Here Come The Judges

Cover to Lilac City Figure Skating Club (Spokane, Washington) cookbook, 1984

For as long as figure skating competitions have existed, there have been dedicated men and women freezing their fannies off to judge them. From the encouraging judges who guide us through our Preliminary Dance tests to the crooked 'tap-dancing judges' and Marie-Reine Le Gougne in Salt Lake City, these volunteers certainly do run the gamut. The last Jumble Of Judging Tales was such a hit, I decided to share another collection of judging stories you may not have heard!

HERBERT AND HENIE

In December of 1945, Herbert J. Clarke became the President of the ISU. Prior to World War II, he had been a perennial judge at the European and World Championships. He first judged at the Worlds in Vienna in 1923, when Sonja Henie's one-time rival Herma Szabo won her second World title. He was the only judge to place her second in the free skate.

Left: Sonja Henie. Right: Herbert J. Clarke. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

In 1927, Sonja Henie controversially defeated Herma Szabo at the World Championships in Oslo. Three of the five judges were Norwegian. The following year when the event was held in London, Clarke sat on the panel. He placed Henie third in figures was the only judge to place her second overall behind Maribel Vinson. At the 1929 Worlds in Budapest, Clarke was the only judge to place Henie third in free skating. In 1930 in New York City and 1932 in Montreal, he was the only judge to put her third in figures. In 1935 in Vienna, he was the only one of the nine judges to place her second in figures.

Though a small handful of judges dared not to place the Norwegian skating queen first during her decade long reign, no other judge was perhaps more despised by Sonja Henie than Herbert J. Clarke.

Etching by Russell Sherman. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. 

THE FIRST JUDGE TO PLACE A WORLD CHAMPION OUTSIDE OF THE TOP THREE

To say that judges have been disagreeing since skating's earliest beginnings is no exaggeration. The first judge to place a World Champion outside of the top three was Ivar Hult. Way back in 1897 in Stockholm, he was the only one of five Swedish judges to have the winner Gustav Hügel fourth overall on his scorecard. The first judge to do this under the Open Marking System was one Mr. Voordeckers of Belgium in 1950. He had World Champions Karol and Peter Kennedy sixth. All but one other judge had them first.

DOUBLE DUTY

Though the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz were the fourth Games to include figure skating, they were the first where a competitor didn't perform 'double duty' as a judge. In London in 1908, Horatio Tertuliano Torromé judged the pairs event and competed in the men's. In Antwerp in 1920, Walter Jakobsson judged the men's and competed in the pairs.

Georgette Herbos and George Wagemans

In Chamonix in 1924, Belgium's George Wagemans competed in pairs and judged the women's. Perhaps sitting with Walter Jakobsson on the judging panel jinxed him. He and partner Georgette Herbos placed only fifth. In all three cases, the men in question served alongside judges who scored them at the same event.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

THE FIRST TIME TWO WORLD CHAMPIONS JUDGED THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS TOGETHER

In Troppau in 1908, Gustav Hügel made history as the first former World Champion to 'turn the tables' and act as a judge at the World Championships. That autumn, he and Henning Grenander judged together at the Summer Olympic Games. In 1914, Olympic Gold Medallists Walter Jakobsson and Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin sat on a judging panel together at the World Championships in Helsinki but it wouldn't be until 1926 that two World Champions sat on the same judging panel at Worlds. Walter Jakobsson and Fritz Kachler judged the men's and pairs events in Berlin that year.

FEMALE FIRSTS

If you get your figure skating history from Wikipedia, you might think that the first woman to judge at the World Championships was an Austrian woman with the last name Schwarz. The ISU's records list a 'F. Schwarz' and a 'Fr. Schwarz' as judges of the women's and pairs events in 1911, but the Fr. didn't stand for Frau or Fraulein. Primary sources reveal that both Schwarzes were men. Ferdinand Schwarz represented one Viennese skating club; Franz Schwarz another.


