A Short History Of Skating Stamps

Hungarian stamp issued in conjunction with the 1963 European Championships

Licking a stamp and putting it on an envelope... in the electronic world we live in today, to many it almost seems like a foreign concept. However, without the postal service figure skating never would have survived. Just think of all of the letters written by skaters all around the world; the competitions and shows that were organized and federations founded upon the written correspondence of those who have loved the sport.

Central African Republic stamp depicting John Curry at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games

An interesting footnote from skating history is the fact that many nations over the years have paid homage to skating by creating special postage stamp art issues. The first country ever to issue a skating stamp was Hungary back in 1925 and since then Canada, the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland, Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Norway, Poland, Czechsolovakia, Monaco and Austria have been among those countries who have followed suit.

Even some highly unlikely nations have issued ice skating stamps, among them the Dominican Republic and the Republic Of Burundi. The first Olympic (speed) skating stamp was issued by Germany in conjunction with the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A figure skater didn't appear on an Olympic stamp until 1956.

Burundi stamp depicting a skater at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games

The heyday of skating stamps was really the fifties and sixties. Dr. Sidney Soanes, a skating judge from Leaside, Ontario, was one of the most enthusiastic stamp collectors in the skating community during this period. He regularly penned articles for "Skating" magazine detailing his latest finds. Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont, a 1920 Olympian who served as the President of the National Skating Association in the fifties and sixties, was also the founding President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society.

Eastern European countries and Russia were the 'leaders' in producing skating stamps. In 1955, the small mountainous Republic of San Marino produced one and a half million stamps of skaters, skiiers and bobsledders just in time for the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo - nearly one hundred and thirty times the country's population at the time. However, in his 1975 book "Topical Stamp Collecting", M.W. Martin noted that "the world's leader in skating stamps is Russia, who entered the 'skating stamps club' early in 1935, and has since issued them on seventeen different occasions."

Finnish and Japanese stamps depicting skaters at the 1977 European and World Championships

Curiously, skating's connection to stamp collecting actually predated the first skating stamp. Back in July of 1877, esteemed philatelist, author and (ironically) forgery expert William Dudley Atlee was convicted in Birmingham of embezzling money from the Moseley Skating Rink Company in England, a rink making outfit of which he was the secretary. He served twelve months in jail for his offence. As a result, in April 1879 at a meeting at the Trafalgar Hotel, the auditor of the company, Charles Timothy Starkey, proposed the dissolution and liquidation of the company's assets.

Austrian stamp commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Wiener Eislaufverein

As in virtually every other artistic medium, stamps have preserved and represented many important moments in skating history. From Barbara Ann Scott's historic first gold medal win by a North American woman at the Olympics in St. Moritz in 1948 to the one hundredth anniversary of the Wiener Eislaufverein to a stamp issued by Slovenská Pošta in conjunction with the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava, 'there's a stamp for that'. So all of you figure skating history buffs out there looking for a new hobby... philately may just be it!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1957 World Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"Dear Mom and Dad, I arrived well in Colorado Springs. We were received by David Jenkins and the other American skaters. Then came a large crowd of cowboys, some on horseback, some in the most elegant carriages in the world. I immediately got a nice cowboy hat, which is excellent for me. Then we climbed into huge, red Cadillacs. The motorcade of twenty-five such wagons, led and closed by police cars, which sounded sirens traveling so that everyone looked up and cheered, drove us to the hotel. There we were immediately welcomed by a cowboy on a horse. He performed tricks with the lasso and caught me and Ina Bauer. Then four real Indians came and performed their war dances. Franz Ningel and I have a room with bathroom. I have figure practice every day from 5 o'clock in the morning to 7 o'clock and from 11.30 to 12 o'clock free skating. The food is great. Lots of grief from your cowboy Manfred." - Letter from Manfred Schnelldorfer to his parents, February 1957

Photos courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

From February 26 to March 2, 1957, many of the best figure skaters in the world gathered at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs for the 1957 World Figure Skating Championships. A group of seventy eight skaters, officials, coaches and family members arrived in one group from Vienna, the site of the European Championships, via Zürich and New York City. They were greeted by members of the Canadian, American and Japanese teams, as well as members of the event's organizing committee, who all sported ten gallon hats, bolo ties and cowboy get-ups. Each visiting skater received a ten gallon hat of their own, and the women were given red roses. After a reception, the visitors were put in limousines and sent (with police escort) to the Broadmoor Hotel, where they were lasooed by trick roper and rider Montie Montana and treated to a ceremonial dance by members of a Ute tribe. Flags of fifteen countries installed by the local Chambers Of Commerce 'bedecked' the downtown streets of Colorado Springs as skaters toured the city in a parade of limousines and military bands on their way to City Hall, where Mayor Harry Blunt presented them all with honorary citizenships. And this was all before the event's grand opening!
Clipping courtesy "Skating" magazine

The first official event of the week-long Championships was the International Ball at the Broadmoor Hotel, a star-studded black-tie affair. Special guests included crooner Nelson Eddy, film legend Mary Pickford and Agnes Moorehead, who would go on to play Endora in the popular television series "Bewitched". Fresh pineapples were flown in from Hawaii for the 'Suprise Hawaiienne' and live lobsters were flown in from Maine for the 'Homard Victoria'. The champagne flowed freely and four years before Julia Child released "The Art Of French Cooking", a who's who of the figure skating world - and a few film stars to boot - enjoyed the finest of Parisian inspired cuisine. In the "Colorado Springs Gazette", Glad Morath reported, "A tropical effect was created in the main dining room by the use of a profusion of all-white flowers. Large bouquets featured each table, surrounded the wall sconces, and cascaded from the high crystal chandeliers. The air was laden with their fresh perfume... Skaters were seated according to the countries from which they came, and it was a great experience to watch the young, eager faces of youngsters from around the world, attending their first party in the United States. Following dinner, Johnny Heater, well known public address announcer from Los Angeles, introduced each of the contestants, who came to the stage in groups from the various countries. Each bowed or curtsied beautifully, according to the customs and manners of their respective homelands. Only about half the contestants speak English. The rest are dependent on interpreters."


