Behind an avid golfer is a roller skating champion

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Common Frank Malinak is a national roller skating champion in addition to being an avid golfer.

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Common
Frank Malinak is a national roller skating champion in addition to being an avid golfer.

DEARBORN – When Michigan’s weather beckons golfers, William “Frank” Malinak drives three days a week from his residence at Oakwood Common senior living community to the Carleton Glen Golf Club near Monroe.

“I’ve been a member for more than 30 years,” said Malinak, who proudly shared that he has his own golf cart, and recalled years when he golfed 250 days a year at different courses around the country.

First introduced to golf at the age of 12, Malinak became the personal caddy for Walker S. Cisler, former chairman of the Detroit Edison Co., at the Grosse Ile Country Club.

During those early years, golf wasn’t Malinak’s only pastime. When he was 11 years old, his older brother introduced him to roller skating.

“I think it’s because he was 16, and it was a good place to meet girls,” Malinak said.

In the early 1940s, Wells Roller Rink in River Rouge was the place to skate. Malinak explained that Wells had a unique terrazzo floor while all the other rinks in the Detroit area had wood floors.

He soon took up roller dancing and added, “I had it easy because I only had to skate forward; the girls had to skate backwards.”

After the Roller Skating Association was formed, skaters from Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis started participating, Malinak said. Although there were no competitions held during World War II because people were in the service, Malinak entered his first competition in 1946 at the age of 16.

“I danced with mostly older girls,” said Malinak, who placed second in 1947 at the national competition in Cleveland.

In January 1948, Malinak won the national championship with Betty Lytle from St. Louis. “It was a blind draw, so you didn’t know who you were going to dance with until you were assigned.”

There was no assignment or competition when he met his future bride, June, at a roller rink in Lincoln Park. The couple married after he joined the Marines in March 1948.

The young Marine was stationed in North Carolina and Tennessee, where there were no nearby rinks or competitions. In 1951, he served 11 months in the Korean War.

Those are times Malinak, who lost many buddies, doesn’t like to talk about.

Following the war, he earned a degree in business from Memphis State University and founded a vending company, another venture with his big brother. Later, Malinak was hired by the country’s largest vending machine company, Folz Vending, and helped expand the company’s operations in Michigan and the Midwest.

Today, he focuses on his family, including son Bill, five grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and golf.

While the roller skates have long been packed away, the golf clubs are still being put to use.