Frank Bernard CernikBorn March 1, 1928
Frank Cernik was born on March 1, 1928 on a family homestead east of Wahoo, Nebraska. He was one of 3 children, the middle child of Frank M Cernik and Bozena “Bessie” (ZIMOLA). He grew up on the farm and loved farming. Franks says “he would have been a farmer his entire life until an accident he had when he was 18 years old”. He and his brother Ray were picking corn with a corn picker and Frank got most of his right hand cut off. Loosing his right hand ended his career as a farmer. Frank recalled an incident that happened right after the accident. He was laying on the couch and overheard his parents talking in the kitchen. They referred to a one arm man in Wahoo and were concerned Frank would end up like him. That sparked a drive to make something of himself.
He started selling Kirby vacuum cleaners and worked at a packing plant. But it was what he did back when he was 14 years old that would be a key to his future. He had worked at a roller skating rink in Wahoo. He helped customers put on “clamp” on skates and in return was allowed to skate for free.
In 1946 he opened his first skating rink which was a portable rink. The rink included a portable maple floor and was enclosed by a huge tent. He moved it to various towns in eastern Nebraska, from Wahoo to Tekamah. One summer the tent burnt to the ground, as someone threw a cigarette on top of the tent.
In 1950, he bought Harker’s Roller Rink in Fremont, Nebraska at 16th and Bell Streets and named it “Fremont Roller Rink”. His dad loaned him $20,000 and Frank bought the rink for $40,000. Behind the rink was a garage and he and his father in law converted it into a small house that he lived in with his family. The four in the family shared one bedroom. The rink was a problematic and unruly mess. He cleaned the place up, hired a cop and got rid of what he called “greasers who were causing trouble and fighting”. Schools would not have skating parties. He turned it into a wholesome, family friendly facility. He went to school carnivals with a spinning wheel and gave small prizes and free passes to kids. The schools started trusting him and started booking parties and business was thriving.
In 1960 he built a rink from the ground up on Military Street in Fremont. He named it Roller Village. He also had a drafting table in the basement of the house and worked on a new floor plan and concept for a new roller skating center. He then moved his family to Omaha in 1967 and built Skateland on 108th & Q streets.
He implemented strict rules of conduct. Blue jeans and hair over the collar were not permitted. Business exploded. Rink operators from around the country came to visit to see what this guy from Nebraska was doing. The rink had many innovations and firsts in the roller skating industry.
- A new type of skating floor
- Rental skates
- Acoustical ceiling
- and others
He sold his blueprints to many operators who started building new rinks around the country which led to a boom in the industry in the 70’s and led into the “Disco Ball Era”.
- In 1970, Skateland in Bellevue, Nebraska was opened.
- In 1971, Skateland in Irvington, Nebraska was opened.
- In 1972, Skateland in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota opened.
- In 1973, Skateland in Burnsville, Minnesota opened.
- In 1974, Skateland in Tempe, Arizona opened.
Skateland Arizona ground breaking article
- In 1975, Skateland in Mesa, Arizona opened.
- In 1976, Skateland in Fargo, North Dakota opened.
- In 1981, Skateland 84th & F, Omaha opened.
- In 1982, MidCity Plaza Strip Center at 84th & F street opened.
- In 1982, Skateland 132nd & B, Omaha opened.
- He had a Corporate Office at 128th & Q Streets and has a Warehouse at 132 & A Streets.
In 1990, Frank turned the Omaha facilities over to his sons Scott and Kevin. All the rinks have been sold or leased, except Skatedaze on 132nd & B Streets in Omaha which is now operated by Scott and Pam Cernik. Four of the other locations sold still operate as roller skating rinks.
As an entrepreneur always on the move, he tried many other adventures in the mid 60’s:
- Victory Marine in Fremont
- Indoor Miniature Golf (Golfland) at 108th & Q in Omaha
- Griffs Burger on Dodge Street in Omaha
Frank has been inducted into the International Roller Skating Association Hall of Fame, the most coveted and prestigious award in the roller skating industry. He has been honored for outstanding contributions, development and advancement of the sport of roller skating and the industry. And for the voluntary contribution of his time and talent. He also served as a Board Member, Vice President and Treasurer and awarded Lifetime Member.
Frank loved flying. He got his pilot’s license while in Fremont. He owned 9 airplanes through the years. He also had several Motor-coaches and Motorcycle Trikes.
Skating brought Frank and his wife Phyllis together. They met at a rink when she brought her kids to the rink on several occasions. They have now been married 41 years. She worked with him at the rinks and in the office as bookkeeper and secretary. One year Phyllis and another lady sent out 1300 year end W—2 forms (this was before computers).
Frank and Phyllis spent most weekends and evenings going from one rink to another.
Frank was fortunate to have various family members working at the rinks, including all the children at times, his brother Frank and wife Elaine and nephews Chris Cernik and Steve Cernik. His sister Marie Smith also worked at Golfland.
Frank and Phyllis are now retired living in Omaha. Frank has four children, all in Omaha. Diane Cernik, Scott Cernik (Pam), Kevin Cernik and Julie Chochon (Scott). Phyllis has two daughters, Jami Johnson in Wahoo, Nebraska and Joni Albers (Rick) in Idaho Springs, Colorado. Together they have seven Grandchildren and three Great Grandchildren and one Step Grandchild.