Photos courtesy "Colorado Springs Gazette", held in Pikes Peak Library District’s Special Collections

Other social events included an official USFSA dinner, cocktail parties, a buffet supper and several tea parties. A dance, hosted by Harry Radix, had skaters and officials up half the night cutting up a rug to Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues".


Hank Beatty of Cleveland and Thayer Tutt of Colorado Springs played key roles in the organization of the competition. Carl W. Chamberlin had been general chairman of event, but he sadly passed away in the year leading up to the competition. The decision to award the World Championships to Colorado Springs was made at 1956 ISU Council in Cannes. ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "It is difficult for us to imagine today... the importance of the action. Despite the post-War success of the North Americans, the Union and its Championships were still very much a European institution with a great majority (twenty out of twenty-seven) of the Members coming from the Nations. The breakthrough... would rapidly change the picture of competition throughout the World. At the time, the decision was unprecedented, since the Championships had been held in the United States only once twenty-seven years before in New York in 1930."

Montie Montana in the lobby of The Broadmoor. Photo courtesy Allison Scott.

For the first time since 1951, Japan was represented on the World stage. The National Skating Union of Japan sent a team of five skaters to Colorado Springs, including their diminutive twelve year old National Bronze Medallist Yuko Araki, who became something of a media darling. Japanese judges Haruo Konno and Shotaro Kobayashi made history as the first trial judges from Japan to participate in an ISU competition. Kobayashi went on to judge at the 1960 Winter Olympics; Konno at several World Championships. Members of the Japanese contingent in Colorado Springs filmed almost every minute of the competition for education purposes.


Photos courtesy "Colorado Springs Gazette", held in Pikes Peak Library District’s Special Collections

However, there were certainly some notable absences. Marianna and László Nagy, Eszter Jurek and Miklos Kucharowitz and Helga Zöllner were denied Visas by the U.S. Legation in Budapest just over a week prior to the start of the event. Soviet champs Lev Mikhailov, Elena Osipova, Nina and Stanislav Zhuk were also refused Visas as was the Czechoslovakian team, which included European medallists Karol Divín and Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal. The Cold War played a key a role in the U.S. State Department's decision not to grant entry Visas to skaters from behind the Iron Curtain. At the time, Soviet citizens were for instance excluded from visiting cities with populations less than one hundred thousand citizens and were barred from travelling near military installations, ports and coastlines. A map issued in 1957 called "U.S. Areas and Municipalities Closed or Open to Travel by Certain Soviet Citizens" showed parts of Colorado were off limits.





Clipping courtesy "Skating" magazine


In "Skating World" magazine Vancouver judge June White Pinkerton recalled, "The weather was delightful, ranging between 50 and 65 degrees during the day, and many suntans were plainly visible, having been acquired sitting around the outdoor pool... The common bond of a love of skating was so evident everywhere from the friendliness displayed by [all the skaters]. Even the language barrier had no effect on this, as we all extended a warmth of welcome to each other."

Yuko Araki and Junko Ueno, Manfred Schnelldorfer and June Markham and Courtney Jones. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

How did things play out on the ice at this historic competition? Let's hop in the time machine and find out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt had turned professional to join the Wiener Eisrevue and Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden had retired. Marianna and László Nagy and Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal's entry Visa issues meant that fourteen year old Marika Kilius and twenty year old Franz Ningel, two time World Roller Champions, were the only reigning World or European Medallists in attendance. After the withdrawal of Liesl Ellend and Konrad Lienert (an Austrian pair who placed fourth at Europeans) due to injury, there were only five teams remaining - the lowest number since 1933!


All but the West German judge, who voted for Kilius and Ningel, placed Toronto teenagers Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul first. Kilius and Ningel took the silver over teenagers Maria and Otto Jelinek by only one point... and it was that first place ordinal from the West German judge that ultimately cost the Jelinek's the silver as the French judge had tied the two pairs. Americans Nancy Rouillard and Ron Ludington placed fourth, one spot ahead of seventeen year old British Champions Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles.

Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

Wagner and Paul were the only team who didn't fall at least once. Theresa Weld Blanchard recalled, "Wagner-Paul skated a fast and zippy program in championship form, giving an interesting succession of difficult moves, flowing from one to the other in a deceptively simple manner; their beautifully positioned spirals were well placed for contrast. Their ease, height and freedom of their lifts and jumps, their unison of body lean and keen, deep running edges made one quickly forget the disparity in height difference. They were brilliant."


THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The retirement of reigning World Champions Pamela Weight and Paul Thomas meant that new winners would be crowned in Colorado Springs. Nearly everyone expected British couples to sweep the podium as they had at the European Championships and the previous three Worlds. That's not exactly how things played out.

