January 6, 2015

32 Interesting Vintage Photos of Roller Derby Skaters

The term "roller derby" dates back to the 1920s and originally described roller skate races with both men and women competing. In the mid 1930s, Chicago sports promoter Leo Seltzer created a touring competition, the Transcontinental Roller Derby, which began to evolve from simply racing to a more physical competition emphasizing skater collisions and falls. Seltzer's creation became the foundation of the sport we know today.

Roller derby skaters, from left, Louise Thomas, Elizabeth "Libby" Hoover, Pudge Dyer, Jayne Cummings and Mildred Arndt, are started by Harry Newman on Jan. 4, 1936.

A referee goes in to break up a skirmish during a Coliseum match in 1941 between Virginia Balzer, left, of the Chicago team, and Virginia Ogden, of the California team. According to the Tribune, "the referee revealed the loss of some hair and a few loose teeth."

Roller Derby participant Harriette "Babe" Topel at the Coliseum in 1953.

Though the women of roller derby were more popular with fans, men were very much a part of the sport. Here, Bill Bogash, left, and Bob Satterfield, step over a fallen skater during a Coliseum match in October 1940. Bogash was the leader of the Chicago team and Satterfield, a New Yorker, would go on to coach the Chicago roller derby team and marry one of its' players, Betty Boyd. Betty and Bob had a daughter, Donna, who traveled with the team.

Mary Lou Palermo, from top, Gerry Murray, and Katy King, shown here on May 27, 1948, represented Chicago at the roller derby tournament which opened on June 10, 1948, at the Coliseum in Chicago.

Roller derby veterans Mary Casey and Terry Anderson practiced a move while trainees Betty Backus, of Baltimore, from left, and Barbara Begley and Irene Van Kirk, both of Chicago, watched along the rail during a tryout at the Coliseum in April 1950.

Mary Youpelle of the Chicago Westerners hits the floor after being blocked by Midge "Toughie" Brasuhn of the Brooklyn Red Devils in a roller derby at the Coliseum on Oct. 29, 1952.

A 20-year veteran of Chicago roller derby teams, Mary Lou Palermo trips teammate Bob Venter in a skills demonstration at a training school in Chicago in 1964.

Katy King, left, and Gerry Murray, both of the Chicago team, apply make-up before skating into the roller derby ring on Oct. 22, 1946. Murray is in the Roller Derby Hall of Fame.

Harriette "Babe" Topel, left, tries to stay on her feet as she gets blocked by Mary Lou Palermo in Nov. 1953 at the Coliseum.

Joan Weston, left, and Cathy Reed collided in a practice on Oct. 17, 1963, to prepare for an upcoming series at the Coliseum.

Louis Stasiuk, of the New York roller derby team, and Paul Gorski of the Chicago roller derby team, tangle and spill, during the sixth annual roller derby that opened at the Coliseum on Oct. 22, 1940.

Louis Stasiuk, of the New York roller derby team, and Paul Gorski of the Chicago roller derby team, tangle and spill, then start to fight with Chicagoan Johnny Rosasco joining the fight during the sixth annual roller derby that opened at the Coliseum on Oct. 22, 1940. According to the Tribune, roller derby made its world debut in Chicago in 1934.

Ronnie Powell, front, and Jeanne Goette, rear, both of the New York team, take a seat during the sixth annual roller derby at the Coliseum on Oct. 22, 1940.

Over 1,000 newspaper carriers for The Herald-American were treated to a free night of roller derby at the Michigan Avenue Armory, located at Michigan Ave. and 16th St., in April 1943. Some of them gathered around Chicago roller derby star Dorothy "Johnnie the blonde bombshell" Kobusch. Kobusch was born in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.

Chicago's Gerry Murray, left, and Brooklyn's Annabelle Kealey collide with the rail on a turn during a match in Oct. 1946.

Chicago's Gerry Murray stays on her feet as Midge "Toughie" Brasuhn, right, tries to take her out on June 10, 1948. Vera Minenko, left, tries to stay upright. Fans tuned in their televisions to watch legendary battles between Murray and Brasuhn, both in roller derby's Hall of Fame. In 1947, Murray became Chicago's team captain, but announced she'd have to retire in two years when her son Mike started school. She never retired. "That Gerry is the best skater in the business," applauded Billy Bogash, the Chicago men's team captain. Brasuhn was also the mother of a young boy.

