Judy: Hey, what are you doing?
Skip: What like right now?
Judy: What? No! Just get your butt to Cornwell’s Monday night. I need your help.
Judy: Yeah, and bring your skates.
After Roller Derby had folded in the early 90’s, both Judy “The Polish Ace” Sowinski and Arnold “Skip” Schoen had settled in Philadelphia—she in the South and he in the North. Keeping in contact with each other and visiting one another’s homes for holidays and cookouts, it wasn’t unusual for Skip to get an occasional call from Judy.
After forging a friendship on the road with the strong-willed Judy during their Roller Derby days, Skip knew better than to give the brush off to the “Queen of Mean.”
“You see,” Skip says with a boyish smile, “I could have said no to Judy and she would have had to call me back, been nice and sweet. But soft wasn’t Judy’s style. Judy was tough—especially if she saw talent. She saw that with this group.”
So, because he knew better, Skip showed up to the rink at Cornwell’s, skates in hand, to help out an old friend. What greeted him there, however, was a ragtag group of girls covered in tattoos and piercings and with anything but a natural shade atop their heads. With Judy’s instructions, Skip strapped on his skates and rolled over to meet the godmothers of what we now know as Penn Jersey Roller Derby.
Promptly, sneaker-shoed Judy began laying hits on Skip to show the girls proper technique for shoulder and tricep blocks. Skip remembers the beating fondly, saying, “I just sort of had to take it. And you can bet Judy wasn’t pulling any punches.”
After he had returned home and was nursing aches he hadn’t felt in over a decade, Skip’s phone rang:
Judy: So, what’d you think?
Skip: What the hell did you get me into!
Judy: I know, but look beyond the tattoos and the piercings and the hair. They’re all really very nice girls and eager to learn. I need your help training them.
And so Skip came back, again and again, to stand by Judy’s side and teach how to play the game they still loved to a new generation of skaters.
Skip recalls that Judy tended to have this down-played reaction to things that would inevitably make her happy. She was contacted to help PJRD with its training and said she’d come by to help a couple of times. Her watered-down commitment of a couple of times turned into twice a week for three years, until she became too ill to attend. Despite her absence of three years, Judy's presence is still felt in the league. Her memorial mural on the PJRD warehouse walls continues to welcome all new skaters with open arms.