ROCKTON — A new book by American figure skating great Janet Lynn will tell the story of the place her rise began in Rockton, at the now-defunct Wagon Wheel Resort’s Ice Palace.
“The book is a portrait of a visionary and generous American entrepreneur, Walter Williamson, who created the Wagon Wheel,” Lynn said. “It is a tribute to him, my coach Slavka Kohout, and my parents.”
She will sign copies of the book, which is her fourth, called “The Wheel: Legacy of Excellence.” The signing will be at an open house at the Rockton Historical Society Museum, 529 Green St., from 1-4 p.m. May 1.
Lynn called the book a narrative account of what the Wagon Wheel was, what it looked like and what it meant to people. Her research included a host of historical documents and news stories, eyewitness accounts and interviews.
“The end of this particular book is the beginning of my story, when I met my coach at the Wagon Wheel,” Lynn said. “It really was my beloved second home, because I spent 4-10 hours a day there from the time I was 6.”
The story that starts in this book, her story, will be expanded on in her next book, which is still forthcoming. It will include more about her skating career and what she learned from it, she said.
Lynn took bronze in the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, and she took silver in the 1973 world championships. She was also a five-time U.S. National Champion and was the highest-paid female athlete of her time.
But before all that, she trained in Rockton.
According to Lynn, it never would have happened without Williamson, the man behind the resort. She said he was quiet in his generosity, but it showed through after she won the Junior National Championships at age 12.
“If it was not for Mr. Williamson deciding that he would sponsor me at that time, I would have had to stop skating completely at age 12.” Lynn said. “Its long past time that people knew that he was very generous, and not just to me.”
The Ice Palace was only one part of the Wagon Wheel Resort, which closed in 1989. At its height it included a hotel and resort, swimming pool, bowling alley, restaurants, a candy kitchen, a theater, a golf course and a landing strip.
“Before the Dells came up, the Wagon Wheel was the place in the Midwest for people to go,” said Marilyn Mohring of the Rockton Township Historical Society.
While the resort is gone, its memory lives on.
Mohring said the historical society hosts an annual Wagon Wheel day where people reminisce about the resort. Lynn attended the event a few years ago and told the people there that she was working on this book.