 30 or 40 free passes stuffed in my wallet.”

Frank Grant skated there at the time and remembers the “icy cold feeling, the odor of the wet flooring chewed up with ice skates, the scratchy music and the very uncomfortable rental skates.”

But Grant still thought of it a thrill to have a rink right in the neighborhood. In those days of snazzy dress, one skating teacher wore a full suit and bow tie during lessons on the rink.

Fueled by cheap federal housing loans, residential construction in the Sunset boomed in the 1930s. The San Francisco Ice Arena became hemmed in by homes, almost hidden in the middle of the block. The owners sometimes advertised the facility very descriptively as the “48th Avenue Ice Rink,” and other times more exotically as “Iceland.” A large winter-themed mural was installed along the back wall, and featured a mountain lake vista with skaters framed by pine trees.

The Ice Follies came to rehearse new shows in the summer, and by the 1950s some of the show’s stars — Hugh Hendrickson, and Joe and Marlene Thurston — took over operation of the rink.

They had competition. Phyllis and Harris Legg opened a rink on Ocean Avenue and later another on 11th Street. Both were star skaters and performers. Harris Legg had qualified as a speed skater for the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, and with his wife performed a number skating on stilts. Up the road from the Ice Arena, the Sutro family tried to turn around business at Sutro Baths by replacing the aging swimming tanks with an ice-skating rink.

Ocean Beach ice skating rink cafe

Photo courtesy John Freeman.

In 1959 Hugh Hendrickson was tragically electrocuted at the Ice Arena during renovation of the brine pump, and for the next 30 years the Thurstons became the face of the business. Marlene Thurston acted as director of the skating school. Many remember the Thomas twins, a skating duo that gave lessons for years. Longtime employees included a man named Emery who checked out rental skates, and an older woman named Flo who operated the concession stand in the back. This corner of the building was decorated to resemble a rustic cabin or ski lodge, with log posts and roof. Never a great skater, as a teen I drank a lot of hot chocolate and spent most of my time watching girls from the concession area.

As with skating rinks across the country, there were all the usual traditions of men-only or women-only skate times, when each gender had the rink to itself for a song. The anticipated “couples” skate meant the management cued up the colored lights and the Bee Gees sang “How Deep Is Your Love?” The special skates were announced by a loud horn and a light board with directions that included “All Skate,” “Grand March” (lines of couples) and “Reverse,” when everyone glided around in the opposite direction (clockwise, I believe).

San Francisco Ice Arena party roomAn ice-rink business also means lots of kids’ birthday parties, and San Francisco Ice Arena had a special party room with murals of cartoon woodland creatures. The Thurstons offered a Junior Hockey League, skating shows where the students were able to show their stuff while the old pros demonstrated their Ice Follies chops (Skippy Baxter would do back-flips on ice!) – and in the era of lots of stay-at-home moms, the arena hosted a Ladies Coffee Club every Thursday morning.

For many years there was a Christmas tree standing in one corner of the rink, which made for an inviting target for boys bumping their friends on the turn. Teenagers came for the night skate sessions, and in the 1970s and 1980s rock music and video games both became part of the Ice Arena experience. My memories include playing Pong and Space Invaders. Karen Katenbrink Poret remembers a machine that dispensed frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Everyone who went remembers the fat black rubber floors off the rink, the wooden bathroom stalls and doing the “hokey-pokey” on ice — a dance that maybe was more anticipated than the “couples” skate.

Ocean Beach ice skating rink mural and cafe

The San Francisco Ice Arena's back-wall mural and cafe. Photo courtesy John Freeman.

The last time I visited the Ice Arena was with a new girlfriend in the mid 1980s. It seemed like a quaint, almost ironic activity for a date. We were in our early 20s and felt ourselves too old, or too young, for ice-skating. The back wall mural was faded — the painted girl with her hands in a muff (perhaps the artist had a hard time with hands) was flaking off the wall — and the rust on the roof girders was thick enough to be worrisome. But we actually had a terrific time.

I don’t know exactly when the San Francisco Ice Arena closed for business. I think it was late 1990 or early 1991. The Thurstons made an attempt to find new buyers or sell the facility to the city, but in the end the building was demolished and a series of plain condominiums went up in 1992.


Trivia Answer: Last column I asked what name the Outer Sunset was known by after its days as “Carville.” Into the 1920s, newspapers, city officials, and some residents called the neighborhood “Oceanside,” a name created by a local booster group.

New Trivia Question: What Ocean Beach bar near Playland had humorously risqué murals inside?


