Brilliant Britons: Three More Forgotten British Skating Pioneers

Photo courtesy Wellcome Library

Without a doubt, Great Britain played one of the most important roles in the early development of figure skating. From The Skating Club to the earliest textbooks on the technique of skating, the sport would not have evolved in the way it did had it not been for that stiff British upper lip. Today, we'll meet three more more unique skating pioneers whose stories really haven't been explored to any degree of depth previously and learn about their roles in figure skating history.

LADY URSULA BLACKWOOD



Born February 7, 1899 in Chelsea, London, England, Lady Ursula Florence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood was the second daughter of Captain Terence Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the second Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and the Marchioness of Dufferin, Flora Davis, a wealthy American singer who was the daughter of a banker in New York City.

In their youth, Lady Ursula and her sisters Doris and Patricia divided their time between Curzon House in Mayfair, London and the family's country estate Gopsail in Leicestershire. They were doted on by servants and had the pleasure of viewing paintings by Rembrandt, Murillo and Van Dyke in their own home.


Lady Ursula's father served with the Diplomatic Service, as did her grandfather Lord Dufferin. When Lord Dufferin served as Governor General of Canada from 1872 to 1878, he played a very important role in developing figure skating in Canada, shelling out over a thousand dollars to furnish Rideau Hall in Ottawa with an outdoor skating rink for members of the public who were "properly dressed"... so I guess you could say Lady Ursula had skating in her blood.


Like all of 'the best sort of people' in London at the turn of the century, Lady Ursula got her start on skates at Prince's Skating Club at Knightsbridge. In the spring of 1908, she finished second to Herbert James Clarke at the club's annual junior competition, besting future Olympic Medallist Arthur Cumming in the process. Unfortunately, her early success never translated to a top three finish at the British Championships. In her only appearance at the World Championships in Stockholm in 1913, she placed dead last. During The Great War, her uncle was seriously wounded in action and her father died of influenza. She returned to the ice, but never chose to compete again.

Lady Ursula, Lady Doris and Lady Patricia Blackwell

In 1924, Lady Ursula took charge of a 'unique store' just behind Londonerry House called the Department of General Traders. A year later, her mother passed away of heart disease, and in 1926 she married Arthur Swithin Newton Horne, the brother of Sir Allan Horne and a former Government Secretary of the Federated Malay States. She passed away on February 9, 1899 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. In his book "A Bundle From Britain", Alastair Horne recalled, "Newt's wife, Aunt Ursie, who always had the purest of white hair as far back as I can ever remember, had a devastating Irish sense of humour, replete with a certain Celtic addiction to embroidery. As a child, I was wary of her tongue."

BASIL WILLIAMS



Born March 11, 1891 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Basil John Williams was the son of Nicolas and Edith Isabela (Freeland) Williams. His father was Irish; his mother Brazilian. In the early twentieth century, Basil moved to Aighton, Lancashire with his mother. As a very young man, he had some luck in the stock market. In fact, he was lucky enough to be able to afford not only a pair of skates... but the winters in Switzerland that went along with it.


In 1912, Basil competed in his first British Championships and placed a surprise second to Arthur Cumming, the 1908 Olympic Silver Medallist in special figures. That same year, he entered the World Championships for the first and only time. He placed fifth with his partner Edna Harrison, but the duo were the top ranked of the three British couples who entered. The following year, Basil won the British title, defeating Phyllis (Squire) Johnson and a host others. He did not defend his title in 1914. Instead, it was reclaimed by Arthur Cumming, who skipped the 1913 Championships.

During The Great War, Basil served in the army in Gallipoli. He was wounded in Palestine, but remained in the army for the duration of the war. After the War, he went into partnership with a London man named Horton. They traded as merchants under the name of Paton, Horton, and Co.

In 1920, at the age of twenty nine, Basil travelled to Antwerp, Belgium to compete in the 1920 Summer Olympics. He placed seventh out of nine entries in the men's event, but won the bronze medal in pairs skating with Phyllis (Squire) Johnson, acting as a replacement for Phyllis' ailing husband James who sadly passed away the following year. Interestingly, Basil never even competed in pairs at British Championships! Basil continued to skate well into the roaring twenties, competing in a waltzing competition in 1928 with Lady Rachel Stuart. He married the daughter of Wilbur Cherrier Whitehead, a well-known American bridge player, author and automobile company President.

Unfortunately, Basil's misadventures off the ice eclipsed his Olympic success in 1920. In April 1921, he found himself in court after being indicted for "obtaining false pretences" from a golf club steward named Thomas Frederick Newstead, with the intent to defraud the man of ten pounds. The case boiled down to the fact that Basil had been trying to collect old debts after he ended his affiliation with Paton, Horton, and Co. The case was ultimately dropped by the prosecution but earned him more than his fair share of bad publicity in the press. Ten years later, when he was managing the Richmond Ice Rink, he pled guilty to drinking and driving and was fined. The "Western Daily Press" claimed he was so tipsy when he was arrested that he did a step dance in the police station. Basil passed away in 1951 in Surrey, England, his successes as a figure skater largely forgotten.

THE CHEVALIER CROWTHER

The Chevalier Crowther was something of an enigma. Newspaper accounts from his era list his initials as T.H., G.H., T.E. and C.M... but his stage name was The Chevalier Crowther. He hailed from Yorkshire, but what his real name was a bit of a mystery. Beginning in the mid-1870's, The Chevalier began touring the world, performing his hodge podge of a vaudeville act for princes and paupers. Though primarily a roller skater, he was also a swordsman, juggler, equilibrist, unicycle and bicycle rider. Not only did he combine as many of these varied talents as he could in his act, but he also would cut the carcass of an animal - usually a sheep - in half with his sword as a grand finale.

