Remember the Roller Derby?
In 1935 ,the father of Roller Derby, Leo Saltzer held his first race in Chicago at the Coliseum. Skaters used a banked track to imitate a cross country race. The spectacle brought in nearly 20,000 people. Saltzer’s roller skating marathons spread quickly from Chicago. Road crews were hired and tracks were dismantled and moved. Roller Derbies set shop in auditoriums and traveled like circuses.Sometimes they’d stick around for weeks. The marathons evolved into a race between two teams with five members. Every team appointed a ‘jammer’ who aimed to lap the opposing team members. Women competed on the same terms as men. In 1939 the first broadcast of Roller Derby was heard on the radio in Los Angeles. By the early 1940′s teams were beginning to represent and compete in at least 50 American cities where derbies were held on a regular basis. World War II interrupted things at the end of 1941. Many skaters enlisted in the armed forces and crowds dwindled. Old Leo Saltzer’s fledgling league was reduced to one team skating mainly for the entertainment of soldier. Leo picked up where he left off after the war. In November of 1948, the first televised matches were between teams representing New York and Brooklyn. Roller Derby went on to enjoy a a 13-week run on the newly formed CBS Television network. In 1949 Leo Seltzer opened franchise teams and formed the National Roller Derby League. The following year CBS contract expired and broadcasting was taken over by ABC. Games were televised live throughout the United States. In 1951 the National Roller Derby League was grossed 2.5 million dollars. Leo’s son, Jerry Seltzer took over the operation of Roller Derby in the late 50s and kept it going until 1973 when high overhead and a host of other factors forced him to give up on the league.