Woody LaBounty is the founder of the Western Neighborhoods Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the history of western San Francisco, and the author of “Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco’s Streetcar Suburb.”

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  1. are there any videos of the Leggettes skating in 1968?

  2. In the early days, the 50’s, John Hendrickson was my skating teacher. I remember when he was electrocuted at the 48th Avenue rink. I also was taught by the Thomas Twins as well as Marlene Thurston. At Leggs on VanNess, I took lessons from “John” and was part of the Leggettes Group in 1968. I loved ice skating and still love watching ice skating in the Olympics. I remember Phyllis and Harris. I have lived in CT since 1971. Thank you San Francisco for my love of ice skating.

  3. Very fond memories of 48th, cookies and all. Sadly it too had to disappear like Sutros and Leggs. Great seeing the photos. I understand the cozy atmosphere comment but have to disagree about the people. All 3 locations had wonderful characters that are now cherished memories for those of us fortunate enough to have experienced such a special time in our earlier years. I did take advantage of my 10 years of training, went pro with Ice Follies, Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice then went on to training skaters for another 10 years in Tx. Lucky me.
    If you were part of the Leggs group a get together is being headed by Bonnie Legg in San Francisco. Catch her on facebook.
    Thanks to all who helped make my early years special.

  4. I was searching for Ocean Avenue businesses (my uncle was bartender in “Grey’s Bar” [spelling?] back in the ’50s and what did I find, but this article about the ice rinks. I, too, grew up in San Francisco, Ingleside, but went to Abraham Lincoln High School (as well as Aptos Jr. High and Farragut Elementary). I skated at the Legg’s ice rink on Ocean Avenue; took lessons in fact and loved it! My dad and stepmom, Katherine and Jim McNeilly, skated at the 48th Avenue Ice Rink. As many others have said, what memories!! I now live in Colorado but go back to San Francisco at least once a year, my “hometown.” Carol

  5. Hey everybody!
    Big John in particular…it’s me…”YURI”
    Clue: Ellington and Marsalis and lotsa’ jazz recordings coming out of my A..I mean ears.
    Part of the last crew to work the last session, proud of it, but sad all the same.
    This is the company phone, so I don’t use my personal info on it,
    But you can e/mail me at and I will be sure to get it.
    Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to contribute in a small way to Ocean Beach lore, not just you but your whole family.
    On Topic;
    It seems to me that the closing started a daisy chain of events, and other tragedies in the Sunset that have continued on to the present.
    I’m still hanging on to my rent controlled apartment, but barely.
    If you are planning another “reunion” please let me know.
    I’m sorry I missed the one you’re talking about.
    I usually run into (not literally) Art the cop in and around the neighbourhood,
    But not lately. I miss everybody from there, and I hope everyone is well.

  6. Just reading all the blogs…i didn’t answer after leaving a message in 2011. I am Craig & Ron Nelson’s mom. Craig probably will remember a lot of you. He will be 50 soon, married with a 16 year old daughter. Ron, sadly, died in 2008 of a heart attack. Craig lives near Konocti in Lake County and is a sales manager for a car dealership in Ukiah. We have so many good memories of the rink. How carefree it all was then…no fear factor!

  7. It’s great to see all these comments about skating in San Francisco. Having grown up in skating and hockey and as a retired History Teacher, my life interest has been to secure as much information as possible about rinks, figure skating, speed skating and hockey in California. I and have found much about my native Los Angeles but lack resources for San Francisco. I believe there was a rink at the San Francisco Exposition and know there were hockey teams during the 1920s and 30s but have no resources. The Oakland Tribune is helpful for the East Bay but not San Francisco. The local newspapers are difficult to access. Can anyone point in the right direction?

  8. THANK YOU. I grew up on 46th Ave. between Riviera and Quentara . Went to Mark Twain, AP Giannini
    My Aunt Patty, a professional skater In one of the ice shows, met me there on Saturday for skate lessons. When I was teenager Saturday nights to hang out with my friends. I moved away from the Sunset when I was 14, 1970 ish when I returned I was so sad to see it was gone.
    I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate seeing these pictures thank you so much :)

  9. THANK YOU. I grew up on 46th Ave. between Riviera and Quentara .
    My Aunt Patty, a professional skater In one of the ice shows, met me there on Saturday for skate lessons. When I was teenager Saturday nights to hang out with my friends. I moved away from the Sunset when I was 14 when I returned I was so sad to see it was gone.
    I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate seeing these pictures thank you so much :)

    • My dad would always take me here, and he went all the time when he was a kid and teenager- he recently passed away and ive been thinking of this ice rink. It means so much to me to see the pics and read this, thank you sooo much for giving my broken heart a lil smile!