Trying to separate the fact and fiction of The Chevalier's story is like trying to get the Caramilk out of the Caramilk bar. He loved to tell tales - some of which were true and perhaps embellished upon, and others which may well have been a big tall. He claimed to be able to speak ten languages and to have ridden his bicycle in the 1896 Olympics in Athens, where he was decorated by the Prince of Denmark. He also purported to have been shipwrecked twice, kept a pet tiger for five years and indulged in a bullfight on a bicycle. Once, while lost in a snowstorm, a kitten allegedly laid on his chest for days. "The warmth," he stated, "kept his heart beating." In Turkey, revolvers he used in his act were apparently seized by authorities. He maintained that while staying in a hotel room in Constantinople, he witnessed the execution of Americans on Stamboul Bridge from his window. He  also purported to have been shot at in a garden in Salonica. The bullet that was intended for him whistled by his right ear and ended up in the shoulder of the man standing behind him... and his mysterious assailant fled into the shadows. His most infamous claim involved riding on an eight foot bicycle over a nine inch plank across Niagara Falls. Whether or not he achieved the feat or not, he was indeed issued the title "The King Of Skaters And The Hero Of Niagara Falls" at St. Leonards Assembly Rooms, Hastings in 1892.

While few of these stories can be verified whatsoever, there's certainly more than enough evidence to support The Chevalier's fame and popularity in music halls and circuses. Passenger manifests confirm his claims of spending several years performing in Mexico and newspaper accounts place him in such varied locales as St. Petersburg, Cairo, Vienna, Guernsey, Copenhagen and Hamburg. An article in the August 1880 edition of "A Monthly Review Of The Drama, Music And The Fine Arts" raved, "The roller-skating performances of M. Crowther, at the Westminster Aquarium, eclipse anything of the kind that has ever been seen in London, and should be one of the greatest successes of the present management. M. Crowther's grace and dancing on the skates are beyond description."

The Chevalier wasn't just a daredevil... he was an unlucky one. In 1889, he was injured in Halifax when the wheel on his eight foot bicycle collapsed. He fell off, suffering a compound fracture of his left wrist. In 1904, he fell while performing a jump on roller skates at Bradford, hitting his head and suffering a concussion. He also had to take two years off from performing due to a case of the rheumatism.

Though figure skating rarely - if at all - made an appearance in 'his act', The Chevalier was no slouch on the ice. Prior to The Great War, he was a regular at the Palais de Glace in Nice, France. This rink opened for five o'clock tea and stayed open until one or two in the morning. It was staffed with an impressive team of instructors from England, France and Belgium and supported by small gambling casino. T.D. Richardson recalled, "The greatest of all, not as a skater but as a character straight from Dickens was 'Chevalier Crowther'. A Yorkshireman by origin, how he ever came to be there as a skater I never knew. A tall and commanding figure of a man, with a superb physique and a dominating personality; clad in a frock-coat, white waistcoat, tight pepper-and-salt trousers, white sided kid boots, gardenia, gloves and Malacca cane, all surmounted by a rather wide 'boater', the gallant 'Chevalier' would drive from his lodgings each morning in a ficare, down to the sea-front, past what is now the Jardin Roi Albert and then, large cigar rampant, slowly and with tremendous dignity he would stroll nonchalantly along the Promenade des Anglais - to the admiration of the ladies. It was an extraordinary sight and one unlikely to be seen ever again. The same curious control over the public was seen when he gave his almost nightly exhibition, even when really great performers were on the same programme. He would do a spiral or two, a ponderous hop which might be called a jump, a spread-eagle or two and some kind of a 'swiggle' and then come to a stop, left arm across his heart, right hand in the air pointing to the sky, while he waited for the tumultuous applause that invariably followed. He was indeed a unique personality and a great showman. [He had] a certain glamour, an air of romance; and above all a tremendous sense of style and a feeling for elegance - but then it was still an age of elegance, of luxury and opulence."

 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.

Brilliant Britons: Three Forgotten British Skating Pioneers

Photo courtesy Wellcome Library

Without a doubt, Great Britain played one of the most important roles in the early development of figure skating. From The Skating Club to the earliest textbooks on the technique of skating, the sport would not have evolved in the way it did had it not been for that stiff British upper lip. Today, we'll meet three unique skating pioneers whose stories really haven't been explored to any degree of depth previously and learn about their roles in figure skating history!

KATHLEEN SHAW


Born January 15, 1903 in Manchester, England, Gertrude Kathleen Shaw was the daughter of hydraulic engineer Percy Shaw and Gertrude Anne Hind. Raised in Barton-Upon-Irwell, Kathleen and her younger Constance grew up comfortably, attending school and being well fed by the family's cook, Florence. A successor of Madge Syers, Kathleen trained at the Manchester Skating Club and in Switzerland and regularly competed against men at the British Championships before becoming Great Britain's first women's champion when a separate women's event was added in 1927.


Though an NSA Gold Medallist who represented her country at both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, Kathleen's biggest claim to fame was a bronze medal at the 1926 World Championships in Stockholm, behind Herma Szabo and Sonja Henie. T.D. Richardson claimed that her spread eagle was the best of the women competing in her era and many accounts note her grace as a skater.
However, Kathleen faced considerable competition from Henie, Szabo, Maribel Vinson, Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith.




Though she never managed to translate her success in England to a gold medal internationally, Kathleen did enjoy a brief professional career in the late thirties. She passed away on the island of Ynys Môn off the Welsh coast on July 19, 1983 at the age of eighty.

IAN BOWHILL

Born May 27, 1903 in Edinburgh, Ian Home Bowhill was one of the first Scottish figure skaters to achieve success in Great Britain once the Continental Style became de rigueur. A stockbroker by day, Salchow lover by night, Bowhill trained at the Edinburgh Ice Rink and won the Fosterson Waltzing Cup with Miss V. Jeffrey in 1924. He placed a disastrous fourteenth out of sixteen skaters in the men's event at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France and dead last in his final international outing, the 1929 World Championships in London. After marrying Elizabeth Mabel Robertson Durham in 1930, he returned to claim the British men's title in 1932 before retiring from competitive figure skating and finding more success on the putting green than he ever did in the ice rink. Prior to World War II, he was active as an international figure skating judge. He passed away in the small town of Bachory, Scotland in 1975.

