Roller Derby Circa 1949: New Jersey Vs Philadelphia

Here’s a treat from the dawn of broadcast television I found while trawling the Internet Archive on my Roku box. It’s the ROLLER DERBY!

This is probably a kinescope which was a recording of a television program made by filming the picture from a video monitor which is probably why the video quality is a little shaky. It’s probably better than the picture grandfather was attempting to get on those ancient TV sets hooked to a set of rabbit ears.

I have a fascination for old television shows, and I can see why the roller derby was popular on TV. Unlike the dramatic programs that were shot on a shoestring budget with claustrophobic staging, the roller derby was constant movement. It was all action.

I used to watch roller derby in the 1970s and I watched the match in the video embedded above, and I still don’t understand how the game is played or how points are scored. It was fun watching people go at breakneck speed around the track!

This particular match took place in Newark, New Jersey, but the Philly games took place at The Philadelphia Arena at 4530 Market Street.

…and your sponsor for roller derby is Blatz Beer! The video is complete with commercials!

If you have trouble viewing the video, go HERE. The link takes you to the Internet Archive where you can view a streaming version or download a video file. It’s FREE!

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9 Responses to Roller Derby Circa 1949: New Jersey Vs Philadelphia

  1. Joe_Williams says:

    Thanks for commenting, Gerry! What’s interesting about this video is that it looks like they are straight out playing the game rather than having all of the showboating and staged fights that went with the sport in the 1970s.

  2. GerryG says:

    I have a friend that was on the original Transcontinental Roller Derby in 1937. Hazel Roop. She is also in the Roller Derby Hall of Fame.

  3. Joe_Williams says:

    I read about it on Wikipedia. It has something to do with lapping the other team and players play both offense and defense. It is still confusing.

  4. i never understood the rules – time for some research.

  5. Joe_Williams says:

    Thanks for commenting and clearing up the rules of Roller Derby!!!

  6. I know derby from 30s and 40s was different from derby in the 70s, which was in turn different from modern derby, but the basic rules now are as follows:

    Play is divided into two minute periods called Jams. There are five skaters on the track from each team. One is called the Jammer. The remaining skaters are called Blockers. Collectively, the Blockers from both teams are called the Pack. The Pack typically starts on a line called the “Pivot Line” and the Jammers start on a line behind it called the Jammer Line. The first whistle blows, and the pack starts skating. Once the entire pack is over the Jammer Line, a second whistle blows and the Jammers start skating. While all players continuously skate in a counter-clockwise direction, the Jammers attempt to get through the Pack, while the Blockers on both teams attempt to help their Jammer through, while hindering the opposing Jammer. The first Jammer out of the Pack is the Lead Jammer, who may “call off the Jam” at any time by placing her hands on her hips. Once a Jammer is out of the pack, she starts her scoring run. She scores one point for each opposing Blocker she passes. The Jam continues until the two minutes are up, or the Lead Jammer calls off the Jam. Then, the skaters have 30 seconds to set up, and the next Jam starts.

    Modern derby is a real sport, with real athletes. No scripted drama or fighting allowed.

  7. Meant to say “Once the entire pack is over the PIVOT Line”

  8. GerryG says:

    Hazel told me that even back in the very early days of Roller Derby, much of the game was staged but at a certain point in each event the competition became real and the players would be rewarded for their performance in that period, thus encouraging the quality and integrity of their performance.

  9. GerryG says:

    Roller Derby was also the first professional sport that was coed adding greatly to its appeal.

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