  10. I remember the icy smell when entering the rink. It had an ammonia oder. I lived around the corner @ 4418 Kirkam. I will be 69 this year. It was fun putting on the guards on my skates and walking around the corner to the rink. The time frame was around 1950 (approx. 6years old). I enjoyed the pictures… they seem to take you back there! I was very lucky to enjoy all The Sunset had to offer. Sutro Baths and museum, Playland with the funhouse and Laughing Sal. Fleishacker Pool. Saw Bambi at The Sunset theater. Thank you all for the memories.

    • I went to Holy Name in the ’50’s. I grew up on 46th ave. between Lawton and Kirkham.
      I skated at the rink, too, and it did smell like ammonia. I was a lousy skater.
      I remember hearing about a man being electrocuted but this is the first time I’ve put a name to him.
      One day I was walking by the front of the building on 48th and I saw the doors wide open and several hoses running in and out the building. I stepped in to see what was going on and got whiff of ammonia so strong that it pushed back out onto the street.

  11. After Hugh Hendrickson died, his wife Polly called Meryl Baxter to manage the arena. Meryl had a famous comedy act “THE THREE ROOKIES ” with partner Neil Rose. Meryl managed the arena for approximately two – three years. Meryl passed away April 21st 2012 at age 90. I am thrilled to read this article. The Thomas twins are well and Polly Hendrickson Miller lives in Southern Ca.
    Thank you for reporting on this famous piece of San Francisco history. I am Merys, wife

  12. Great article!! My father, Meryl Baxter managed the 48th Ave rink back in the early 60’s. I remember Flo and the oatmeal cookie jar (with a big red 5 Cents on the front) that sat at the end of the snack bar counter. I learned to play hockey there although the rink was so small you could hardly call it hockey. The smell, the warming room with Flo always there, the shows, the mural, the feeling of family with everyone that walked through the doors. Great memories!! From there, Skip and Meryl opened the Summerfield rink in Santa Rosa.

    Meryl passed away about six months ago. Skip is still kicking at 92. He retired from skating a couple of years ago and is living in Santa Rosa.

    Thanks for the article!! You made my day!

    Geary Baxter

    • I met Skippy Baxter a number of times and recall when he did his back-flip in his 50s at Pickwick in Burbank. My dad player many years against him and Charlie Schults in the old timers tournament. Now retired, I’d sure like to get more information about skating in northern California.

    • I took skating lessons from your Dad. I loved Flo – she was really sweet to me.

  13. I used to live next door in a dilapidated, old house with my three show dogs and was also teacing at sutros. I did take a few students from Berkeley Iceland for some evaluations. Then moved to 48th ave to open a grooming shop with my good friend Norah Randolph (I taught her daughter Micaelia at Sutros), still coaching at Sutros until just before it close an burnt. Sorry to hear the ol 48th. closed as did my lovely Iceland where I grew up skating. Now I’m a National senior judge in figures haha and pairs and dance and have jack russells , the newest of one is a stud dog and I show him.


    Richard Swenning from Brisbane, Australia

  14. My last skate before closing was as an awkward young adult. During the entire session, a couple of low to the ground kids tormented me by cutting me off, zipping in and out. They loved seeing an clumsy grown-up. I got even. When their mom was dragging them out, I waited tactically and when they were in front of the snack machine by the exit, sure enough they started in. She was a good mom, god love her. She held her ground and said no. That’s when I stepped in front of them and made a show of buying two candy bars. My valediction to the lads was showing them both treats and saying, “This one is for now, and this one is for bed-time; which, by the way, is any time I want.”

  15. I remember going here with my own ice skates in 1952-1955, I loved it even though I wasn’t very good, but still managed to circle the rink. There was an older, grey haired man Mr Adair who tried to school me…I loved the smell of the rink…also went to Sutro’s Ice Rink where Jill Shipstad would practice…Am 70 yrs now and this is one of my fondest memories…

  16. I can’t believe I stumbled across this article via via via FB etc. I skated recreationally with my best friend at the time Maggie, and few other friends too on the weekends! In 1974- 1976 often and some through 1978 . In a weird 70s childhood in SF haight, the years of fun skating at 48th were an oasis of wonderful childhood fun just for the sake of fun! Normal! Loved the Chop sticks gentlemen, he was so nice! shooting the duck, still am a champ at skating backwards, shocked my kids i did ;-). And The cute sunset boys indeed! The feel of the ice right after the zamboni. I Took the N Judah from Carl and Willard, had to scrounge the house and mom for bus fare, skate money and snack bar money . Always wanted to take lessons… Mom couldn’t afford. A Great tried and true SF experience and memories!!! Loved learning the history, I always wondered! I wanted my husband to drive me there last Month when we visited for 3 days… No time and I see its gone now… But not forgotten ever. Thanks and all the Best from Columbus Ohio!