WINTER RANDELL PIDGEON

Born in January of 1860 in the London borough of Lambeth, Winter Randell Pidgeon was the son of Daniel and Lydia Pidgeon. Following in the footsteps of his father who was a civil engineer, Pidgeon studied engineering and married Mary Constance Heap of South Kensington in January 19, 1888 at the age of twenty eight. Settling in South Paddington, Pidgeon lived in the lap of Victorian luxury, with a cook, parlourmaid, nurse and housemaid catering to his every whim.


Illustration of The Pidgeon Machine. Photo courtesy "Philosophical Magazine", 1893.

By day, Mr. Pidgeon worked as the chairman of a brush factory and by night, he was an avid amateur scientist who belonged to the Physical Society. In the early 1890's, when he was in his early thirties, he invented the Pidgeon Machine, a unique 'influence machine' or electrostatic generator. Just prior to The Great War, Mr. Pidgeon was the chairman of the British Vacuum Cleaner Company, Ltd. The newfangled appliance he peddled transformed the lives of domestic servants in Great Britain.



A Freemason, Mr. Pidgeon spent much of the rest of his free time on the ice skating figures in the stiff English Style at the Wimbledon Skating Club. He was one of the most respected skaters at the club and soon became regarded as somewhat of an expert in good form, carriage and figure technique. In 1892, Mr. Pidgeon collaborated with Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams and Arthur Dryden to write an updated edition of "Figure-Skating Simple And Combined", where he extolled his views on what he believed to be the essence of the 'proper' way one would skate. He wrote: "Anyone who hopes to skate with the ease and finish characteristic of the best men, must sedulously avoid all acrobatic feats and tricky figures, and must work patiently through those only which can be properly skated in combination... Quietness of demeanour and grace of carriage should go hand in hand with concentration of energy and certainty of purpose." Although the popularity of the Continental Style of skating ultimately won out over Mr. Pidgeon's vision of what figure skating should be, his timely writings on the sport certainly helped contribute to the evolution of the sport and undoubtedly brought many Victorians to the ice who hadn't skated previously. He passed away on May 24, 1926 in Falmouth, Cornwall, England at the age of sixty six, leaving his widow a small fortune.

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.

Progress And Prophecy: The Paul Armitage Story

Photo courtesy Library Of Congress

Born February 10, 1873 in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Armitage was the son of Herbert Grayson and Helen 'Kittie' (Harbeck) Armitage. He grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where his father worked as an importer of small wares. Kittie Armitage 'kept house' with the help of a live-in servant, and raised Paul and his sister Martha. As a boy, Paul was both athletic and studious. He excelled at skiing and snowshoeing and while attending J.H. Morse's School, won the Alumni prize of free tuition to Columbia University after receiving the highest grade on his entrance exam.

Paul took up residence in Bay Shore, Long Island and graduated from Columbia University in 1894. Two years later he graduated from the University's law school. While attending Columbia, he was active in a number of student organizations and social groups. He even appeared in the Columbia College Dramatic Club's production "Confusion" in 1892.

After being admitted to the bar, Paul entered into a business partnership with one of his Columbia classmates, Archibald Douglas. Their law firm endured several name changes with comings and goings of various lawyers. The firm was one of the first tenants in the Woolworth Building on Broadway when it opened in 1912 and remained operational for over fifty years.

Paul served as counsel of the Woolworth Estates, the United Verde Extension Mining Co. and the G. R. Kinney Company. He also served as a trustee of the James Douglas Trusts, and was involved in the work of Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. A busy bee to say the least, he also served as director and chair of the American Mining Congress, Hazeltine Research and Electronics. Harnett Electrical Corporation, the Suffolk Products Corporation and the Educator Shoe Corporation Of America. An expert in taxation law, he penned several articles on mining taxation in journals of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.

A member of the Skating Club Of New York, Paul was also one of the most influential members of his city's figure skating community during The Great War and in the roaring twenties. He acted as a skating judge at many of the competitions that took place at the Hippodrome and St. Nicholas Rink.

At the Annual General Meeting of the International Skating Union Of America hosted by the Sno Birds in Lake Placid in 1921, Paul - then the chair of the Figure Skating Department - requested that control of figure skating be turned over to those who were 'directly interested' in the sport. The governing body promised that if a satisfactory organization was formed, this could happen. As a result, a notice was sent to skaters in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, and a meeting was held in New York where the USFSA was formed. In the autumn of 1922, Paul served as the first chair of the USFSA's Publications Committee, alongside Edith Eliot Rotch, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles.

In the twenties, Paul served as Chairman of the USFSA's Executive Committee for four years. as well as on a five member special committee of the Skating Club of New York devoted to reviving interest in figure skating in the city, which waned slightly after the 'Charlotte craze' during The Great War. He was instrumental in organizing some of the club's first carnivals.

In addition to his important work behind the scenes, Paul was an accomplished skater in his own right. In 1924 and 1925, he teamed up with Clara Hartman, Grace Munstock and Joel B. Liberman to win the first two U.S. fours titles in history. At the first North American Championships in Ottawa in 1923, this New York four finished second to the Minto Four in the contest for the Connaught Cup. The New York four - minus Grace Munstock - also competed for the Connaught Cup in 1921, before it was contested at the North American Championships. In his book "Fifty Years Of Skating", Joseph Chapman recalled, "Perhaps, however, I can touch upon Paul Armitage, Rosalie Dunn, Clara Hartman and Joel Liberman who composed the first New York 'four' - any one of whom would demonstrate a 'loop jump' or a 'rocker' in any hotel lobby or railroad station any time they happened to think of it." After his divorce from his first wife Alice Lyon Watson, Paul actually married his fours partner Clara Hartman. The couple raised two children.