There were so many spectators for the compulsories that extra seats had to be placed on the ice, to the annoyance of the competitors. Eighteen year old magician's daughter June Markham and twenty three year old RAF airman and dressmaker Courtney Jones took a unanimous lead after the Foxtrot, European Waltz, Paso Doble and Argentine Tango. The surprise was that a Canadian couple, Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan and an American couple, Sharon Mckenzie and Bert Wright, were second and third. Neither couple had even competed the year prior in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

As some couples seemed to nail one dance then bumble through another, there was considerable range in the judging. The Austrian judge had British dancers Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby third while Canadian judge Pierrette Devine gave them a 3.8 and had them tenth. They placed sixth in the compulsories.

June Markham and Courtney Jones in their ten gallon hats. Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd.

With a foxtrot/blues/mambo free dance packed full of clever, lightning fast footwork, Markham and Jones became the new World Dance Champions. Fenton and McLachlan earned just six points less than the winner and made history as the first Canadian dance team to medal at the World Championships. McKenzie and Wright, just over two points behind Fenton and McLachlan, took the bronze. The teams in fourth through sixth were separated by only seven ordinal placings and less than five points. Canada's second entry, Toronto's Beverley Orr and Hugh Smith, placed eighth. They were last minute replacements for Lindis and Jeffery Johnston, who threw in the towel after being frustrated with their marks at the North American Championships. The fact that British couples hadn't swept the podium again gave hope to North American dancers but served as a great disappointment to the grand dame of British ice dance Gladys Hogg, who worked with all the top British teams.

Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Six of the European couples free-danced to Douglas Walker's recordings; two even used the same introduction. Canadian and U.S. dancers had developed style. Several couples violated the rules with separations, lengthy spirals, and spins. The worst violation, though, was in continuing to use the music as background rather than skating with it. Two couples used concert music; one skated a pair. Instead of becoming 'old hat,' free dance increasingly challenged dancers. Only the top couples displayed consistently rhythmic free dancing, subtle knee action, and original moves."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Ingrid Wendl. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

The retirement of Tenley Albright meant that seventeen year old Carol Heiss' defense of her World title might prove a little easier. Dressed in a black turtleneck dress, Heiss took a strong lead in the first figure and built upon it in the remaining five, amassing an impressive forty five point lead in the first phase of the competition. Sixteen year old Ingrid Wendl, the bronze medallist from the 1956 Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was second. Seventeen year old Hanna Eigel, the reigning European Champion, was third. Though the standard of the top women was very high, many of the rest of the skaters didn't perform their best in the school figures. Theresa Weld Blanchard lamented, "All the ladies seemed to be under extreme pressure, which showed up in the figures and likewise in the judges' marks. In the loops especially, there seemed to be general criticism about flying arms and free legs, with poor control and coordination. An occasional figure in this World competition was considered below our Fifth Test standard."

Photo courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Thirty two thousand spectators filled the Broadmoor World Arena for the women's free skate. Dressed in fire engine red chiffon with rhinestones, Carol Heiss skated to a medley of classical music including Adolphe Adam's "Giselle". She took an unusual slip on a spin but otherwise skated extremely well, landing Axels in both directions and a double Axel. She earned marks as high as 5.8 and 5.9 from two judges. Whereas Hanna Eigel skated quite well, Ingrid Wendl tumbled. The Austrian judge had her third in the free skate but the West German and American judges had her twelfth and thirteenth. The Swiss judge had Canada's Carole Jane Pachl third while the West German judge had her tenth. When the results were tallied, Heiss was ranked first, Eigel second, Wendl third, Pachl fourth and Claralynn Lewis of the United States fifth. Several of the skaters, including Great Britain's Erica Batchelor, complained the glare from the rink's bright lights made it difficult for them to retrace their figures.

Joan Schenke, the American skater who placed seventh, wore blue rimmed glasses when she skated. Sonja Currie was originally named to the Canadian team but suffered an injury the summer prior while horseback riding. She was replaced by Margaret Crosland, who placed fourteenth, four spots behind Canada's other entry, Karen Dixon of the Glencoe Club. Carol Heiss' younger sister Nancy, an eleventh hour replacement for Tenley Albright, was eighth. Italy's Emma Giardini, who was sixteenth, was stopped during her free skate by the referee when the needle on her record jumped ahead and she tried to get the music attendant's attention to fix it. She was allowed to start her program from where the music skipped.

Two of the competition's most popular skaters didn't even place in the top ten. Twelve year old Yuko Araki placed twentieth of the twenty one competitors, but was a crowd favourite. She was a carbon copy of Tenley Albright, who had made a visit to Japan in 1953. Araki caught the eye of Edi Scholdan, who had her and her mother Yoritsuna flown over from Tokyo that summer to train at the Broadmoor. Fourteen year old Ina Bauer of West Germany, only nineteenth in figures, was ranked second on the scorecards of all but two judges in free skate. Canadian judge Sandy McKechnie actually had her ahead of Heiss. She wore a forget-me-not blue dress which contrasted with her red hair and brought down the house - not only with the difficulty of her program but with her artistry - and moved up to eleventh overall. Dennis Bird remarked, "Ina had beautiful form and her balance of her skates is a joy to behold. I am sure she has done a lot of ballet work. She obviously has the ability to transfer variations of music into a picturesque programme, which was full of surprise moves, and radiated health at its feminine best, with her lovely auburn hair and very pretty face."