  17. Oh my, what memories! I could also swear that I felt a breeze of that cold smell when reading the article! I remember an older man that wore a dark suit, he was grey haired, kind of weathered look, he didn’t shave that well, and he was great at ice skating! I remember he tried to teach us kids to do his tricks. One trick he did that impressed us all was when he sort of took two skate steps forward and then kind of took two skate steps backwards. It looked almost like one of Michael Jacksons moves on stage. Like slipping forwards and slipping backwards and then he made it in a circle around himself. I can’t even explain. Anybody remember him? He would have been there maybe every Saturday if I remember right. My strongest memory though, was when I had my 8th birthday party there in August 1972, and we were a few girls trying to show off by tip-toeing on our figure skates… I tried and to my surprise, both legs were suddenly 3 feet up in the air and I landed on my tailbone, it blew the wind out of me and I was gasping for air on the ice, staring at the metal ceiling. One of the employees came immediately and started screaming in my face to get up and to not keep lying there! I couldn’t breathe and he soon understood my situation and carried me off the ice and onto the cabin sofa bench. My dad had to come and get me. He carried me out to the car, and after that ordeal I couldn’t walk for 3 days. I have no remembrance of how my birthday party guests got home either! But I was there many times after that and I really loved ice skating, practicing our “sitting ducks”, and the hot chocolate!!! Thank you all for bringing back such loving memories!

    • that step the gentleman was doing was called “chop sticks”……I remember him well…AND learned the move…

      • How cool! I never learned those steps. It looked really advanced, so I guess I realized that I had to practice until I was as old as him….haha. … 😉

      • OMG…I just stumbled across this and Lord and behold…MEMORIES ! I love it. From Maverick to Cyndie to Lee Byrd Joey Waterie Charlie and Joe Thurston. Jesus i could go on forever. One of my first jobs. I started handing out skates, then worked the door on the weekends and snack bar …sorry to see it go. Yerba Buena is not the same. I miss you much XOXOXO Gabe Wilkerson

  18. Oh my goodness I get a memory smell of the rink. I can’t remember how many years I spent at the rink, but it was a big part of my life. Early 70’s which would have made me in my early teens, I remember all the cute boys in their hockey skates. My parents driving me all the way over from Diamond Heights, then dropping us off a block away. Couldn’t be seen with the folks. Many years have passed since then, but I have started to skate again. A new large rink has opened in Palm Springs, Got an old pair of speed skates on e-bay, hope I can still stand in them.
    Now is the Woody who wrote the article the same one with a blonde bowl hair cut from the early 70’s? friends with John, Rudy & Lance?

  19. After looking at those pictures of the SF Ice Arena, it brought back memories that reminded me of the wondrful days gone by…..that made me wish I could bring back “the sands of time”. I have many fond memories of that wonderful rink. I will never forget when I first started my first ice skating lessons from the twin sisters Mary and Jane in the “beginner’s group lessons”. When my skating skills progressed, I was “promoted” to the intermediate level. Shortly after that, I was in the advanced level. When I became good at it, I started taking private lessons from Charlotte Bird. Months had gone by, Charlotte decided to leave the rink and moved to Southern California. I continued my ice skating and took privated lessons from Terry Dean. I also remember taking lessons from Faye. After several years of skating, I had completely stopped ice skating and later regreted it. After retiring from the US Postal Service, I decided to get back to skating at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Rink in San Francisco and to my surprise, I now see Jack (speed skater) whom I have seen many times at the SF Ice Arena on 48th Ave. but we didn’t know each other then. At the my “ripeful age of 63” I still continue my weekly ice skating…..the fun way to fitness.

  20. Wow !!! I know SF is a small city but where has everyone been hiding. I am really looking forward to the reunion to see and catch up with everyone.

  21. Just ran across this article and it made me cry. At age 3 I stepped on that ice for the first time. That was the day I realized skating was my life. That rink became a second home to me. I was there every weekend and everyday after school. I use to take from Marlene and Faye. I remember the twins very well too!! This place will always have found memories for me. I remember Charlie, John, Terri, Lee and some of the other names sound very familiar. I remember the older girls that I looked up to when started training…Jeannie, Shelia and Annette. I was such a rink rat!! I thank this place for giving me my love for skating. I left when I was about 12 to train on a bigger ice surface. When I was about 18 I returned to the rink that felt like home. At that time meant one of my dear friends Zara!! I would go everytime I was home from college. I have been a coach in San Diego for the last 20 years! Not sure if anyone remembers me that has commented on this article…I was known at little Ann Marie…aka (pokie).
    Thanks so much for remembering this place!!