An advocate for the musical and artistic possibilities of figure skating, Paul was passionate about both music and ballet. His obituary noted, "He was believed to be the possessor of one of the largest collections of phonograph records of classical music."

In one of his many articles for "Skating" magazine, Paul prophesied about an ice theatre of the future. He expressed, "When, some day, there be found a group possessed of sufficient energy, vision, and courage to build and support... a skating Theatre, they will dedicate it to the young skater who has not only the daring to stifle the unholy triad of tradition, technical display, and virtuosity, but the imagination and curiosity to look over the walls that tend to hem in this Fine Art, and in a spirit of adventure and with the radiance of the new day explore the horizon lying in the Beyond. He will not only be a skater but a dancer or musician, in short an artist. And on the proscenium arch of the theatre they will place the inscription, Ici L'inspiration Deploye Ses Ailles."

Paul passed away on June 28, 1949 at the age of seventy six of a heart attack in the office of his law firm... working tirelessly until his last day at one project or another that he felt would better the world of tomorrow.

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 1990 European Figure Skating Championships


Held from January 30 to February 4, 1990 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the 1990 European Figure Skating Championships provided a welcome distraction from the long Russian winters for some fifteen thousand spectators. Without a doubt, it was a historic competition.


The event marked the final time in history that compulsory figures would be included in the singles categories at the European Championships and the first time in twenty years that the Europeans would be held in Leningrad. It was the final time in history that the Europeans would ever be held in the Soviet Union.


Three venues were used. The official opening draws were held at the Pulkovskaya Hotel, men's and women's figures were held at the Yubileiny Sports Palace and all other events were held at The Lenin Sports and Concert Complex. The ISU's representative was Josef Dědič and the chairman of the local organizing committee was Vasily Rogovtsev, who also acted as the first deputy chairman on the Executive Committee of the Leningrad City Soviet of People's Deputies.


Today on the blog, we will look back at many of the fascinating stories from those 1990 Championships!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Thirteen teams competed in the pairs event in Leningrad, which many perceived was going to be a cake walk for Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, the defending Olympic and World Champions. However, three shocking errors - a missed double Axel from Gordeeva, unison problems on the side-by-side spins and a slip on the death spiral - found them third in the short program behind their teammates Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dimitriev and Larissa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. "We weren't in very good shape," admitted Gordeeva in "My Sergei: A Love Story", her 1996 book. "Sergei's shoulder was only part of the problem. I was still having difficulty with my jumps, because of my body change... We were atrocious." The next morning on Soviet television, they were lambasted. They responded with one of their finest performances of their free skate set to "Romeo And Juliet", choreographed by Marina Zoueva.


Gordeeva and Grinkov earned a spate of 5.8's and 5.9's and sole perfect mark of 6.0 to move up and claim the gold medal ahead of Selezneva and Makarov and Mishkutenok and Dimitriev. East Germans Peggy Schwarz and Alexander König and West Germans Anuschka Gläser and Stefan Pfrengle rounded out the top five.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION



American born Richard Zander, representing West Germany, earned the distinction of being the final men's figure skater in history to win the figures at the European Championships. However, a disastrous short program ultimately plummeted him out of medal contention. The short program was won brilliantly by Czechoslovakia's Petr Barna, whose masterful performance, which included a triple Lutz/triple toe-loop, triple loop and double Axel, was rewarded with marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.9. He held an ever so slight lead over Soviets Viktor Petrenko and Viacheslav Zagorodniuk and Poland's Grzegorz Filipowski, who trained in Rochester, Minnesota, entering the final phase of the competition.


When Petr Barna faltered on a quad attempt in the free skate, twenty year old Viktor Petrenko responded with an outstanding free skate that featured six triple jumps (including a solid triple Axel/triple toe-loop combination) to move up and win his first European title in his home country. Barna took the silver, followed by Zagorodniuk, Filipowski, Zander and Switzerland's Oliver Höner. Although he finished eighth after placing fourteenth in the figures, a young Frenchman named Philippe Candeloro turned many heads by coming out of nowhere and landing two triple Axel's in the short program in his European debut... and placing eleven spots above French men's champion Éric Millot.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


"It was one of the worst events I've ever seen," remarked Scott Hamilton, commentating for American television. He was pretty much spot on. After winning the figures and short program, the competition appeared to be Natalia Lebedeva of the Soviet Union's to lose. And that's precisely what she did in her meltdown of a free skate in Leningrad, settling for silver behind eighteen year old Evelyn Grossmann of Karl Marx-Stadt, a student of Jutta Müller, who really didn't fare much better.


West Germany's Marina Kiellmann took the bronze ahead of a sixteen year old dynamo from France named Surya Bonaly. Coached by Didier Gailhaguet, Bonaly wasn't even in the top ten in the school figures but she grittily attempted two different quads - the Salchow and the toe-loop -in the free skate.


West Germany's Patricia Neske, the Soviet Union's Natalia Skrabnevskaya and Yugoslavia's Željka Čižmešija, who had placed second through fourth in figures, all turned in disappointing free skating performances as well to place fifth, seventh and thirteenth respectively. In contrast with the outstanding skating in the pairs and men's event, the women's event in Leningrad is unfortunately remembered as one of the most lacklustre in the history of the European Championships. It also marked the final time a skater from East Germany won a European title.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION



Less than two months before the competition, Paul Duchesnay told reporter Herb Zurowsky, "We try to come up with something new, with innovative programs. This sport can be so much more attractive if a certain degree of freedom is allowed. There are so many rules that are not flexible, that take away the possibilities of what can be achieved on the ice. It's a shame, because the sport isn't progressing. Watching the same routines is like watching reruns on television." Armed with a sizzling Samba OSP set to Paul Simon's "Late In The Evening" and a brand new "Missing" free dance to "Dolencias" and "Sikuriadas" - both choreographed by Christopher Dean - the Canadian born brother/sister duo, representing France hoped to break the Soviet ice dance stronghold in Leningrad.