Hanna Eigel, Carol Heiss and Ingrid Wendl

Heiss' win in Colorado Springs was one of the more decisive wins during this period. She had unanimous first place ordinals overall and more than ninety two points more than Eigel. After winning, she told Associated Press reporters, "I'm just as excited at winning this time as I was last year. The only thing I miss is my mother not being here. She would have enjoyed it so much."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

There were seventeen entries from nine countries in the men's event in Colorado Springs. Notably missing were Hayes Alan Jenkins and Ronnie Robertson, the reigning gold and silver medallists from the 1956 Olympic Games and Worlds and Czechoslovakia's Karol Divín, who was considered a likely medal contender.

Donald Jackson

David Jenkins, a twenty year old pre-med student at Colorado College with a home ice advantage, was fighting off a cough. You wouldn't have known it if you saw his school figures, though. He amassed a unanimous thirty three point lead over fellow American Tim Brown, an eighteen year old junior at the University Of California. Nineteen year old pre-med student at the University of Toronto Charles Snelling placed third. A third American, Tom Moore, had been fourth after the first three figures. After the final three were skated, he found himself in fifth behind Austria's Norbert Felsinger.

Jenkins unanimously won the free skate and the gold medal with a program that balanced athleticism (he performed a triple loop) and musicality. His final score of one thousand, three hundred and thirty seven points was over sixty five points higher than his nearest challenger... so it wasn't even close. Snelling finished second in the free skate and Tim Brown, Alain Giletti of France and Donald Jackson all received third place ordinals in this phase of the event. Brown's lead over Snelling in the figures was enough for him to defeat Snelling overall by nearly twenty points, though the Canadian and French judges had the Canadian skater second. Giletti, Moore, Felsinger, Jackson, Robert Brewer, Alain Calmat and Michael Booker rounded out the top ten. The French newspaper "L'Équipe" quoted Giletti as saying, "I was robbed by gangsters. I skated as well as in Vienna and could not have done better." Theresa Weld Blanchard remarked, "As a whole, the men displayed much greater style and artistic and musical interpretation; their programs were more enjoyable to watch, often having an element of surprise and novelty that was almost completely lacking in the ladies' programs. They were carefully planned, fuller and more varied in content, particularly with respect to weaving the athletic highlights together into a unified composition by means of dance steps and flowing connecting moves." 

Sixteen year old Donald Jackson arrived in Colorado Springs alone as Otto Gold, his coach at the time, thought the cost of Jackson's parents paying his fare was too much for a competition that was about exposure and experience only. In his book "King Of Blades", George Gross recalled, "While practicing his jumps one day, Don was... happy to see to see his old part-time coach, Arnold Gerschwiler. Arnold had come to the championships only to observe - or so Don thought at first. That day Arnold asked him to continue jumping and commented on how he was doing. After several jumps Don would stop and start to skate off the ice. Arnold would ask to see just a few more jumps. Don, naive to say the least, was happy for the help he thought he was getting... After fifteen or twenty minutes [Sheldon Galbraith] came to Don and said it might be a good idea for him to stop for the day, go home, rest up for the competition. Arnold smiled weakly and quickly nodded approval before thanking Don and excusing himself. When they were alone... Sheldon mentioned to Don that Arnold had come over with a skater from England [Michael Booker] who was at about the same level as Don. He should be aware of that situation. Don protested in Arnold's defence at the time but was a little less sure of that protest later when he finished just one place ahead of Arnold's pupil."

THE AFTERMATH


David Jenkins, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Carol Heiss. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

The final event of the Championships was the Awards Dinner at the Broadmoor Hotel, where competitors were presented with pins by ISU President Dr. James Koch and trophies by North American Champion Theresa Weld Blanchard. Thayer Tutt, Vice-President of the Broadmoor Hotel, was surprised with a silver tray and scroll signed by all of the competitors as a token of appreciation for the hospitality they received. It was presented by West Germany's Marika Kilius, Japan's Junko Ueno, Australia's William Claude Cherrell and Canada's Bill McLachlan... representatives of the four continents represented and four disciplines.

Bill McLachlan, Junko Ueno, Thayer Tutt, Marika Kilius and William Claude Cherrell. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

In the days before the big winners at the World Championships embarked on exhibition tours together, the top competitors went their separate ways. David Jenkins returned to college and Carol Heiss was given the 'Sweetheart Crown' by Colonel James F. Pearsall of the 47th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado at a ceremony at The Broadmoor Hotel and invited to dine at the Infantry's base. Wagner and Paul were given a civil reception at the Mayor's Office in Toronto and given life membership with the Toronto Skating Club. They were popular stars of carnivals in both U.S. and Canada that spring. Markham and Jones performed for members of the Skating Club of New York and the general public at Rockefeller Center.

June Markham and Courtney Jones, Hanna Eigel, Carol Heiss and Ingrid Wendl, Marika Kilius and Franz Ningel, Charles Snelling, Tim Brown and David Jenkins, Maria and Otto Jelinek and Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine, Bob McIntyre.

Following the event, it was revealed that Adolf Rosdol, the Austrian Chairman of the ISU's Figure Skating Committee, had been involved a 'calculation office' scheme devised by another Austrian official, Hans Grünauer. Rosdol, who served as an Assistant Referee in Colorado Springs, instructed Austrian judges Walter Malek and Hans Meixner how to place each skater by giving signals. Despite the protestations of the Austrian federation, Rosdol was later suspended by the ISU. In 1977, his suspension was lifted by Jacques Favart. Incredibly and perhaps unsurprisingly, he was thereafter appointed as an international judge by the Austrian federation.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

From Stilt Skaters To Sun City: Show Skating In South Africa Under Apartheid


Back in November of 2015, we took a look at how competitive figure skating developed in South Africa and the role that apartheid played in limiting the early international development of amateur skaters in that country. The same factors ultimately applied to the growth of professional and show skating in that country but there were a couple of notable exceptions.


