Ask Me: Fresno was home to several ice rinks over the years

The Fresno BeeMarch 22, 2014 

Question: In the early 1970s when I went to Sanger High School, I went ice skating in Pinedale. What's the history of that ice skating rink?

-- June Kamigawachi, Fresno

Answer: In 1956 the former theater building on Camp Pinedale at Harrison and Locust avenues was leased by Beverly Jones and Clifford Paige as an ice skating rink, according to "Fresno County in the 20th Century."

Two other ice skating rinks preceded it. In the 1930s, an icehouse near Easton served as a makeshift ice rink in the winter months, the book said. In 1940, an ice rink was built at Olive Avenue and Fresno Street, but it closed in 1943 and became a defense plant run by Lockheed Aircraft Corp. during World War II. After the war, the ice rink resumed at the building until 1956 when it was torn down as a fire hazard.

Ice-making equipment from the Olive Avenue rink was moved to the rink in Pinedale, which opened briefly before it closed for repairs. Just before it was set to reopen, the building was destroyed by fire when a large tank of ammonia overheated and exploded, according to a Fresno Bee story.

A new concrete block ice rink was built at 7060 N. Harrison Ave. and opened in 1957. At the time the Iceland rink was the Valley's only ice skating facility. The rink was sold to ice skating champions and teachers Bill and Julie Barrett in 1962, and they ran the rink until 1975.

The original building is still standing but is no longer used as an ice rink.

The Icelandia ice skating rink opened on North Marks Avenue in 1976 and closed about 2000. The Gateway ice rink was built nearby on Marks in 1995 and is still in operation.

Q: When I was growing up in Fresno in the 1950s and 1960s, the Rudy's Variety chain had stores all over Fresno. What is the history of the chain and when did the stores go away?

-- Mark Bayhi, Clovis

A: Norman Rudy opened a pharmacy, soda fountain and "odds and ends" store at 2106 Elm Ave. in 1923. By 1938 he owned four novelty stores and that year opened a Rudy's Variety store at 1225 Blackstone Ave. north of Olive Avenue.

In 1940, Rudy built a new store in Fresno's "north end," a Bee story said, on Olive Avenue in the Tower District. The store carried "candy, stationery, art needlework, household goods, hardware, fishing supplies, novelties, cosmetics, lingerie and men's and boys' furnishings."

At the time, Rudy also had a store in Fowler and planned stores in Firebaugh, Parlier and Del Rey.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Rudy had stores in Fresno on C Street, at Iowa and First streets, Ashlan Avenue and First, and on Shields Avenue. Rudy's son, Richard, became general manager of the family business in the mid-1950s.

In 1965 the seventh Rudy's Variety opened in Fig Garden Village and in 1968 another store went into the new shopping center at Barstow Avenue and First.

In 1976 the family sold the chain's six stores, which became Li'l General Stores. Norman Rudy died in 1990.

Q: I came across an old book with the name DeWitt Bodeen embossed on an inside page. I think he was a writer with Fresno roots, but I'd like to know more about him.

-- Phil Tavlian, Fresno

A: Screenwriter and actor DeWitt Bodeen was born in Fresno on July 25, 1908. Some sources list his name as Homer DeWitt Bodeen.

Bodeen graduated from Fresno High School and attended then-Fresno State College for about three years, where he acted in several school plays.

In 1928, Bodeen won the best one-act play award from the Drama Teachers' Association of California for "The Captive."

Bodeen graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1933 and went to work for the Pasadena Playhouse. He wrote 21 plays in Pasadena and New York.

He settled in Hollywood in the 1930s and is noted for writing the screenplays for the movies "Cat People," "Night Song" and "I Remember Mama."

In the 1950s, Bodeen began writing for television shows, including "Four Star Theater" and "Celebrity Playhouse."

A Sept. 27, 1978, Associated Press story on the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills included an interview with Bodeen, a resident there.

The story said Bodeen, then 70, "looks more like 50" and still wrote books and articles about old-time actors including Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore.

The walls of Bodeen's room were "lined with movie books and photographs of people he's worked with and friends from the old days," the story said, especially Greta Garbo. "I've always been fascinated with her," Bodeen said.

"Movies are his life and he still sees several a week," the story said, and he was hooked on the television soaps "The Young and the Restless" and "Search for Tomorrow."

Bodeen died in March 1988 at age 79.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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