The Duchesnay's were fourth after the compulsories behind Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin and Hungary's Klára Engi and Attila Tóth and a third place finish in the OSP all but dashed any hopes of challenging the top two Soviet teams for the gold. However, in the free dance, the unthinkable happened. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "One expected the Soviet audience at Leningrad to support its own ice dancers, but the rebels brought the audience... to its collective feet with the first international unveiling of of the political dictatorship in 'Missing'... The Soviets dared applaud this danced plea for liberty."


Despite the audience's unexpected response to The Duchesnay's performance, Klimova and Ponomarenko's comparatively safe and elegant free dance set to "My Fair Lady" got the nod for the judges for gold. Usova and Zhulin's "Tango Argentina" free dance, termed as "relatively cold" by Nathalie Depouilly in her review in "Patinage" magazine, earned the silver. The Duchesnay's settled for bronze with mostly 5.7's and 5.8's... and one 6.0 for artistic impression from the French judge. Klára Engi and Attila Tóth and Oksana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov (making their debut at Europeans) rounded out the top five.

After the event, Isabelle Duchesnay remarked, "We wanted to prove we could compete against the Russians in Russia. Everybody was thinking that the Duchesnay's didn't have the guts to come and everything was against them. We had to prove that not only we would come, but also were able to do a good job.'' Paul added, "Death, the rain and the judges, we found, are three things you can't control. We are quite happy with the way we skated."

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: A World War II Memoir


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. Today's edition is an excerpt from a World War II era memoir penned by Gwen Evans, a British skater who toured South Africa in 1937 and taught at Richmond Ice Rink with Arnold Gerschwiler during World War II. Gwen was married to well-known speed skater Jack King and was close friends with Melitta Brunner. Thanks to her son David, we're now able to gain a first-person perspective of what skating was really like in England in the thirties and early forties through this rare primary source.

EXCERPT FROM GWEN KING'S MEMOIR (CIRCA 1940-43)

Early Days

There must be many skaters today who have happy memories of the Hammersmith Rink which might be said to have been (with the exception of Manchester), one of the pioneers of popular public skating as we know it today.

One day nine years ago, I went by chance to pass a spare hour and became so interested that in three months I had passed my Bronze Figures test. I was particularly fond of dancing, and used to practice a lot with the well known skater Reg Wilkie.

After gaining experience at Hammersmith, I had an offer to join the instructional staff at the rink at Oxford (since closed), and it was there that I met the late Gillis Grafström, the well known Swedish world champion whom I regard as the world's greatest skater ten years ago. He was then practicing for the Olympic Games and Championships but like many of the really good figure skaters of those days he had hitherto paid little attention to ice dances, and we used to practice them together - especially the ten-step on which he was particularly keen.

His association was particularly helpful, and I have always remembered his insistence on the importance of a good style in skating, a point I always try to impress on all my pupils. Since then my skating has taken me to different parts of the world and following one of my seasons in Switzerland, in 1937, I went to the rink at Johannesburg, South Africa. I sailed with a party including Hope [Braine], the professional champion, but on arrival we found that the rink was not ready. So we took the opportunity of touring [Kruger] Park, which is a national game reserve. I remember one occasion when Hope [Braine] had got out of the car and was taking pictures from the roof, when suddenly some lions made toward us. I don't think he ever did his celebrated barrel jumping act quicker than he jumped off the roof of that car, for in one movement he was in the driving seat and we were off in a cloud of dust. We also went down the famous Robinson Deep gold mine which is the deepest in the world, and had a great thrill when the cage dropped suddenly 6000 feet in a few seconds. The South Africans were very keen and made such a good progress that after three months I was able to produce Ice Ballets which proved very popular.

Photo courtesy David King

No Fun Like Work

I am one of those fortunate people whose work is also their hobby, and I find a great satisfaction in seeing pupils improve and advance in the art of skating.

Although I enjoy giving exhibitions, I prefer teaching, which I feel is helping to advance the general standard of skating. My own favourite form of skating is pair skating which offers endless opportunities for graceful variations.

Skating To Music

When doing exhibitions I always choose and arrange my own music, and prefer a quick waltz time for pair skating and a quick fox-trot for solos. This, of course, is my own particular preference, but when putting a programme together  the music should always be chosen to suit the individual's style. How often does one not see an otherwise good programme marred by the skater trying to force their steps to fit in with music which is too fast or too slow? It is a great mistake to imagine that a fast musical number necessarily means skating at speed, as this depends basically on skating true edges in the correct position and style. No amount of speed gained round the rink will make a feature look graceful if these elements are neglected.

Skating Fashions

With such a large proportion of ladies on the ice now-a-days I must not omit to say a word on the all important subject of dress. I think there is no doubt that the most practical and economical dress for the ordinary skater is a jumper and flared skirt. This outfit is serviceable and comfortable for general skating and is ideal for hard work when practicing. For exhibition skating, of course, a special dress is necessary which should be 'Chic' while suiting the wearer's personality. It is as well to remember when choosing an exhibition dress that the conditions are similar to those on the stage and that bright colours look the most effective. Soft colours and pastel shades, although very charming for afternoon shows, are apt to look rather flat under artificial light. The most suitable materials to use are Satin, Georgette, or Chiffon Velvet. It is desirable, if possible, to embody the use of sequins, as these are very effective under the spot-lights.

Indoor Rinks Or Outdoor Skating?

No doubt many readers have taken advantage of the recent great 'Freeze-Up' to skate out of doors. Personally I am afraid I did not join them, as although I normally spend three months of the year in Switzerland, the conditions there are vastly different and it is seldom that we get warm sun and absence of cold winds in this country during a frost. I must confess therefore that in this country I prefer the comfort of an indoor rink.