In 1936, British Open Professional Champions Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders and World and European Medallist Daphne Walker gave an exhibition at the Empire Exhibition Rink in conjunction with the World's Fair in Johannesburg. Then in the early fifties, a former member of Sonja Henie's troupe named Bob White brought his show "Ice Frolics" to Johannesburg. Quoted in the August 2, 1954 edition of "The Courier-Mail" in Brisbane, he claimed, "A team of Zulus broke the ice up with sledgehammers in 120 minutes." White starred in the show with his wife and pairs partner Peggy. Other members of the forty skater cast included stilt skater Doel Johnson and ice ballerina Helen Hayes.

Left: Peggy and Bob White in "Ice Frolics"; Right: an advertisement for Marjorie Chase's "Jack And The Beanstalk On Ice" 

From the mid fifties to the early nineties, touring ice revues such as the Ice Capades occasionally made stops in South Africa. A skater named Marjorie Chase who emigrated the country after World War II produced a yearly Christmas ice pantomime at the Durban Ice Rink, which was called Ocean City. Chase's shows would have been largely modelled after the highly popular ice pantomimes produced by Claude Langdon and Tom Arnold in England during the fifties. South African skating history buff Irvine Green explained to me that on one occasion the pantomime toured to Bloemfontein, about four hundred miles west of Durban. "Where they got the equipment to produce ice I don't know," he said. "Probably locally. Perhaps using a deep gold mine working environment cooling type of idea. I can't imagine large scale ice producing systems were ten a penny back then... and probably mostly imported in those post-war days."

The Pro-Skate Company, headquartered in New York and owned jointly by Concert Productions International of Toronto, Leber/Kriebs and Pro-Skate International of New York, was directed by Elva Clairmont Oglanby, a name you most certainly are familiar with if you've read any of Toller Cranston's books or the John Curry biography, "Alone". In the early eighties, the company produced a touring circuit of professional competitions and exhibitions in Canada that included the likes of John Curry, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Robin Cousins, Toller Cranston, Janet Lynn, Lynn Nightingale, Ron Shaver, Dianne de Leeuw and JoJo Starbuck.


In July 1985, the company made the bold move of staging a professional competition at the Sun City resort in Bophuthatswana, which housed a golf course occupied by baboons and warthogs. Bophuthatswana was a territory under South African control whose independence was recognized by the apartheid government but decried by the United Nations. Again, a who's who of professional figure skating made the trip, including Scott Hamilton, Toller Cranston, Elaine Zayak, David Santee, Norbert Schramm, Lisa Carey and Chris Harrison, Allen Schramm, Brian Pockar and Carol Fox and Richard Dalley. A number of skaters from South Africa also competed. In his book "Zero Tollerance", Cranston recalled, "The competition, if I'm to be absolutely fair, was between Scott Hamilton and me... That night I gave one of my best performances of recent years. I skated to 'Pagliacci' wearing the peacock costume. Since 'Pagliacci' has never failed and the peacock costume that has never fallen down, I was in rather good shape. Scott skated well also and won, but perhaps his Olympic gold medal was slightly shinier than my bronze. That didn't matter, because we'd all had a great time. The competition ended with a cocktail party in one of the many pavilions on the Sun City grounds." Irvine Green believed that the competition was "kept very hush-hush amongst 'those in the know' to stop international interference and 'attacks' on the foreign skaters."

Despite these fascinating efforts and others, the political climate in South Africa under apartheid simply kept many touring professional shows away. Irvine Green explained, "I am sure we 'missed out' on 'tank shows' due to sanctions. Anyone who had come here would immediately have fallen foul of international support for their shows because they had busted the sanctions on South Africa... We did of course see many international ice shows on TV, as ice skating was a very popular sport on TV in early times [though] TV only came to South Africa in 1975." However stifled by politics the development of professional skating in South Africa was, there's something absolutely delightful about picturing Toller Cranston in a peacock costume skating to "I, Pagliacci" in a territory as controversial as he was.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The Three-Turning Tinsmith: The Jersey John Story


Born April 17, 1831 in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, John Engler, Jr. was the son of John and Wilhelmina (Schersching) Engler, both Prussian immigrants. As a boy, young John apprenticed under his father as a tinsmith, first arriving in Jersey City, New Jersey when he approximately ten with his father to work on a contract to repair the city's lamps. Two years later, he joined the circus, travelling across the country as a tumbler before returning to Jersey City and taking up figure skating.

'Jersey John', as he was affectionately known by the people of New York and New Jersey, quickly rose to prominence as one of the finest 'fancy' skaters of his era and toured New England challenging the mettle of the best skaters of each city. He won medals in Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, Jersey City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Rochester, New York and Rochester, New Jersey and competed against Captain John Miner, E.T. Goodrich and Callie Curtis at the Championships Of America. Jersey John was a familiar face on many New York skating ponds during this era and a member of the exclusive Union Skating Association Of East Brooklyn, where he dazzled many with his grapevine twist. The January 9, 1919 edition of the Troy, New York "Daily Times" even claimed that he taught Jackson Haines himself "how to cut all sorts of fancy figures".

In April 1861, Jersey John enlisted as Private in Company G of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment and went off to fight in the Civil War. He was stationed in Alexandria, Virginia in defense of Washington, D.C. in his first of two stints as a Union soldier and as a First Sargeant and Colour Bearer of the 21st New Jersey Regiment in his second, fighting at the Battle of Fredericksburg and Franklin's Crossing. Suffering three wounds (leg, temple and thigh) during the battles he heroically fought in, he earned four medals for bravery and sharp shooting.