    • I don’t know where to begin, I’ve gone to a shrink for years trying to forget you people…….. Just kidding, I to have pinched myself everyday since the doors closed in 1990 – Thanking my lucky stars I was a part of the S.F. Ice Rink. I was in a restaurant in San Anselmo just the other night when I was accosted by a gentleman in his early sixties “I used to play hockey at your place on 48th” He gushed, “You’d close the rink at night, and we’d play till the sun came up – we’d loose the puck in the holes in the wooden walls, under the Zamboni door – Man I had fun there”
      My lady thought he was crazy….. I now have a new friend :)
      I will be planning a “S.F. Ice Rink Skate Night” At the Mosconi Rink this late fall, I’ll be working with Joe Tang and Page who taught at 48th and now manages Mosconi This will be a closed session for those people who’d like to grab a friend that they knew from back in the day and come skate with us, there will be the old “Photo Boards” of all the people who skated during the 70’s and 80’s and possibly earlier — Ray ? You have any photo’s from the great Sunday Morning Session you ran for years??? Check Facebook for more details late Oct.

      There will never be another place like the old Rink, I love all of you for being apart of my life, and YES ! Anne Marie — We all remember you — you were a feisty dynamo who could really skate :)

      John Thurston — find me on FaceBook or Linken — jt

      • Oh I would LOVE to come to the reunion!!!

      • I remember playing BROOMBALL all night long in our tennishoes ! Remember we made a snowman with the zamboni ice around the keg of beer in the middle of the rink ?! I think Robbie Marsh checked me in the boards and I split my chin open ! The beer helped !

        Thanks John, lets do it again soon !

      • Count this boy in…..:) Skates are sharp and ready for the ‘gentlemen only” sessision….Let s go and try to hit mach 3 again like the good old days…


      • HI, John Thurston:

        Someone had linked me to this article and I saw that you wrote on there. Were you an ice monitor that drove the Zamboni back in around 1980-81 on the weekend public session? If you were, I remembered you! I was a little kid who skated on the public sessions on weekends a lot and was too shy to say anything beyond a hello to you back then. I also remembered that you were popular with the ladies back then too, since there was always a pretty lady (around your age) attached to you when you weren’t spraying ice at the other hockey guys!!! Your dad saw that I skate there a lot on public session and with rental skates and encouraged me to take lesson and buy my own pair of skates instead of relying on the rental skates. (My parents could barely afford me skating on the public sessions, never mind get my own skates.)

        I hope life is treating you well. I missed skating on the 48th Ave. rink. I’ve stopped skating after 1982 to take swimming lessons to deal with pesky swimming proficiency requirement to graduate from finish high school. Tried to get back into skating after that, but by the time I had the opportunity, I saw the rink being demolished… I didn’t get back into skating ’til 1999 and trying to see if I still have the skating legs to get around the ice. Long story short, I am still skating 15 years later and finally fulfilling my curiosity of what would happened now if I followed thru on your father’s suggestion of 1) getting my own skates (instead of relying on rentals) and 2) taking skating lessons and seeing how far I get in skating (I am an Adult Bronze Ladies Freeskate skater and have competed at Adults National a few times. Am also a budding ice dancer…)


  22. Phil gave me a job as an ice guard. Had been hanging around for months( friday and saturday nights). That’s where I met some fantastic folks….Joni, Diana, Joe and Mike. They became family and “the Rink” my hangout. Worked there for about 2yrs. Ray and Dave were the old war horses. As Lee Byrd once said(and I agree)…the day it closed was one of the worst days of my life.

  23. This REALLY brought back memories I don’t think I remembered until now this is such a COOL thing, I spent EVERY Friday and Saturday night at this rink, I kissed a BOY, ( LOL) for the very first time here. My lil sister, Melanie took lessons for a few years so I spent my Saturday mornings there too. Thank You Sunset District for the best years of my life !!

  24. I loved that ice rink. I remember it called “All Skate” I think. I lived on 42nd between K and J from 1961-1980. Mom sent me there for lessons for several years on Saturday mornings, and I went many other times for fun. I remember the smell of the rink. I remember the cocoa and oatmeal cookies. Even today when I eat that combination I think of that rink. I occasionally got a pizza too. I loved the feeling of that place. If I was to keep a most precious place memory from the Sunset it would be that rink. My heart sank when I found that it was to be destroyed. Some songs bring me back there. The Beatles “Something,” often make me think of that rink. Thank you for posting this article. It’s nice to know it hasn’t been forgotten.

