World War II and roller rinks: 95-year-old Federal Way resident shares his story

Del Carlino is known as the unofficial “Mayor of Lake Dolloff.”

Federal Way resident Del A. Carlino is known as the unofficial “Mayor of Lake Dolloff.”

The 95-year-old World War II Army Air Corps veteran shared his stories of war and roller skates on a recent afternoon.

Carlino was born and raised in Seattle, prior to enlisting in the Air Corps at age 17; his father signed for him to join, he said. A first-generation Italian Catholic, Carlino attended Franklin High School in Seattle before his service.

He was deployed in the Southeast Pacific theater, specifically to the C.B.I., or China-Burma-India Triangle. Throughout his more than 25 missions, Carlino flew Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber planes and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for military transport.

In the Second World War, Carlino also flew his C-46 Twin prop cargo plane “over the hump.” Traveling from India to China, this terminology describes flying over the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains.

Throughout his career, Carlino and his plane were escorted by combat pilot Greg “Pappy” Boyington’s Black Sheep Squadron. Boyington was the recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

When Carlino was in the service, he was given the opportunity to select the type of gun he wanted to carry. He chose a .45-caliber automatic handgun.

He often kept his gun in an inner pocket of his leather jacket with strips of bullets strapped around his waist. He also wore a second belt around his midsection for currency safekeeping.

“I wore two belts underneath my clothes. In one I had $500 bills in there,” he said. “A lot of them.”

Eventually, Carlino was transferred to a ship traveling from China to Seattle, which he was aboard for more than a month.

“That boat… we had all kinds of trouble coming back to Seattle because the Japanese had sowed mines around the islands in the South Pacific where we had to go through,” he said.

Trailing an outfit on floaters, there were two or three explosions that reminded the crew of the dangerous waters below.

The trip did bring one sweet surprise: Carlino tried ice cream for the first time during this voyage.

“Now I’m nuts about ice cream,” he said with a smile.

Upon arriving in Seattle, “they said ‘by the way, you’re the only one that’s getting off here,’” he recalled.

Bounding down the gangplank as the boat pulled into Seattle around midnight, Carlino was met with a five-piece band and, in the crowd, his sister, whom he had not seen in nearly four years.

“There was music there. Everybody was yelling and screaming on our boat … I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” he said of the joyous welcome home.

The first thing he had in mind once he was out of the service was roller skating.

“I really loved to roller skate, I always wanted to own a rink,” he said.

Carlino and Gino, his friend and eventual business partner, were roller skating champions, especially in the sport of skate dancing.

Carlino and his then-girlfriend, Doris, were stars of the rink, he said. To enter the rink, he would often lift his partner up in the air for their signature move “the Statue of Liberty.”

“I was a ham,” Carlino said with a laugh. He and Doris eventually got married.

Carlino and Gino opened up a skating rink in Kirkland, which they operated for two years. Then Carlino opened up a roller rink near Lake Sammamish for four years. He also operated a third rink in Birch Bay near Bellingham.

At this time, Carlino was also building custom skates for dance skaters that included a slipper-style boot of the skate. He also invented a new toe piece, which improved spinning while dancing and made for safer, easier stops.

These upgraded skates sold all over the United States, and also to Italy and Germany, he said.

“He’d make the shoe, I built the frames, we put them together and sold them,” he said of his collaboration with an Italian shoemaker.

Carlino found his start in his day job when a manager from Huntington Rubber Company in Seattle reached out to request a pair of customized skates for his daughter.

Carlino agreed, and later went on to work for Huntington and Beloit Corporation, working his way up to be vice president of the company after 39 years. Carlino moved to Federal Way in 1957.

“I’ve been all over paper mills throughout the world,” he said. Carlino traveled the whole world with the Huntington business and saw “whatever I didn’t see in the army.”

In Federal Way, Carlino built a home for his mother adjacent to his home near Lake Dolloff. His neighbor is a friend of more than 50 years, Don Amundson.

Amundson attended Federal Way High School and, standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall, was a star on the basketball team. The two met and remained friends when Amundson received a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at Seattle University in 1959.

Carlino and Amundson now live three houses away from each other and have lunch every Tuesday together at the Federal Way Senior Center.

The two share stories, advice, and life lessons with the company of their partners over the weekly meals.

According to Carlino, the secret to a long life is to let things go.

“Just ignore a lot of the stuff people throw at you,” he said. “Just let it pass by, it isn’t worth the stress.”