Woodcut of John Engler, Jr. 'executing the backward roll' with Dolly Bedell at Union Pond

After the Civil War, Jersey John married a German woman named Lavinia. Dividing his time between skating and working as a tinsmith, he fathered fourteen children, eight of which survived. After Jackson Haines went to Europe, he re-emerged as one of the top American skaters of his day. The January 19, 1865 edition of the "Troy Press" raved, "Mr. John Engler, the great champion skater, appeared at the skating park yesterday afternoon. His performances elicited great applause from the people present. We think it would be a paying investment for the directors to engage Mr. E. to remain in Troy for a few days. He would draw patronage to the park like a 'star' at the opera house." His specialities included a spread eagle and a figure eight joined in the middle with a flying three jump.

Jersey John performed exhibitions with Carrie Augusta Moore and at the Bowery Theatre in 1870, where he was billed as the 'Skatorial King Of The World' and performed on three foot stilts. Though technically a professional, he received instruction from Andrew J. Dupignac, a Coney Island hotel keeper who served as the President of the New York Skating Club. In 1868, he won a competition billed as the 'professional fancy skating ice championship' and was heralded 'the Skatorial king'.


However, Jersey John's biggest claim to fame wasn't the fact that he was a pioneer in the sport or that he had reportedly taught Jackson Haines... it was his longevity! An avid fisher and hunter, he continued to skate well into his eighties and was by all accounts fit as a fiddle. Amusingly, the January 19, 1919 edition of the "Bisbee Daily Review" noted, "He has smoked all his life and used liquor moderately. Temperance and moderation in all things, he says, is one of the keynotes of his success. He has the peculiarity of eating whenever he feels like it, and often gets out of bed in the wee sma' hours o' the morning to make tea. He has not had medical attention for 10 years, but makes his own antidotes." Sadly, Jersey John passed away on March 22, 1922 at the age of ninety, his legacy all but obscured by the mists of time.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

#Unearthed: Dolly's Skates


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time.

Marshall Steele's "Dolly's Skates" came from a Victorian children's reader called "Little Bright Eyes" compiled by Helen Marion Burnside, Antony Guest and S.E. Bennett, found in the University Of Florida's Digital Collections. The book was inscribed: "A prize awarded to Ethel Margaret Smith for Good General Progress. Christmas 1898." This piece beautifully puts the importance of skating in the perspective of the holiday season. Pour yourself a cup of holiday cheer and have a read!

"DOLLY'S SKATES" (MARSHALL STEELE)

"You know, mother, I do really think I deserve them."

And Dolly's big brown eyes looked up very gravely into her mother's.

"Oh, and why?" said mother, trying to hide the smile that would turn the corners of her mouth.

"Because I have saved and saved, you can't think how hard, and so long, too - I should say it was years. And I haven't bought anything, no sweets, and no tea-sets, and - nothing."

"Oh yes, you have!" said mother, looking down very tenderly at the little face up-turned to hers, and giving Dolly's hand a little squeeze as they walked briskly along the frozen street. "You gave Daddy that nice pocket-book on his birthday, and me that beautiful fuchsia, on mine."


"Why, of course; what's the good of mothers and daddies if you can't give them things?"

"What, indeed?" said her mother. "And now you are going to have your reward for saving."

"Yes," cried Dolly, nodding her little head till the bright brown locks shook themselves loose beneath her pretty red hood. "Now I am going to buy my skates - four shillings and threepence."

She said "four shillings and threepence," because it sounded so much more important than "four and three." At the thought of the purchase she was going to make, she began tripping merrily along by her mother's side in little polka steps, and then suddenly dropped into a very quiet and well-behaved style of walking.

"Oh, I forgot," she said. "Nurse says ladies don't dance in the street. But I am so happy, because I'm going to learn skating, aren't I, mother?"

She held her little head up very proudly, for it really is a great and wonderful thing to learn skating when you are only six. Why, there was her cousin Nellie only just beginning to learn, and she, as Dolly said, was almost quite growed up - sixteen, or some enormous age like that.

"Let us go down here," said mother, and they turned into a bye street full of poor shabby cottages. "It's a short cut, and the road is sure to be clean in this hard frost."

They were not quite so merry now, for mother's eyes were grave and sad as she looked from time to time at the unwholesome dwellings and the poor shivering people who came in and out of them; and Dolly, seeing the children playing in the streets, and noticing what poor shabby clothes they had, and how few even of them, felt somehow - she could not understand why - a little ashamed of herself. But the poor children seemed happy enough, and laughed and shouted and scampered about.

Presently, to her great surprise, Dolly noticed a little girl, rather younger than herself, running down the street, holding in her arms a lovely wax doll, dressed in the height of doll's fashion. Just then the most terrible accident happened. The little girl was stepping on to the path, and was so wrapped up in her beautiful doll that she did not notice she was crossing over a slide the boys had made.



At that moment a boy came flying down like the wind, and he accidentally knocked the doll out of her hand. The boy behind him, not having time to stop himself, stumbled against it, and in recovering himself trod right on the doll's face and smashed it to pieces. Just as he jumped off it, a mischievous fox terrier jumped on, and seizing the doll in its mouth tore its beautiful clothes to tatters. The poor little owner of the doll set up a dismal and dreadful howl, and Dolly felt inclined to cry with her. She dropped her mother's hand, and ran over to the little girl.

