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Nancy Streets’ Close Encounter with the Roll-O-Rama Skating Rink

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Nancy Streets wasn’t just an ordinary somebody.  Her father was a dentist in South Bend and she attended South Bend schools along with her two older brothers.  Following her graduation, she enrolled as a freshman at IU-Bloomington and joined a sorority.  In 1958, as a beautiful sophomore majoring in Speech and Theater, her sorority nominated her as a participant in the 1959 IU Miss Indiana beauty contest.  No one, however, including Nancy, expected the win.

On the night of the big event, as she turned to walk off stage, Nancy heard her name called.  She returned to the stage where, much to her surprise, the queen’s crown was placed slightly askew upon her head.  It was the first time in IU’s history that a Black woman won the title.  Nancy wasn’t the only one in shock as the flashbulbs began to pop.  And it wasn’t until 1988 that the IU Arbutus recognized her title.

Photo courtesy of IU Archives

Fast forward to April 13, 1962.  Nancy, the former beauty queen and several of her friends, both Black and white, decided to spend the afternoon at Bloomington’s only skating rink, the Roll-O-Rama, at 1103 W. Allen. It was owned and operated by Robert G. Jones, a native of Martinsville.  As you may or may not know, through the years Martinsville has gained quite a reputation as discriminating against Blacks.  And Jones didn’t fall far from the tree.

Nancy called the skating rink ahead of time to be certain it was open to the public.  She was assured that it was.  But when she showed up with her friends she was told it was a private club.  Jones walked to his office in the back and returned with a gun.  Rather than face the weapon, Nancy left quietly with the others.  Later, in July, she charged Jones with assault.

Did she win, you might ask.  Oh, no.  After four hours of deliberation, Jones was acquitted in Monroe County court.  But rather than stay around Bloomington, Jones left the area perhaps in search of a community more in line with his own thinking.  In April 1984 he died in Marianna, Florida, survived by his wife and two daughters, both residents of Monroe County.

In 2013, Nancy traveled from her home in Indianapolis to Bloomington where she was an honored guest at that year’s IU Miss Indiana contest.  By that time she had married, was divorced and the mother of three.  To the best of my knowledge she is yet living and now endures less discrimination than she did the year of her coronation.

Sources:

  • Bloomington (IN) Herald Telephone, May 15, 1962, p. 1.
  • Anderson (IN) Daily Bulletin, July 26, 1962, p 14.
  • Robert “Bob” G. Jones obituary, Martinsville (IN) Reporter-Times, August 11, 1984, p. 10.
  • Charles Scudder, “A Queen Comes Home,” Indiana Daily Student, February 28, 2013.  Available online at A Queen Comes Home – Pride.IU.edu, February 1, 2021.  Originally titled “A Queen Comes Home” in the February 28, 2013, issue of the Indiana Daily Student.
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