LIMA — The Michael brothers’ lives revolved around a sport, but it wasn’t football or basketball or even baseball, the national pastime and passion in the late 1940s.
Growing up at 780 Oak St., Don and Charles Michael, the sons of Elmer and Lorraine Michael, brought cheer and pride to the area as they quickly rose from skating at the Lima Roller Rink to champions of speed roller skating in 1946.
The Michael brothers “are the city’s outstanding protégés in the rapidly growing sport,” The Lima News wrote on April 28, 1946.
“The two local youths – Don is 11 and ‘Chuck’ eight – won state championships at Akron recently in Class B and Class C speed divisions, respectively, and would like to repeat in the Queen City tests,” the News noted. “Victories at Cincinnati will allow the two Michael boys to take part in the national championships in the nation’s largest city and that’s quite an honor.”
At the time, older brother Don had been skating for about 18 months and had taken part in state and regional meets in 1945, finishing second at both. Compared to his younger brother, Don was a veteran. Chuck had started his speed skating career that very year, joining his older brother in practicing “diligently at the Lima Roller Rink,” according to the News.
“Although they’re both small in stature,” the News noted, “the two blond-haired Michael boys are large in ability. They’re as much at home on skates as walking.”
That diligent practice and innate ability served the brothers well at the state meet in Akron, where Don won his event, the one-sixth mile race, shaving one-tenth of a second off the state record in the process. For his part, Chuck “sliced six seconds off the state record in his one-twelfth mile race the first time he tried it and then came back later to break his own record by 3.2 seconds more.”
For the Michael brothers, the challenge of winning at the regionals came quickly and easily, and soon they were on the road to the regional tests in Cincinnati, carrying the hopes of the community with them.
As they had at Akron, the Michael brothers won races and won over the crowd at the regional meet in Cincinnati.
“The Lima youths, state champions in the Class B and Class C junior boys’ divisions, respectively, made a big hit with the large crowd which witnessed the championships,” the News wrote on May 8, 1946. “Clad in their black racing uniforms with red-striped trunks and wearing their Lima identification number, the boys were sentimental favorites with the crowd.”
Both boys also qualified for the national championships in New York City in July 1946, where they again proved too fast for the competition. Don skated off with a win in the juvenile boys speed Class B division. Chuck tied for top honors in Class C.
With their success at the national event still fresh, the Michael brothers returned to the rink to practice.
“The Michael brothers, Don and Charles, will attempt to uphold Lima’s roller skating prestige April 1 at Rollerland rink in Columbus,” the News wrote March 12, 1947. “The two youths will compete for state honors in juvenile divisions. Don will skate in Class A and Chuck will go in Class C. The regional meet is slated at Cleveland … with the national finals at Oakland, Calif., this summer.”
The brothers, the News added, “have just finished six weeks of training for the state event at the Lima Roller Rink. Don captured national honors last year in New York City while Chuck tied for the crown.” Don that year was a freshman at South High School, while Chuck attended Jefferson Elementary School.
As they had the previous year, the Michael brothers dominated at the state championships and, at the end of April, were bound for Cleveland and the regional meet. On May 1, 1947, the News reported that “Charles and Don Michaels of Lima qualified for the national roller skating speed event to be held in California this summer by capturing honors in the regional meet, which opened here Wednesday night. Chuck sped home first in his Class C junior division event, while Don finished first in his Class A junior division race.”
The brothers repeated their success of the year before at the 1947 national meet in Oakland in early July.
“A total of eight speed skaters piling up points during the week of races were crowned yesterday. Donald Michael of Lima, Ohio, won the juvenile boys’ Class A title,” the Oakland Tribune reported on July 6, 1947, adding that “Charles Michael, Donald’s younger brother, won the juvenile Class C title.”
The Michael brothers continued to compete in speed skating in 1948, cruising through the regional meet at Detroit, with Don winning the juvenile Class A division and Chuck taking third in juvenile Class B.
The following year, they competed at the regional meet in Milwaukee, but with a difference.
“Don and Chuck Michael, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer C. Michael, 780 Oak St., will compete in the regional roller skating meet to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 31 and June 1, 2 and 3,” the News reported on May 25, 1949.
“The former qualified by taking first place in junior free style skating and teaming with Beverly Brown of Dayton to win first place in pairs competition. Chuck and his partner, Beverly Baumgardner of Cridersville, took third place in junior dance and qualified for the regional.”
Reach Meg Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.