"O, little girl," she cried, "I am so very sorry for you."

The little girl stopped howling and looked up surprised that anyone who looked like a fairy out of a story book should stop to speak to her, and to speak so kindly too.

"Who gave it to you?" Dolly went on.

"I dot her at a treat yast night," said the little girl, sobbing again quite bitterly. "The kind lady dave it me. O, my booful dolly - my booful ickle dolly!"

Then Dolly ran up to her mother with tears in her pretty brown eyes.

"Mother," she said, "I don't want to buy any nasty skates. I want to buy that poor little girl a new doll."

"So you shall, my darling," said her mother. "Is this your little girl?" she went on, turning to a respectable woman who, at the sound of crying, came hurrying down the street, drying her arms on her apron.

"Yes, ma'am; and whatever the poor mite 'ill do without her doll I can't say. It's cruel hard."

"My little girl," Dolly's mother went on, "has been saving up her money to buy herself something; but she tells me it will make her much happier if she may buy your child another doll. May she?"

"It's a true lady you are, ma'am, to ask me like that. And I say God bless your pretty darling for thinking of such a thing. It will make my Rosie as happy as a bird in spring; and she don't have more happiness than she can do with."


So Rosie and Dolly and Dolly's mother went off hand in hand to the toy shop, and there Dolly bought the prettiest, daintiest doll, with flaxen hair, and clothes that you could take off and put on again. And when Rosie kissed Dolly and ran away, with her little heart full of joy and pride, Dolly felt consoled for the loss of the pleasure she had been looking forward to.

"I am the wee-est little bit sorry," she whispered to her mother, as they trudged back; "because I did want the skates very badly, but I'm much more happier."

When Daddy heard the story, he looked very proud of his little girl as he bent and asked her whether she would like him to give her a pair of skates.


"Oh no, Daddy, dear," said Dolly. "That would spoil everything."

So Dolly's skates have still to be bought; but she has begun to save up again for them, and I think she will have enough money to buy them before the next frost comes.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Controversy And Combination Spins: The Audrey Miller Story

Photo courtesy the City Of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1257, Series 1057. Used with permission.

Born February 11, 1918 in Toronto, Ontario, Audrey Elinor Miller was the daughter of Toronto born salesman Herbert Edmund Miller and Wisconsin born Gladys Violet (Adams) Miller. Like so many great Canadian skaters, she spent her winters toiling away on patch sessions at Toronto's prestigious Granite Club.

A late bloomer by today's standards, her first big success came at the age of twenty one when she placed a creditable third in the junior women's event behind Mary Rose Thacker and Norah McCarthy at the 1937 Canadian Championships. The following year, she moved up to second in the junior women's event behind McCarthy in a field of six. 'Skating up' in the senior women's event, she placed sixth, well below winner Eleanor O'Meara. The January 22, 1939 issue of "The Daily Illini" noted she was "famed for her her interpretive free skating." As was the case with many promising skaters at the time, World War II got in the way of her competitive aspirations and the lure of the almighty dollar beckoned at a time when Sonja Henie fever was at its height.

Photo courtesy the City Of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1257, Series 1057. Used with permission.

Audrey turned professional and for a time skated in the ice shows in the restaurant at the Hotel New Yorker before moving to California and taking a job as the chorus director for film and ice show producer Boris Petroff. While there, she skated in the first major ice show in Long Beach, "Hollywood On Ice". When the Canadian National Exhibition rebooted up again in 1947 after the War, the organizers were eager to capitalize on the Barbara Ann Scott craze with a midway attraction like no other: an ice show. Barbara Ann or Belita she was not, but Audrey certainly had some lovely eight by tens and more than a few industry connections.

Photo courtesy the City Of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1257, Series 1057. Used with permission.

She put together The Audrey Miller Ice Show - the CNE's first skating production - which opened in 1948 in a twelve thousand seat big top previously used for Terrell Jacobs' Wild Animal Circus. It later moved to a more permanent structure designed by Jack Ray and Joe Drambour, the midway architect for Palisades Park.


The Audrey Miller Ice Show was performed up to ten shows a day on a twenty by twenty four foot ice surface, replete with its own ice-making equipment. The cast was mainly Canadian, and including an eight woman chorus and two to four male performers, mainly cast from the hotel ice show circuit. Audrey skated one of her big solos to "My Moonlight Madonna". It was the unheralded Canadian's first and only major big and sadly, it was a short-lived one.

Photos courtesy the City Of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1257, Series 1057. Used with permission.

Audrey packed it back up and headed back south to California and took a job directing ice revues at the St. Moritz Figure Skating Club with fellow Canadian Hubert Sprott before marrying Darragh Daniel Phelan, a ruddy-faced cab driver with a scar on his face, and moving to Florida. If Audrey Miller's Ice Show wasn't obscure and compelling enough for you, wait until you hear about her controversial life afterwards.


Audrey caused a huge raucous in July 1944 when she showed up in a U.S. District Court in St. Louis to apply for American citizenship. She was asked to take the Oath Of Allegiance alongside Private Terry Takeshi Doi, an American born graduate of the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling who had lost his American citizenship when he was required to briefly serve in the Japanese army while attending school overseas.