  25. Maverick, it’s Melanie , friend of Cyndie, and figure skating rink rat! Love your comments, it brought me back to those good old days. I pretty much lived there from age 10 – 18!!! glad to see your memories are as strong as mine. The article actually choked me up!

    • Mel!!!! i remember you well….skating “patch” was it called…figure eights..hahaha…too funny…how have you been? Where are you these days? Jump on face book and look me up…(maverick salangsang) it would be cool to hear about your life and where you have ended up… good to hear from you…I check this out every now and then to see what people write and if i know of any of them…hope to hear from you soon,
      take care…

    • Melanie Bronner…Was you dad the Dentist on Noriega between 47th and 48th ?????
      and …Did you have a sister name Maureen?????

  26. I was browsing the old 48th ave Ice Rink. Im 70 now and my Mom took I and my older sister maybe twice every two months at nite .We took the street car from the Poterero where we lived. My mom was single mom and she always tried to take us different places especially on Fri Nite. We would have a hot dog for dinner at about 5pm then skate for about hour and a half and the had to get on the street car and head for home. It took us about an hour or so to get home. Sometimes some of the sailors who would be on leave would help me skate.I was about 7 then. What memories. We didn’t have much but we did things together my mom and my sister. I have a library of stories in my mind. Also sometimes we did get to go on a Sat morning to theWhitneys at the beach-fun house and some rides.

  27. Fun to read. Ma Campbell was my Nana! I grew up at the Rink; my Dad would give me a wooden chair to push around while he was scrapping the ice. My Dad, Paul Anderson, was a friend to all the boys who came to the Rink. Dad ran the engine room, Nana worked the ticket booth and some times the snack bar. Nana and my Mom kept the Rink going during WW2 when they painted the windows black. They would then walk home up Lawton Street to 42nd Avenue where we lived- next to each other. Lucinda and Thomas Campbell purchased the Rink when they immigrated to SF from Belfast, Ireland. Nana continued to run her Rink for about 20 years after her husband, my grandfather, passed away. Yes, she was tough- didn’t one have to be with all us crazy kids? My nickname is Cookie- brother Tom, Mom Sadie. Great memories still!

  28. Oh My Goodness! I spent so many Sunday mornings working with Mr Rogers (sp?) training. So sad to know such a neat place is gone forever. Tried to find it one day when out driving around the neighborhood with a couple of childhood friends. We found the condos – yuk! It would be nice if some places could have been saved. It did have chopped up wooden floors from our skates. The chocolate was not the best in the world but it warmed me up after a session of jumps and “figures”. My mom would sit inside drinking coffee and waited for me visiting with other parents. Lots of brownie and girl scout outings and lots of birthdays were spent there. The Leggs rinks just didn’t have the homey feeling and the closeness of all the people that skated at 48th. Spent a lot of time skating at Sutros as well. Didn’t especially like the long walk down all those stairs at Sutros but there was always the museum to stop and look at before leaving to go back home to the regular world. Thanks for reviving so many great memories.

  29. Oh My Goodness! I spent so many Sunday mornings working with Mr Rogers (sp?) training. So sad to know such a neat place is gone forever. Tried to find it one day when out driving around the neighborhood with a couple of childhood friends. We found the condos – yuk! It would be nice if some places could have been saved. It did have chopped up wooden floors from our skates. The chocolate was not the best in the world but it warmed me up after a session of jumps and “figures”. My mom would sit inside drinking coffee and waited for me visiting with other parents. Lots of brownie and girl scout outings and lots of birthdays were spent there. The Leggs rinks just didn’t have the homey feeling and the closeness of all the people that skated at 48th. Spent a lot of time skating at Sutros as well. Didn’t especially like the long walk down all those stairs at Sutros but there was always the museum to stop and look at before leaving to go back home to the regular world. Thanks for reviving so many great memories.


  31. Seeing the photos of the rink brought back some very fond memories. It was like a family there. Spent many years there almost daily. The weekends had to be the best. I competed and the highlight of my experience ice skating was when I was asked to be in the National Geographic “Fun with Physics” book. Sad that it is no longer there, I would have loved for my son to have been able to go there but my memories will last forever.