The published caption from 1949 reads: "Pileups like this occur when some of the ladies are brash enough to attempt a scoring drive. Shortly, helmets may be flung off and (the) wooden wheel contest might turn into (a) hair-pulling match."

Monte Jean Payne, Chicago roller derby captain, Marilyn Bullock and Catherine Virva, of McKinley High School in Chicago, are in the dressing room during a roller derby at the Coliseum on April 1, 1949. Bullock had been skating with the derby for four years and lived in Hollywood, Ca., but was originally from Chicago and attended Stewart Elementary School.

Chicago Westerners Roller Derby skaters Ann Pernice, 19, and Eleanor Weber, 24, watch from the penalty box at the Coliseum at a Roller Derby in 1950. During the month of November, two teams of ten men and women each, skated against each other, sometimes traveling at speeds up to 30 miles an hour.

Chicago American news carriers wave their tickets to get autographed from Fred Noa, from left, Bert Wall, Dolores Doss and Bobbie Mateer, all of the Chicago Westerners roller derby team, on April 28, 1955, at the Coliseum.

Mary Gray, 22, a member of the Chicago Westerners roller derby team, repairs her skates between periods at a roller derby at the Coliseum in 1950.

Virginia Rushing, 22, from Oklahoma City, doubles over in pain after receiving a belt in the midsection during a roller derby at the Coliseum in 1951. The Tribune reported Rushing as saying, "This is a really terrific profession." Rushing, who grew bored with office work, continued saying, "I love it. It's the most exciting thing a girl can do." By 1951, Rushing had already suffered a broken pelvis and ankle.

Referees and skaters try to pry loose Mary Lou Palermo of the Jersey team from the grip she has on the hair of Betty Boyd of the Chicago Westerners in a roller derby at the Coliseum in 1951. Palermo, who was from Chicago, started skating roller derby's when she was just 15 in 1944.

A group of woman speed on a banked track during an undated roller derby in Chicago.

"Ya dumb jerks!" yells Mary Lou Palermo, center, to the Jersey Jolters who caused a three-way spill at the Roller Derby at the Coliseum on Feb. 14, 1951. The Jersey Jolters beat the Chicago Westerners 22 to 21, but it took the easterners four overtime periods to score the victory in front of 2,703 fans. Palermo, who was from Chicago, started skating roller derby's when she was just 15 in 1944.

A referee and a doctor aid Betty Boyd, 23, of the Jersey Jolters, who was knocked out in a fall during a roller derby at the Coliseum in 1951. At the time, Boyd had a daughter named Donna Jo, 2, who would travel with her to matches. Boyd is originally from Chattanooga, Tenn.

Betty Boyd of the Jersey team is treated by Dr. James Alvian as her teammate and captain Annis Jansen watches at a roller derby at the Coliseum on Feb. 15, 1951.

Mary Lou Palermo, left, and Midge "Toughie" Brasuhn were teammates for the Jersey Jolters and did hair and make-up before a smash-mouth playoff match in Chicago in June 1952. Both Brasuhn and Palermo, who played for many different teams, are in the Roller Derby Hall of Fame.

Marjorie Clare "Toughie" Brasuhn (she went by the first name of Midge) flies over Betty Clements, Mary Lou Palermo and Harriette Topel at a roller derby at the Coliseum in Nov. 1953. Brasuhn was the sport's most recognized celebrity, known to fans as Toughie, and played for teams in New York and New Jersey during the 1940s and 50s.

Toughie Brasuhn, left, and Betty Clements at a roller derby at the Coliseum in 1953.

Anne Pernice, left, Midge "Toughie" Brashun, Mary Lou Palermo and Jean Porter get tangled up during a match at the Chicago Coliseum in Dec. 1953. Pernice and Palermo starred for the Chicago Westerners.

Leo Seltzer in 1943. Seltzer was a sports promoter for the Chicago Coliseum who invented roller derby in the 1930s. — Maurice Seymour Studios

(via Chicago Tribune)




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