ROLLER DERBY FOUNDATION

Preserving the History of Roller Derby & Giving Back to Skaters
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Welcome to Roller Derby Foundation, dedicated to preserving the history of Leo Seltzer's banked track creation... ROLLER DERBY, by remembering the great athletes who gave their all to the sport and fans, by bringing together those whose passion for the sport keeps the game alive in our hearts and minds years after the original Derby's demise, and most importantly, to giving back to the skaters whose efforts contributed much to the cultural history of the nation and whose accomplishments will never be forgotten.

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Roller Derby's most prolific scorer, MIKE GAMMON, wearing the Northwest Cardinals' #15, against 'Mr. Roller Derby,' CHARLIE O'CONNELL, #40, legendary coach of the world-famous San Francisco Bay Bombers & Derby's greatest male star in skating action from 1970. O'Connell was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1967 after his first retirement, then continued skating till 1978. Gammon, who skated with the original Derby until it closed in 1973, continued skating on and off till 1984, was in the first class of inductees when the National Roller Derby Hall of Fame reopened in 2004.

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Left to right, it's three Hall-of-Famers... BOBBIE JOHNSTONE (wife of Hall-of-Famer Buddy Atkinson, Sr. and mother of 2005 inductee Buddy, Jr.), ANNIS 'Big Red' JENSEN (wife of Hall-of-Famer Russ 'Rosie' Baker and mother of wheeler Barbara Baker) & ANN CALVELLO in 1950s action between Philadelphia Panthers & Chicago Westerners. Jensen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1960. Calvello joined her in 1968 and Johnstone was part of the class of 2005 inducted in Chicago along with son, Buddy, Jr.

In order to support our fundraising efforts to benefit skaters, CONTACT US by E-MAIL after reviewing our list of Roller Derby DVDs & videotapes on this site or BID on Roller Derby videos every week only at eBay.com by searching items sold by 'RollerDerbyFoundation' or E-MAIL US at RollerDerbyHOF@aol.com... to assist our fundraising efforts.

Because we're a small operation, focused on raising funds to assist skaters, we cannot respond to phone messages, so please E-MAIL us (click on the link to the right) for a reply. And VISIT US at our new website, the NATIONAL ROLLER DERBY HALL OF FAME (click on the link to the right), the OFFICIAL Derby Hall of Fame, honoring the achievements of the greatest stars of the banked track and don't forget to join other fans at Phil Berrier's ROLLER DERBY FORUM where the greatest fans of the greatest game discuss Roller Derby with former skaters. SEE YOU THERE!!!

E-MAIL US at RollerDerbyHOF@aol.com

CLICK HERE to Join Other Fans Online

VISIT US in New York City

CLICK HERE for Roller Derby Hall of Fame

The ROLLER DERBY FOUNDATION is the dream and creation of Gary Powers of New York City, a Roller Derby fan since 1967. From the moment Gary first saw those amazing athletes whizzing 'round the curved skating surface on TV, the color and excitement of the game, the competition and theatricality of it all, he was immediately hooked. Raised in Northeast Pennsylvania, Gary was exposed to the thrilling weekly contests of the National Skating Derby's Philadelphia Warriors who had moved East in the Fall of '67 from Hawaii. The Warriors were Roller Games' at its best; a team composed of skaters trained and nurtured in the original Roller Derby league. The following year, Gary found the other major banked track league on TV, the original Roller Derby with its premier team, the San Francisco Bay Bombers. Although he loved the game skated as legitimately as possible, being the first to call himself a 'purist,' he loved the competition in both leagues, never getting into the debate of which style of skating was better, since when it was all said and done, to Gary, it was all Roller Derby, just the same.

Why does he feel so indebted to these great athletes of the Roller Derby? Because Gary Powers was one of the many fans whose life was literally saved by the magic the Roller Derby brought to the lives of so many every week. For years, fans became entranced with the game, its skaters and the seemingly emotional tug-of-war, the fight-to-the-finish the teams engaged in week after week, and the ultimate 'good versus evil' component which eventually developed of Leo Seltzer's creation. It was Seltzer, the Chicago entrepreneur, who in 1935, during the Great Depression, first conceived the Transcontinental Roller Derby, a roller skating marathon, pitting teams composed of a man and woman skater, against each other in a mythical race across the country. Promoting his Roller Derby marathon in large and small hamlets, Seltzer was open to ideas on how to improve his game. Seltzer was assisted by sportswriter Damon Runyon who observed fans seemed to love it when skaters came in contact with each other, so Seltzer & Runyon developed the sport where teams with five skaters each would compete against each other incorporating body contact in order to score points and play defense. Leo Seltzer's sport captivated many across the nation. Women, some bruised and battered in unhappy marriages would come to the game, scream all night at the performers, then leave the arena with the hope that they, too, would triumph one day. In many ways, both simple and profound, Roller Derby was about hope and fighting for a better life.