  32. Raised in the Sunset at 1759-48th and 1379-34th from 1947 to 1966. Yes, thinking of the aroma of the ice brings back many great memories. On 48th in back of us was a small horse stable. Nor sure but I think some people boarded their horses there.
    Was lucky that my uncle Joe took his son Joe and I out to Sutro Plunge. There is a lot of forgotten history out in the Sunset.

  33. Ah man you have brought back some great memories…as a rink rat and a former Ice Guard…I have so much to be thankful for to being a part of the life blood of the rink…all of that skating lead to a great Ice hockey life…winning many championships from the midget to the Junior leagues getting hat tricks and nocking the wind out of our competitors… and into my adult leagues in Oakland to my last team in Las Vegas (senators) sponsored by Bud light….
    i laughed when you talked about the smells…I would sweep up all of the pop corn after the sessions…I would skate morning…afternoon..and evening sessions if I could….and oh..the lil hotties…Cindy Seville where are you…wink wink…
    Man..some ofthe kids and I would hit sonic speed some times during the “gentlemen only” periods…constant cross overs….hair on fire…speaking of hair…my hair was down to my shoulders like # 55 TL of the sf giants too funny…I still have my jacket…oh man how many times have i had to say…”please dont chip the ice ” or “please dont sit there” or ” slow down please”…ol…Charlie Thursten….gave me a job there when I was twelve…shhhhh….wasnt old enough for the work permit…he said hey kid..I see you here everyday…you want a job…and I was all smiles…I would have worked for free! Thank you for reserecting my glory days as a youth…
    maverick salangsang 415-850-1974

    • I remember you Maverick….Cindy Seville is on Facebook, as is Leonie Spencer. My sister Libby and I used to skate on Saturday mornings. When I looked at the photo of the rink I swear I suddenly caught a whiff of that cold icy smell. Those were the days!

      • wasn’t it a cold icy.. rubbery smell?.. enter door on right .. exit door on left

        I skated (kinda) there as a kid, my kids had parties there.. still live in the area.. it’s having a rebirth of sorts with the surfers. Great to live here and worth putting up with all the down times the area has endured.

      • ahhh…to go back in time…I was always scared of the ghost!…. i used to sharpen all of the rental skates when I was a guard there….and the thurston boys always told me of this old dude that died changing a light bulb and having his feet in water…

        The sunset….was my favorite place in the world in those days…The area is still the same / yet different. I went back and drove by all of the old stomping grounds…and reflected on all of the inocent faces from the past and the things we used to do…shhhhhh… :)

  34. Wonderful memories from the late ’50’s to early ’60’s for our clique of friends who lived in the western Sunset & Parkside districts. Provided a venue for impromptu dating and honing our skills in this activity. The people who ran the place made it feel very comfortable without giving up control, during these somewhat, awkward years. Thanks for all of that.

  35. I spent a good part of my childhood there back in the mid/late 60s and early 70s. I skated patch and competed
    in skating competitions for 8 yrs. I still hold many fond memories of those yrs!

  36. Ray Lamb.. Now there’s a name from the past!

  37. I’ve lived in the middle of the 1400 block of 47th Ave. for over 30 years, and I remember the ice rink well. When I first moved here, I would regularly find an ice skate on the sidewalk or in the street, dropped by some skater on his or her way to the rink. I would just hang it in the tree in front of my house, and it was always picked up within 10 or 15 minutes. The family that managed the rink in its last days lived on this block, too, and the house that they lived in is still occupied by family members, if anyone’s interested.

  38. Didn’t they turn it into a roller skating rink in its last few years? I remember going there when I first moved to the City, it was around 1990, and it was for roller skating. I guess it couldn’t make it as that either, so the demo’ed it shortly thereafter. The place was a real funky dump.

  39. I used to go there, but never got used to the cold. I’d spend forever putting on the skates, and skate around 2 times and take off my skates and warm my feet before going out again. It became a pain to go.
    I spent most of my Roller Skating at Skateland.

  40. My parents met at that rink in 1938. A year later, thet got married. When they had their 50th wedding anniversary they wished they could have it at the place where they met. It wasn’t practical. The ice rink closed the next year. I seem to remember it being called the San Francisco Ice Arena, but no one else has mentioned that name. I skated there in the late 40’s and in the 50’s. Back then they had pin ball machines. I don’t think minors were supposed to play the pinball machines (I think really high scores paid money) but we did anyway. I couldn’t skate very well but that never stopped me from going.

  41. I grew up on 45th & Ulloa and had many fun times at the ice rink. I can remember that mural and the log cabin snack bar area. I wasn’t a good skater at all so a few laps and I’d careen off onto the rubber to clomp to the snack area.