Purely Personal

A busy professional does not get very much spare time, but when I can, I like nothing better than a good gallop across the downs, riding being my chief hobby after skating. I am also (believe it or not), keen on cooking, and prepare most of my own meals.

Photo courtesy David King

Skating Prospects

It is a remarkable fact that, contrary to general expectations, the war seems to have made little difference to the attendances at the rinks. In spite of evacuation and the demands of the Services, many people are taking up skating as a convenient recreation during war time. The rink managements are making every effort to meet changed conditions, and have realized that men in the services are now unable to afford the normal charges. Ice Hockey matches and exhibitions are keeping up the public interest, but I would like to make a few suggestions for further popularizing skating.

A very large proportion of skaters cannot afford the charges for instruction, and I would suggest organizing classes somewhat on the lines of (ballroom) dance classes which would also make skating a more sociable pastime. The instructors would still get the same aggregate fees but at a smaller cost to the individual skater. I have found this system works quite well in Switzerland.

In most of the popular rinks quite a large proportion of the skaters are young lads whose chief pleasure is speed skating and who are not at all interested in figure skating or dancing. I suggest therefore, that they should be encouraged by the formation of more speed clubs where they could practice and be trained in this rather neglected side of skating. If this keenness were utilized to the best advantage there could be possibilities of quite exciting matches.

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' 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? 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 1978 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

They were hitting the floor to Chic's hit "Dance Dance Dance... Yowsah! Yowsah! Yowsah!" and queuing up at theatres to watch "Saturday Night Fever". Hungry, Hungry Hippos and ruffle belts were the latest fads and history was made when U.S. Senate proceedings were broadcast on radio for the first time.


Newspaper headlines were filled with stories of the arrest of the 'Vampire of Sacramento' and the Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314 crash. From February 8 to 11, 1978, they gathered at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon for the 1978 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Photo courtesy Cora Boothby

It was the first time the U.S. Championships were held in the Northwest since 1969 and first time that Oregon played host to the Championships. Integral to the bid to bring the event to the state was James Lawrence, President of the Oregon Skating Council, which was created by members of three Portland area clubs specifically for the purpose of bringing the event to the area. It was also the first time a multi-club co-operative had been established for the purpose of organizing the U.S. Championships, which drew one hundred entries 'from sea to shining sea'.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

The Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978, which killed approximately one hundred people and caused over five hundred million dollars in damage, delayed many travellers. However, it proved a stroke of good luck for television audiences, who were treated to extra figure skating coverage on ABC's Wide World Of Sports when many sporting events in the East were cancelled. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS


Photos courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Sixteen year old Karl Kurtz of Hershey, Pennsylvania won the novice men's title, defeating the likes of Brian Wright, Nathan Birch and Rocky Marval. Los Angeles' Michelle Schelske translated a win at the Pacific Coast Championships to gold in the novice women's event at Nationals. Among those she defeated were future World Champions Rosalynn Sumners and Elaine Zayak.

Photos courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Californians Maria DiDomenico and Larry Schrier were victorious in the junior pairs event. Future Olympic Medallists Peter Oppegard and Paul Wylie, skating with Elizabeth Chabot and Dana Graham respectively, also competed. The previous year's novice women's champion, Jill Sawyer of the Lakewood Winter Club in Tacoma, Washington, claimed the junior women's crown.

Judy Ferris and Scott Gregory

It was the first year that junior (Silver) dancers performed three compulsories, a (Foxtrot) OSP and three-minute free dance at Nationals. Eighteen year old Richard Callaghan students Judy Ferris and Scott Gregory won the title with unanimous first place marks. More than ten thousand spectators cheered on their free dance, an eclectic mix set to "Hair", "Send In The Clowns", samba
and polka music. Ferris was a freshman studying criminal justice at SUNY in Buffalo and Gregory was a senior at Amherst Central High School. Gregory skated with a screw in one knee and had been kept off the ice for much of the last two seasons with two knee operations. The young couple had only been skating together for five months. Pacific Coast Champions Judy Blumberg and Robert Engler won the free dance, but finished third overall behind Midwestern Champions Becky Lee Baker and Rick Berg in a field of ten teams.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Twenty year old David Michalowski of Park Ridge, Illinois led after the junior men's school figures but dropped behind fourteen year old Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, California in the short program. Boitano rebounded to win the title with an outstanding free skate... and a triple Lutz to boot.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Featured on the ABC broadcast, Michalowski, the deaf skater who had dropped from second to sixth in the junior men's event. He fell three times in his free skate, but earned a standing ovation. He had never been interviewed on national television before but was able to read lips. Off camera, Dick Button reminded him, "I fell twice in juniors" and encouraged him to keep skating. Michalowski was unable to hear his music, the groans of the crowd each time he fell, or their cheers when he finished his program. His coach Carol Witti Ueck used cues such as waving her right index finger, snapping and bringing her wrist down to signal his program was over.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Seventeen year old Tai Babilonia and nineteen year old Randy Gardner, defending U.S. Champions and reigning World Bronze Medallists, took the lead in the short program to no one's surprise. They represented the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club and were coached by John Nicks. Their free skate, set to "Taras Bulba - The Ride To Dubno", "Young Bess" and "Tsena Tsena", featured a split double twist, four different side-by-side double jumps, a gorgeous throw double Axel and their trademark pull Arabians. Their only errors were a fall on the side-by-side double Axel by Tai and a problem on an overhead lift in the slow section. Both technically and artistically, they were in a class by themselves and their marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.9, more than enough for them to defend their title.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Gail Hamula and Frank Sweiding of the Broadmoor Skating Club held on to their second place finish after the short program with their free skate set to to the music "Alfie", "Malaguena" and "Méditation" from "Thaïs" . They landed side-by-side double Lutzes, flips and toe-loops and a throw Axel but had a bad fall on the entrance to a cartwheel lift and stepped out of their first of two throw double loops. Like Hamula and Sweiding, Massachusetts teenagers Sheryl Franks and Michael Botticelli had their problems in the free skate but hung on for the bronze medal on the strength of their pair moves. Strong lifts and death spirals peppered both team's performances. Vicki Heasley and Robert Wagenhoffer finished just off the podium in fourth. Robert was the only man to compete in both senior men's and pairs at the Championships. The pairs medallists from 1977 placed in exactly the same order as they had the year prior, just as they had in 1971 and 1972.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Photo courtesy Cora Boothby

