Paramount Iceland and the First Zamboni

The Zamboni is such an icon, that it’s brand has transcended any other ice resurfacing machine like it. There are Olymipa’s and the new Finnish Icecat, but like the Kleenex and the Q-Tip, the brand has taken over the item. Nothing is called an ice resurfacer. It’s called a Zamboni. When the word is used, only one thing comes to mind, the big box on wheels driven in slow circles around the ice. Children are mesmerized, and adults dream of throwing it all away for the peace and quiet life of a Zamboni driver. I hated mowing the lawn on our riding lawn mower, but get me near a Zamboni, and I think, “yeah, I could do that.”

The first Zamboni (which has been restored to it’s original glory) sits in the Zamboni family owned rink at Paramount Iceland (where part of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was filmed, don’tcha know). This was the rink where Frank Zamboni revolutionized the ice freezing process (which you can read about here, since I am not going to get into it. Needless to say, it was so obvious, it was genius).

Enjoy the pictures.
It was a little rainy, so the outside doesn’t glisten and shine like I’m sure it normally does. I’m sure rays of sunshine beam down from the heavens and point the way to this holy of hockey shrines. Sure, why not?

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This is the rink from the front entrance.

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And from the back of the building. The roof is free of leaks, something that plagues many of the rinks with this sort of construction I have been in.

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The rink itself isn’t super impressive. It has some issues along the boards that need attention, those things that are called “character” but not in a good, old fashioned, quirky way that make you love an old rink. The boards and glass are separating in a few places allowing pucks to get stuck in between, and the boards at the benches are torqued and bent out towards the ice.

Click the pictures for more detail.
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If you look at that first rink picture, you can see something orange floating above the ice. That would be the Wurlitzer organ. It’s played every Tuesday for public skate, by a man who has been playing for years (he’s in his 80s).
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But you didn’t come to see organs and rinks (that is another thing entirely). You came for a piece of hockey history.
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I am warning you, this may be a little shocking. Ready?
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Wow. The thing is huge. You can see the seat on the back of the machine, which is a normal tractor seat. Here is some of the detail underneath.

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There are actually two Zambonis on display at the Iceland. This Model A Zamboni, and a Model E.
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There are a lot more photos, with details of the Model E, which also reveals on of the “secrets” of this machine (but you can probably figure it out if you look). Click on to see more.



Doesn’t that body look a little familiar?

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How about from the front?
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That’s right, the machine is built on top of a Willys Jeep. Want the proof?

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All the controls were extended for the driver. Click the pics for more details.

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Notice the chain around the steering wheel, attached to the steering column. An excellent retrofit.

The twin screws brought the ice scrapings to the chain hoist, which brought the snow into the hopper (these are my terms for describing it, I don’t know what it’s really called).
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The levers and controls:

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Versus what the original Model A operator had to deal with:

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Here is the history of this Model E. Worth the read:

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The organ from the side.
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The sad part is that this hockey history is tucked away in the corner of a rink in the middle of California, and so few people know about it. Then again, if this machine were in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it would only serve to consolidate the history of hockey, shutting out a large chunk of the fans of the sport, or skating in general. While hockey fans claim the Zamboni as their own, without the machine, speed skating, figure skating and plenty of other ice activities would be less convenient, and a whole lot less entertaining to watch (other than broomball, scourge of clean ice everywhere).

The figure skates continued with their lessons, and the youth hockey players were pouring in for their game at 6:00. They were sneering at each other as figure skates and hockey players tend to do, each one blaming the other for ruining “their” ice surface (divots, ice temperature, the smell of the rink, you name it). I was talking to one of the people who worked at the rink (for a relatively short time of 8 years, compared to the eighty year old skate guard who has been there since the beginning of the Iceland), and sold me my two Zamboni t-shirts. She told me what I already knew, what I had seen before from the high school players in Lake Placid who practiced where the Miracle on Ice had taken place. The history that sat in the corner wasn’t that impressive to them. These kids were interested in making their own memories and history. They were going to score the game winning goal, hoist the cup, jump and spin in ways no one had ever done before, hold that gold medal, and sing their national anthem. They had their eyes on the prize, not in the past. They lacked a certain appreciation that I had , that people who don’t practice and play next to something that shaped the modern game of hockey in ways we cannot imagine being without.

Next time you are in California, brave the traffic and see a bit of hockey history. You won’t regret it.
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Comments

  1. Seriously cool. The original Zam is fascinating. Anyone willing to drive the model A has my respect.

    I love the old organ, too! How beautiful!

  2. Good to have you onboard, BZA. That thing is a beast. I cannot imagine having to drive it without crashing into the boards.

    The organ is the only reason I wish I were staying in LA, rather than going to the Sharks game.

  3. truly amazing !!! Next to the stanley cup, the original zamboni is another holy grail to all hockey fans alike !!! I drive a zamboni in chicago at a park district under a famous olympian figure skater by the name of David Santee. Tonight, I’m on vacation with family in Cali, and I plan on taking a trip to Paramount Iceland. Thank you for sharing this with us. IM SO EXCITED !!!

  4. Terry Shaub says:

    In the late 50′s and early 60′s, my dad, an LA Cop, moonlighted in the evenings in a job at the Iceland rink. The first motorized thing I ever drove was a Zamboni, sitting in my dads lap. Frank of course was always around, and the machine they used at the rink was always some new prototype model. The machines would dump big piles of snowy ice out back, which we turned into snowmen and snowballs in California. I remember making a snowman in the seat of one of the many jeep frames lined up out back. I remember Frank having a picture of that somewhere. Doesn’t look like to made it to the museum! :)
    My dad helped to start a Pee Wee hockey league in which I played at the age of 7. GLAMHA (greater L.A. minor hockey association). Most of the other rinks in the league didn’t have Zamboni’s yet. But over the years, they all were using them.
    The original organist was Truman Welch (passed away in 1968). We could go up into the room with the organ while he was playing and he could have a conversation with us while playing without missing a beat. He was really a nice guy. But I remember thinking he was really quirky!
    The last time I was there at Iceland was around 1985 and I was in my 30′s. Blanche, the lady at the ticket window was still there after 30 some years, and asked me “are you any relation to Sandy Shaub (my dad)? I told her who I was and she remembered me (as a kid I was there two or three times a week over many years). Needless to say, we got in for free and the manager came over to chat with me and hear about some of the history.
    Iceland, hockey and Zamboni’s are part of my personal history.
    I stumbled across this blog and the memories flooded back.
    Thanks for the memories

  5. A lot of fond memories, my friends & I spent almost every Friday night here in the late 50′s.

  6. Joe Gaerttner says:

    I live here in SoCal and have never seen this place…now I am going! Thanks!

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