Part of the purpose of this post is to remind you of just how incredibly awesome the internet actually is. Those of us who grew up in the days before the world wide web are not apt to forget how locating information that once took trips to the library are now at our fingertips. Still, a little reminder to be grateful for that reference library in your pocket is in order.
I found this sweater in my Instagram feed. I waited patiently until the seller, Woodland Farm Vintage put it on her site so I could buy it. I have seen a lot of athletic sweaters in my time, but none with a big old dated roller skating patch on the back.
But who were the Rita Rollers? The seller guessed that it was a roller derby team, but I somehow didn’t think this was flashy enough for those skaters. Still, I thought the possibility was intriguing.
Research proved otherwise. I could find no reference at all to a roller derby team from Chicago called the Rita Rollers. So I did what any modern researcher does – I consulted social media. To be more exact, I posted a photo of the logo patch on Instagram and hoped for the best.
I wasn’t disappointed. My friends at @styleandsalvage thought it might be connected with a Chicago Catholic boys’ school, Saint Rita of Cascia. Another IG friend, @hollyhobbiedthis went on Classmates.com and actually confirmed that is was a school skating club jacket from St. Rita. Not only that, but she found school yearsbooks in which the Rita Rollers were mentioned.
I’ll not post any photos here because of a potential copyright issue, but in the 1942 Cascian there’s a picture of a student wearing his Rita Rollers sweater, and there are team photos of the members wearing their sweaters as well. We are also treated to a bit of information about the club
The reason for the existence of any club is the good of its members. If it does not offer to its members advantages and opportunities for the betterment there is no reason for its existence.
The Rita Rollers organization offers its members social, cultural, and physical advantages. Roller skating is a good, wholesome, exercise for boys and girls. The parties conducted by the club give the boys an opportunity to meet good Catholic girls, and to associate with them in a clean and spirited form of entertainment. The cultural value lies in the refining influence that association with the gentler sex has upon boys.
So, simply put, the purpose of joining the Rita Rollers was to meet girls. Now that’s settled, here’s a closer look at my sweater.
Even without that super patch on the back, this would be one nifty sweater. The striped yoke, echoed by the ribbed section at the bottom and on the cuffs puts this one a few notches above the average letter sweater. Also, note that it zips, and has a cute little zipped pocket.
I really do love that zipper.
There are elbow patches sewn to the inside of the sleeves, thereby helping to solve the old problem of holes forming at the most stressed part of the garment.
There’s no maker’s label, only this “All Wool” declaration. I’ve seen this in other sweaters, and also in wool swimsuits.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found a patch with the original owner’s last name embroidered on it. So I went back to Classmates.com to try and locate a student named Przyscuha in the 1942 yearbook. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find him in 1942, but there was a Przysucha in the junior class in the 1941 book. Unfortunately, first names weren’t listed except for seniors.
So what happened to our Mr. Przyscuha/Przysucha? Did he get his sweater and then transfer to another school? Did he turn eighteen and quit school to join the military? Was he absent the day school portraits were taken? Maybe some day we’ll discover the answer, but it would really help if I could find his first name. I did find a pair of Przysucha brothers from Chicago in the 1940 census, Joseph and Chester, who would have been fifteen and eighteen in 1942. Perhaps the sweater belonged to one of them.
17 responses to “Rita Rollers Skating Sweater”
Fabulous sweater. And, yes indeed the Internet can be a wonderful tool. Perhaps he abandoned his sweater because they spelled his name wrong? I
have a Polish friend whose name has no vowels and I spell it wrong almost ever time!
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It’s hard to know where the sweater has been all these years, but my guess it was sold as part of the owner’s estate. It’s in such great condition that I don’t think it has seen any wear recently.
Obituaries for the brothers. I’m guessing it was Chester. I bet you could track down the grandchildren if you wanted.
I tend to think you are right about it belonging to Chester. The dates match more closely.
What a find. It’s in perfect condition!
Almost perfect! A tiny hole or two, and a bit of fade on the shoulders. So much better than most wool sweaters I’ve seen from this era.
WOW! One of your more exciting finds! I remember the pedestrian roller rinks on Saturday afternoons! We were encouraged to participate. Wonderful clean athletic / social fun! Ask the guys – we loved the skate ( short ) skirts!!! The girls and the guys looked so fresh and cute! The music / D J’S played great mixes of new and traditional .Fun Fall / Winter Saturday afternoons. Thank YOU LIZZIE. Hope you find a guys sweater sometime.
Yes! Where else could one flirt and get exercise, all while looking cute?
This is amazing!!! And, yes, my goodness, I do remember the days before the internet! Encyclopedias, having to go to different libraries to find certain books!
It was love at first sight!
Isn’t research fun! It’s like being a detective without having the danger of Magnum or Rockford!
True, I couldn’t do this if people were trying to kill me.
What a wonderful story. I’m betting that your roller guy (or one of his family members) will turn up.
It is very likely that several years down the road I’ll hear from a family member. That’s the way it usually works.
I love this! I call this aspect “Nancy Drew-ing” and love it when the internet helps to connect the dots and partially solve the mystery. Perhaps this post will help fill in the blanks!
We all need Nancy Drew sweaters, or at least badges!
WTTW (Chicago PBS) has a regular feature that explores aspects of Chicago history. You might share the photo of Chester’s sweater. https://news.wttw.com/content/ask-geoffrey-form
The Chicago Tribune has a feature called Flashback that might be interested in doing roller rinks. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/chi-chicago-flashback-storygallery-storygallery.html
St. Rita H.S. is still in business. https://www.stritahs.com/