The twelve senior men in figures had to weave their way through three school figures and the seven required elements of the short program before taking to the ice for their free skates. The short program required elements in Portland were the double loop, double Axel, two jump combination consisting of a toe-loop jump together with any double or triple jump, crossfoot spin, spin combination, flying sit spin with change of landing foot and serpentine step sequence. Twenty four year old Charlie Tickner, the defending U.S. Champion from the Denver Figure Skating Club, won both the figures and short program.

Several men skated exceptionally well in the free skate, really giving the judges something to judge. Despite landing five triple jumps to Charlie Tickner's four, twenty year old David Santee of Park Ridge, Illinois had to settle for silver. Tickner earned three 5.9's for his free skate set to "Carmen", "L'Arlésienne", "El Cid" and "Mexicaine", which was chock full of inventive choreography and fast footwork. Scott Hamilton of Littleton, Colorado took the bronze - his first senior medal at the U.S. Championships - besting his rival Scott Cramer. He had placed ninth the year prior in his senior debut after winning the U.S. junior men's title in 1976. Robert Wagenhoffer, skating double duty in senior men's and pairs, placed sixth.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

In his book "Landing It", Scott Hamilton recalled, "In February, the weather in the Pacific Northwest was forbidding: dark, gloomy, cold and rainy. But I was in such a zone I didn't let it bother me. I was focused and confident, and in my best shape in two years... I repeated my solid performances from Midwesterns - I was third in the short, hitting the Lutz combination again - and third in the long. Placing third overall, I made the world team... As I was waiting for the medal ceremony, I went back to the dressing room and saw how much losing his place on the world team meant to Scott [Cramer]. He was really, really upset. A small group pof skaters - Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, and Michael Botticelli... were consoling him. I felt bad. As much as I wanted to represent the U.S. in Ottawa, I was even happier about beating Scott... I didn't know it at the time, but my rivalry with Scott was about to take one of those turns where I would never feel sorry for him again."

After winning, Charlie Tickner told reporters, "I was pleased with my performance. It wasn't my best, but I didn't miss anything. I wasn't really thinking of winning or losing. I was concentrating on my own skating. I felt that if I skated my best, I would end up the way I wanted to end up. There are good performances and then there are great performances and that difference is the nerves."

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

The retirement of 1977 U.S. Champions Judi Genovesi and Kent Weigle meant that new senior (Gold) dance champions would be crowned in Portland. 1977 U.S. Bronze Medallists Michelle Ford and Glenn Patterson had also retired, opening up the field even further.

Stacey Smith and John Summers of Wilmington, Delaware took a narrow lead in the compulsories (Starlight Waltz, Kilian and Tango Romantica) and Paso Doble OSP. Even closer in the free dance, they defeated Michigan's Carol Fox and Richard Dalley by just one ordinal placing in a four-three split of the judging panel. Susan Kelley and Andrew Stroukoff, also of Wilmington, took the bronze. Smith and Summers' win had been nothing less than dramatic. Barely into their free dance, Summers' bootstrap came undone. He tried to keep skating but tripped and fell on his back. Referee Edith Shoemaker allowed them to stop so Summers could fix the problem. The couple returned later in the group and started their program from the beginning. Smith and Summers and Kelley and Stroukoff were both coached by Ron Ludington. In a show of good sportsmanship and comraderie, Kelley and Stroukoff handed their flowers to Smith and Summers at the awards ceremony.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Left: Linda Fratianne. Right: Carrie Rugh.

Barbie Smith and Wendy Burge, the silver and bronze medallists at the 1977 U.S. Championships in Hartford, Connecticut, had moved on from the amateur ranks. Linda Fratianne, the seventeen year old reigning World and U.S. Champion, represented by the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club and was coached by Frank Carroll. She amassed a strong lead in the school figures and short program and based on her winning performance at the Pacific Coast Championships, everyone expected big things in the free skate. Skating to Kimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade", Fratianne performed exceptionally well, landing a triple toe-loop and two double Axels. Her only true error was a hand down on a third double Axel attempt, but she did double her planned opening triple Salchow. She earned marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.8.

On any other day, Linda Fratianne would have won the free skate no problem, but in Portland Lisa-Marie Allen of Garden Grove, California gave the performance of her life, earning a standing ovation and the only 5.9 of the event. Second in the short, Allen's fifth place finish in the figures kept her from claiming the gold. It was a devastating loss for the young student of former U.S. Champion Barbara Roles. Sixteen year old Priscilla Hill of Lexington, Massachusetts took the bronze, ahead of Carrie Rugh, making a comeback of her own after losing ground when she placed sixth in the short.


Lisa-Marie Allen told reporter Linda Kramer, "I just try to give everything I've got every time I skate. Sometimes I'm cautious but tonight I wasn't very cautious. It's not only the skill but the beauty of skating. I think I'm really good at theatrical skating."

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' 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? 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.

Hult On A Minute, This Blog's About Ivar Hult!

Ivar Hult and Rudolf Sundgren

Born in 1865, Ivar Hult was raised in Karlskrona, an island city in the eastern part of the Blekinge archipelago in southern Sweden, alongside a whopping nine siblings. In his youth, he showed great passion for ice skating. As a teenager, he decided to leave the family nest to learn more about what the ice had to offer.