When Roller Derby rolled into New York City in November, 1948, the nation was still adjusting to life after World War II and Gotham had never been receptive to the banked track game. But a new medium called television plus the battles between two of Derby's greatest female skaters, Midge 'Toughie' Brasuhn and Gerry Murray, changed all that. New York City and the nation were enthralled with the Roller Derby and the game was the toast of the country. Skaters appeared on all the major magazine covers as well as all the TV & radio shows, selling-out arenas everywhere, culminating in a five-day sold-out engagement at Madison Square Garden for the first Roller Derby World Series (June, 1949). But after four years, the medium called television, which had catapulted the Derby to success, overexposed the game so that Roller Derby, once the talk of the country, was soon limping into any city which would host the game. The Derby eventually left the country in 1953 to skate in Europe.

Jerry Seltzer, son of Leo, took over day-to-day operation of Roller Derby in the late 50s and within a decade the sport was once again, a tremendous commercial success, selling out arenas everywhere. Another league, the National Skating Derby, known as Roller Games, sprang up outside Los Angeles with a much more theatrical version of the game, comprised of many former Derby stars. Soon Roller Games was a success in Australia, Japan and Canada. To the surprise of many, Jerry Seltzer closed the original Roller Derby in December, 1973, ending his family's involvement with the sport they created. To this day, fans remain confused and stunned as to why the original Derby ended? All the skaters who had depended upon the sport as their sole means of employment were without their venue and fans would forever lose the comfort of their cherished game. Does it surprise anyone that the passion for the sport or the memory of the incredible game has never diminished even thirty years later?

Years after the original Derby closed, Gary Powers continued to follow what was occuring in the banked track world thanks to Phil Berrier of North Carolina, one of Derby's greatest fans. The death of legendary skater Joan Weston in May, 1997 sent Gary to the internet to seek out other fans dealing with the loss. It was thru the internet where his work preserving the history of the Roller Derby and assisting skaters took on greater urgency. In 1999, he heard that filmmakers were unable to complete a documentary of Hall-of-Fame skater Ann Calvello, so Gary began raising funds to help finish the film. In the process, he met Calvello and other skaters like Lydia Clay and Buddy Atkinson, Sr. and the excitement Derby had always given him, was reborn all over again. In the years since the original Roller Derby had ended, the lives of many skaters had changed and there was a need to help those who had fallen on hard times. Over the years, Gary, with the help of other fans, has been able to give tens of thousands of dollars to former skaters in the form of cash grants, plane tickets, parties, get-togethers, phone cards or whatever it takes to improve the quality of the lives of these great stars of the Roller Derby where fans can express their appreciation to their banked track heros and where skaters can understand the impact their skating careers had on so many. Making Roller Derby DVDs available to fans across the country has helped rekindle the love affair fans still feel for Roller Derby. Because of Gary's desire to preserve and protect the history of the Roller Derby, he has accumulated one of the largest collections of memorabilia in the country which is professionally displayed and on view for all to see in his home in New York City. And he has been able to forge friendships with great stars of the banked track like Ann Calvello, Gerry Murray, Charlie O'Connell, Judi McGuire, Mike Gammon, Judy Arnold, Gene Gammon, Julie Patrick, Billy Bogash, Cathie Read, Hal Janowitz, Annis 'Big Red' Jensen, Barbara Baker, Cliff Butler, Judy Sowinski, George Copeland, Janet Earp, John Hall, Norma Rossner, Vinnie Gandolfo, Ann Penderghast, Buddy Aktinson, Jr., Dru Scott, Richard Brown, Jim Trotter, Patti 'Moo Moo' Cavin, Jan Vallow, Carol 'Peanuts' Meyer, Bobbie Mateer, Bert Wall, Mary Youpelle, Nellie Montague Wilson, Jimmy Ciota, Darlene Anderson, Hazel Roop, Joe Nygra, Sammy Skobel, Ivy King, Johnny Karp, Ronnie Robinson, Pete Boyd, Jackie Garello, Bob Woodberry, Frank Macedo, 'Cookie' Kadyra, Gloria Mack, Billy Gardner and many, many more. At parties and get-togethers at Gary's Brooklyn home or at parties in Chicago, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Philadelphia & Los Angeles, Roller Derby fans have been able to meet their childhood heros as these phenomenal stars of the sport are once again back in the spotlight. And to that end, we are proud to launch this ROLLER DERBY FOUNDATION website in order to keep the memory of the Roller Derby, its history and the achievements of its great stars... alive forever. And stop by the NATIONAL ROLLER DERBY HALL OF FAME website where we CELEBRATE the GREATEST STARS in the HISTORY of the SPORT for updates about future parties.