Audrey refused to take the Oath and stormed out of the courtroom saying, "How can I be sworn in alongside a man who belonged to an army now killing American boys?" It was later revealed that Doi, a Technician Fifth Grade Sergeant, was one of the first soldiers who had set foot on Iwo Jima... and had earned the Silver Star for entering a cave unarmed to urge Japanese soldiers to surrender. Audrey got blasted in the April 19, 1945 issue of "St. Paul Pioneer Press" for her anti-Japanese sentiments and the word of the controversy made it all the way to the American War Department, Military Intelligence Division in Washington. She never publicly apologized.

Photo courtesy the City Of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1257, Series 1057. Used with permission.

By April 1960, Audrey and her husband were arrested in Marion County, Florida for "contributing to dependency of minors". She was back in court in October 1961, suing a man she had been in an automobile collision with and the car's owner for fifty one thousand dollars, claiming she had been "disfigured by a scar and suffered shocks, cuts, bruises and leg and internal injuries". Her husband died within the decade and Audrey lived out her days in Lake Worth, Florida, passing away on April 18, 1998 at the age of eighty. Her story serves as a reminder for many skaters, fame is short-lived and life after skating? Not always a fairy tale.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Four Fabulous Forgotten Canadian Skaters From The Forties

While war raged overseas in Europe, the Canadian figure skating community certainly felt the reverberations. The Hamilton Skating Club's annual opening tea was delayed by tea rationing until the club's executive could obtain a 'special tea permit' from the powers that be in Ottawa. The Toronto Skating Club donated two station wagons to the Blood Donor Service and stopped using props and stage sets in its annual carnivals for a time as the wood needed for the war effort. By 1944, an estimated fifty percent of adult male members of CFSA clubs were on active or defence duty. Winnipeg and Halifax rinks were taken over for military purposes and many skating clubs were forced to alter their programming or seek new arenas. When London, Ontario skaters lost their rink in St. Thomas, they were forced to skate outdoors in a park, investing their funds in victory bonds. Although we tend to glorify Canadian figure skating in the forties a little because of a fabulous little lady named Barbara Ann Scott, it really wasn't all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. However, many talented up-and-coming skaters emerged on the scene in this period that have somehow fallen into obscurity over the years. Today we'll meet four of these fabulous figure skating folks and learn a little about their stories and accomplishments!

ALAN ANDERSON



Hailing from Oshawa, Ontario, Alan Anderson was considered something of a child prodigy in his day. As a youngster in 1945, he won his skating club's intermediate boy's title and the McLaughlin Trophy. The following he won the club's junior pairs competition with partner Nancy Burns. By 1950, he was a repeat winner of the club's senior men's title and was runner-up in school figures and the bronze medal winner at the Canadian Championships in the junior men's category.


Again finishing third in 1951 behind Peter Dunfield and Charles Snelling, Alan moved up to second in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships in 1952. A charismatic skater, Alan portrayed "Robin Hood" in a club carnival and wowed audiences with his interpretation of Franz von Suppé's "Light Cavalry Overture". Though he never managed to duplicate his success in the senior ranks, Alan's name is on a heck of a lot of dusty trophies at the Oshawa Skating Club.

DAWN MARIE STECKLEY




Like Alan Anderson, Dawn Steckley hailed from the Oshawa Skating Club and was considered something of a rising star in the mid to late forties. A versatile young skater, she excelled in figures, free skating, pairs and in an 'all girl trio' in the club's carnival. In 1953, she amassed three medals at the Canadian Championships at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa: the junior pairs title with partner David Lowery and the silver medals in both the senior pairs and women's events, behind Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden and Barbara Gratton respectively. Narrowly missing the medal podium in both the women's and pairs events at the 1953 North American Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, she retired from competitive skating after winning a bronze medal with Lowery in the senior pairs event and dropping to fourth in the women's event at the 1954 Canadian Championships in Calgary. While skating, she attended the Oshawa Collegiate Vocational Institute, where she won a scholarship for having one of the highest scholastic standings. She later coached at the Cleveland Skating Club. Sadly, Dawn passed away in 2002 of cancer.

NADINE PHILLIPS


Once considered the 'next big thing' in Canadian women's skating, Nadine Adair Phillips' aspirations for gold were thwarted by the success of Barbara Ann Scott. After winning the 1943 Canadian junior women's champion, Nadine won three medals in the senior women's championships from 1944 to 1947 but she was never able to defeat Canada's Sweetheart. During her competitive career, she divided her training time between the Toronto Skating Club and Oshawa Skating Club. Known for her charming 'gay' style, she skated to everything from "Oklahoma!" to M.K. Jerome's "Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart". Tragically, Nadine passed away suddenly on February 24, 1947 in Toronto at the age of nineteen. Her cause of death was not announced.

GERRY BLAIR    



Representing the University Skating Club in Toronto, Gerrard 'Gerry' Blair burst on the Canadian skating scene in 1946, winning the silver medal in the junior men's event behind Wally Distelmeyer. The following year, he became the Canadian junior men's champion and 'skating up' in the senior men's event claimed the bronze behind Norris Bowden and Distelmeyer. Blair had been raised and educated in England, became seriously interested in skating at the age of twelve and emigrated to
Canada at the age of sixteen.

Advertisement courtesy "Skating" magazine

Following the War, he married Betty Lee, a pairs skater from Chevy Chase, Maryland and moved to the States to coach with his wife at the Hershey Figure Skating Club, the Westminster Figure Skating Club of Erie in Pennsylvania and at a rink in Orange, New Jersey run by the Essex County Recreational Commission. The Blair's later taught at the summer skating school in Cobourg, Ontario and in Toronto. Among Gerry's students was Paul Tatton, the 1954 Canadian Bronze Medallist.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.