Ivar made his debut at the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb in a competition for young men over sixteen years of age in February 1883. It was a rocky start to the young man's skating career. The Swedish newspaper "Post Blekinge" reported that "ice conditions were not the very best" and that anyone who managed to stand up deserved a prize. Placing fourth of the five men competing, behind Carl Sundstrom of Stockholm and brothers Richard and Henry Krause of Gothenburg, Ivar received a small silver cup for his efforts.

By the following year, the historical records of the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb report that Ivar had remained in the city and made "significant progress since last year [and] attracted much attention" with his skating. He was accepted into a special class for promising youths over the age of sixteen that year. In his meticulously researched 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History", Nigel Brown noted that "competition in artistic skating was encouraged very early in Sweden, and junior school championships were numerous. This produced many promising youngsters who later would influence the development of artistic skating." Not yet twenty, Ivar was one of those whippersnappers. As a member of this special class, he received instruction in the art and appeared in an endless series of competitions at the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb throughout the 1880's. He soon was regarded as one of the club's finest skaters. Referring to the skating of Rudolf Sundgren, John Catani and Ivar Hult in the 1894 book "Tio vintrar på Nybroviken", Ivar Boktryckeri wrote, "In these three skaters, the Swedish school of skating has reached its peak and ones question if we shall ever [again see] three more excellent skaters. Their skating reminds one much of Jackson Haines, who loved to move in large circles... with elegance and agility."

Ivar Hult's skate design

In February 1889, Ivar participated in an international competition in Gothenburg, Sweden that included skaters from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Great Britain. Visiting British skater Douglas Adams recalled that he "astonished us with some of his elaborate figures." He finished second, sandwiched between clubmates Rudolf Sundgren and John Catani. The following February, Ivar travelled with Sundgren and represented the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb at an international championship in Russia staged to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the St. Petersburg Skating Club, where he competed against Louis Rubenstein, Alexei P. Lebedeff and Miss A. Malmgren of St. Petersburg. He did not win, but he learned a great deal by studying the techniques and innovations of his competitors. On his return to Sweden, he stopped in Vienna, Austria. While there, he studied the principles of the Viennese school of skating. When he returned to Sweden in 1891, he relayed methodologies of the Canadian, Russian and Viennese styles to other members of his club, and elements of all three soon caught on in Stockholm. Although Jackson Haines himself had spent time in Sweden, Austria and Russia and greatly influenced the evolution of skating wherever he went, it was arguably Ivar who can be credited with generating a renewed enthusiasm for free skating at a time when the creation of 'special figures' was the vogue in Sweden.

Hult's special figures, skated at the 1899 international competition in Gothenburg, Sweden

Ivar joined the Swedish military and became a Lieutenant, married twice and became a young father to three sons and one daughter but never lost his passion for skating. He sat with Tibor von Földváry, Robert Holletschek and others on the ISU's first Figure Skating Committee, formed to draft and submit regulations on the governance of the sport. When Ulrich Salchow competed at his first World Championships in 1897 in Stockholm, Ivar was the lone rebel of the five judges. He was the only judge to place Norway's Johan Peter Lefstad and Sweden's Hugo Carlson ahead of both Salchow and winner Gustav Hügel. He never returned to judge at another European or World Championships. Instead, he penned two books about Swedish military history, passing away in 1931. In "Tio vintrar på Nybroviken", Ivar Boktryckeri praised him thusly: "Mr. Hult was an exceptionally well-trained skater [who trained] at home under the most difficult ice conditions. His real strength lay in small, finely worked figures, which he performed with great skill and strength. Especially beautiful too were his forward figures but errors in his skating [stemmed from] his great need of strong momentum as he was compelled to run long strides before he would perform any figure. He truly had a measure of power and energy in his skating. His attitude was always excellent."

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 Rhythm Girl With The Red Hair: The Mae Ross Story


Born April 23, 1924 in Methuen, Massachusetts, (Julia) Mae Ross was the daughter of Robert and Kathleen (Butler) Ross. By the time she was six, Mae's mother had moved her and her sister June Rae to Portland, Maine. Kathleen supported her girls by managing a rooming house. After a time, the Ross family relocated to Boston, where Mae and June studied ballet, tap, ballroom and acrobatic dancing. At the age of eight, Mae added figure skating to her ever growing list of hobbies.


When Mae and June were teenagers, they moved with their mother to Los Angeles, California. While attending the Mar-Ken Professional School - which focused on show biz children - the girls hung around the MGM, Fox and Warner Brothers lots. Mae's fire engine red hair caught the eye of the studio execs and landed her dancing roles in several films, including "Music In The Air" and "The Painted Veil".  By 1940, the five hundred dollars she made a year was helping keep a roof over her mother and sister's heads.


Mae's 'big break' was a starring role in MGM's short-lived ice ballet at the Persian Room in the St. Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Though skating had been nothing more than a hobby of her youth, she managed to turn heads on the nineteen by thirty inch tank enough to earn a part in an ice show at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. However, it wasn't until this self-made skater joined the cast of the Ice Follies that people really started to pay attention.



When she was performing with the Ice Follies, Mae was married to a skater named Bill Stine, who doubled as the tour's director and stage manager. A budding actor and assistant director in films, Bill helped promote Mae and skated pairs with her too.  She was billed as a 'rhythm girl', but she soon became known for her interpretive skating and ability to act on the ice. She played everything from a tightrope walker to a gypsy captive of pirates and even the 'Daughter of the Shah' in an act called 'Persian Festival' on the 1948 tour. When she wasn't skating, Mae was swimming, horseback riding, listening to Bob Hope on the radio and putting her airplane pilot's license to use.

Mae Ross and Bill Stine

Not long after Bill and Mae divorced, she hung up her skates and moved to Texas, where she remarried and became a mother. She passed away at the age of eighty one on April 10, 2005 in Midland, Texas... her time in the spotlight as one of the leading ladies of the Ice Follies all but forgotten.

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.