    My best friend and I were more concerned about wearing “skating” outfits than learning to skate — skirts that twirled, knit stocking hats, and neck scarves. I think she may have even had a muff at one point! For San Francisco kids that never saw snow, the ice rink was pretty exotic.

  42. Great article. Really cool to read interesting, personal historic accounts of local spots like this in SF.

    I know exactly where that is…the condos that are there now are probably some of the better structures on that block however.

    • This article is wonderful. Very descriptive. I used to go to 48th, Sutro’s and Legg’s Studio. It’s a real shame that these ice rinks are gone. With 48th gone and Playland and Sutro’s a lot of the young innocent flavor of San Francisco is lost forever.

      Nice memories here, thanks for writing about 48th Avenue Ice Rink.

  43. Wow … I remember the ice rink from my grammar school and junior high days. Good memories! Thanks!

  44. How come no one has mentioned the Hokey Pokey? Put your right foot in……

    • You put your right foot in and you shack it all about you do the HOOKY POOKY and you turn yourself around and thats what it’s all about…

  45. Ah yes. I remember that skating rink like it was yesterday. We walked down there from 43rd. Had lots of birthday parties and other events there. It was wonderful to have a fun place so close to everyone. The new trivia question answer is the Beach Chalet! I spent many days and nights there too. I liked to play the pinball machines and loved the HUGE bathrooms. I remember the mural had a woman with 5 fingers on it. I haven’t been in it since it has been a restaurant. Wonder if the mural is still there. Anyone know?

  46. I too spend most of my childhood / teen / young adult / Adult life there.. the Memories,, the Life lessions, first loves, it was a great time, a great place to work. I made many life long friends, thank you…

    And thanks for the articial

    • Ray Lamb….I remember you…do you remember me? You and Phil were clearing the ice and decided to offer me a job. I was really young…

  47. This place was just three blocks down from our house. When our younger son, Craig, had his 5th birthday, I took them all down to the ice rink. He put on those skates and never looked back!! Craig was at the rink four times a week and Friday and Saturday nights right up until he was a teen. He had his own hockey skates and was known by the staff as “Peanut.” He often got to ride on the Zamboni. We had many birthday parties there in the party room. I was one of the mothers who belonged to the Thursday Club. Such carefree days. We all nearly cried when it closed down. Now, so many years later, whenever we walk past that block and see those ugly apartments, we are sad all over again.

  48. I spend most of my “tween” years at the ice rink. We were there from about 70 – 72 every Friday and Saturday night. Piling into one parents care for drop off and anothers for pick up. No seatbelts required in those days. I had my 7th birthday party there and left a piece of my chin on the ice when I was skating fast and someone dropped a glove in front of me and I hit it. Straight to the ice chin first. I have a nice scar to remember. I remember renting hockey skates instead of using my figure skates so I could spray more ice while stopping at the outside seating area. Lots of hot chocolate and $100,000 bars in the snack area.

    Beach Chalet would be the bar with the risque murals.

  49. Just on a guess it would have to be the notorious Oar House.I once asked my parents what that meant and they ducked the question. A friends’ dad used to hang out there and it definitely had a shady rep.

    • Spent many a Friday or Saturday night there! Favorites were “couples skate”, Flo at the snack bar, and guys always got hockey skates to go fast and spray more ice with sideways stops. Grew up on 45th & Taraval. I think the Oar House was on Taraval, down a few blocks. It’s slogan was “Change Your Luck at the Oar House”. We had our own version of that!

  50. i stumbled upon the rink one day, while living at moraga & 41st, back in the 80s. it was such a cool, secret, little gem just blocks from the ocean. we felt as if we struck gold. super cool. sad to hear it’s now the site of some boring condos. blah. :: hokey-pokey ftw! ::

  51. I spent many a night here with friends, my cub scout and boy scout troop and I could never keep both feet up and straight on the ice. It was still fun and I remembered that cold metallic smell of skates on ice and the hot chocolate when I’d walk into the place. I remember I had a birthday party there one year and that was probably one of the worst ideas my mother ever had since none of us know how to ice skate. The biggest trick any of us could do was skating and rolling onto our backs and sliding across the ice which would usually get one of the people watching the rink to blow a whistle at us for “rough housing”

    • What memories this article brought back. Living on 27th between Noriega and Moraga I spent many hours during the 40’s at the ice rink on 48th. We always went as a group and had so much fun…never mind that we weren’t very good skaters. In the late 50’s I took my kids to the rink on Ocean Avenue where they took lessons. I remember them holding on to what looked like a walker and trying to balance on the ice. Thanks for sharing your remembrances.

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