Taking It Back On A Rewind to The Old School Roller Disco
The Rebirth of a Session & The Rise of A DJ
“I would find myself introduced to the sport nearly thirty-five years after the grand opening of Chester Skateland by a few neighborhood friends who skated weekly. The stories they told of the rink sparked my interest, and upon rolling my first lap around that old wooden floor kindled a burning passion within my heart that led my determination to learn the precise skills and disciplines to master the art of skating. That would be the spark that lit the flame. I was coached by Kevin Haston, Chester’s floor-guard, whose duty was to enforce the rules and regulations of the rink and to ensure the safety of the skaters in the rink. Kevin was a lifelong quad skater who’d of been classified as a jam skater as he thoroughly enjoyed jamming to the old school disco as that was the era of music he was raised in. Haston taught me how to precisely follow his footwork and pick up on the rhythm and beat of the music, and after many hours of practice, I achieved just that. Today, I still reflect on the skills he taught me when learning new tricks and training beginners. After Kevin relinquished his duties to pursue a better career I became a volunteer to the business, rink guard in training and eventually an employee that rose in ranks to my current position as Communications Manager and DJ.
Afore my employment I was asked one Sunday afternoon by Coach Debbie Wright (who previously worked and coached at Golden Skateworld in Richmond until it closed in 1999) and Joyce Moore (who besides Janis Farrow is the only remaining staff member of the original team) to DJ the skate session. I had no experience, but offered my assistance and learned how to rock the mic like DJ Lorraine Conner who worked the Friday and Saturday night sessions I attended. It was never my intention to become a roller skating DJ, but it would end up being something I was called to do from there on out. After becoming DJ James Acors of Chester Skateland I reconnected with DJ Roy Moxley who hosted Old School Skate Reunions across the state. Two of which Kevin and I both attended that were hosted at Skateland of Williamsburg Road (Rollerdome). Later Moxley and I would host our very own Old School Skate Reunion together at my rink which turned out a great success leading him to urge me to assume the role as DJ of Chester’s Sunday Night Old School Session. At the time, DJ Logan Carter operated the session, and I had other conflicts of interest leading me to decline the notion but remain open to the position if asked again in the future, and ironically I was in late 2017.
I highly believe in taking skating back to the old school disco where it all began. Every Sunday evening from seven to nine-thirty I resurrect the memory of the fun and laughter shared under the disco ball, and after announcing his departure, Carter, who had been a long time DJ and floor-guard at Chester Skateland offered me his position per the rinks leaseholder, Tanimowo Ali, and in honor of Moxley and Haston’s legacy I accepted the offer. Since then I have worked tirelessly on the advertisement of the session to reel in all of the old school jive, jam, soul and shuffle skaters and give new school skaters an idea of what the rink used to look and sound like. I also edit my Sunday night playlist of old school seventies, eighties and nineties disco, electro, funk, hip-hop and rock music weekly to bring the clientele the best rhythmic beats to keep the speakers bumping and the skaters skating. Not too long after embarking on my “Fantastic Voyage” I formed a team of old-school jam skaters known as DJ James & The Gang (formerly as the Chester Skateland Gang). Among the core of the team is Clara Winstead (skate partner of Haston and myself), Danny Begley and Kenny Draper. I also had the honor of having Roy Moxley on the team before he moved to Thailand and my skate coach, Kevin Haston. Other members include longtime skaters from RVA’s final four rinks: Chester Skateland, Rollerdome, Skate-A-Way and Ashland Skateland (which would have been Skateland number seven if the corporation hadn’t collapsed).
Unfortunately, in today’s world, the reputation of a DJ has been tattered by those who’ve gone before us down the path of alcohol and drugs that have led to unspeakable acts of violence. However, a real DJ’s message will always be inspiring, accepting of all, filled with love, kindled with optimism and hope, and unifying. Also, from my personal experience being a DJ is not just sitting on a stool creating a playlist. I have fabricated and hosted multiple events throughout the years including five for both Halloween and New Years and four for both Christmas and Valentine’s. I have also hosted three Old School Skate Reunions. The first was co-hosted by DJ Roy Moxley, the second doubled up as an adult’s only skate session and the third was the 40th anniversary of Chester Skateland. All of which have been very successful in bringing business to the establishment. As Communications Manager I generate all event and session posters and advertise them through social media and word of tongue and administrate said social media accounts including the website. With a burning passion for the sport and the community’s enjoyment, I have been known to put a lot of my paycheck back into the rink buying decorations for events and fashioning them on my downtime to relate to the theme. As I mentioned earlier I lead a team of jam skaters that ambassadors to other rinks in the area, but also lead a talented special event team that helps me ensure the success of those events. During the session it is the DJ’s duty to assist the manager when needed and to fill in for them when they are at conventions and championships. Most of the time I even have to remind myself that I play the music! To some all a DJ will ever be is someone who sits behind the scenes while everyone else does the work, but from experience, I know that a real DJ does just as much to ensure the success of the rink as the other employees.”