A woman didn't judge at the World Championships until 1929, when Olympic Gold Medallist Ludovika Jakobsson picked up a clipboard and marked the pairs event. She made history again in 1936, when she became the first female Olympic judge, again in pairs. In 1938 and 1939, she and Ethel Muckelt successively judged the pairs event at the Worlds. 

Mollie Phillips. Photo courtesy "Ice & Roller Skate" magazine.

Following World War II, Mollie Phillips emerged as a pioneering female judge, officiating at the 1947 European Championships and 1948 and 1949 Worlds. In Milan in 1951, she judged the pairs and men's event and Pamela Davis judged the women's, making it the first year that all three disciplines had female representation on the judging panel. When ice dance was officially added in 1952, she and Katherine Miller Sackett, the first female judge at Worlds from America, sat on the panel. In 1953, she became the first female referee at an ISU Championship, presiding over the dance event. Canada's first female judge at Worlds was Pierrette (Paquin) Devine in 1957.

Women didn't outnumber the men on a judging panel at the World Championships until 1965. The pioneering judges of the women's event in Colorado Springs that year were Great Britain's Pamela Davis, France's Jeanine Donnier-Blanc, East Germany's Carla Listing, the Soviet Union's Tatiana Tomalcheva and America's Jane Vaughn Sullivan. The year prior, Mrs. Donnier-Blanc had served on the first five-female judging panel at the European Championships.

VICTORIAN ERA SHENANIGANS

In 1892, a series of North American fancy skating contests were embroiled in judging controversies. At the Championships Of America, held that year at the Hoboken Thistle Club in New Jersey, George Dawson Phillips of New York beat J.F. Bacon of Boston by six points. It was charged that the judges were all close personal friends of Phillips and that they "misinterpreted" the rules and given Phillips an extra two points and deducted three from Bacon's tally. 

Photo courtesy Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, Jewish Public Library Archives

At the New England Skating Association's championship in Brighton, Massachusetts, Bacon beat Louis Rubenstein's brother Moses by twenty points. When newspaper reporters decided that Rubenstein had been screwed, the organizers of the event declared the results null and void, and when it was later decided to allow the original results to stand, Rubenstein refused the second prize. 

When Rubenstein defeated Bacon by twenty points at the next event in Montreal, one of the judges (a hockey player named Charles E. Torrance) gathered up all of the score sheets and threw them in the fire to avoid scrutiny. That December, a reporter from "The Boston Globe" joked, "Figure skating is about as difficult and unpleasant thing to judge as a prize lot of babies, and the judges may, like the Western singer, have been doing the best they knew how."

While we may not agree with some of the PCS scores being doled out in figure skating competitions today, at least the judges can't burn their scoring sheets.

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 1932 European Figure Skating Championships

Sonja Henie with French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen in Paris in 1932. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Tensions were high between European nations as economies tanked and banks closed in the height of The Great Depression. The governments of Germany and Bulgaria announced they would refuse to pay anymore reparations from The Great War, underscoring the importance of the upcoming Lausanne Conference. Astronomers reveled at Bernard Lyot's new coronagraph and aristocrats tapped their toes to Noël Coward's hit "Any Little Fish". 


The year was 1932 and on January 15 and 16, the Palais des Sports in Paris, the 1932 European Figure Skating Championships marked the first time in history all that men's, women's and pairs competitions were contested in the same city at the same time at the European Championships.

Ulrich Salchow in Paris. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Though it was also the first time that France hosted the European Championships, the proceedings received surprisingly little coverage in the French press, perhaps due to the fact that only Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet were considered to be likely to win medals. Let's hop in the time machine and take a look at how this largely overlooked two-day competition played out!

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

 Karl Schäfer

As was expected, Austria's Karl Schäfer won the school figures unanimously by quite a large margin. Four of the five judges also had him in first place in the free skate, with the Belgian judge instead giving the nod to his teammate, Erich Erdös

 Karl Schäfer

"Freiheit" magazine reported that Karl Schäfer was "outstanding and received exceedingly strong applause." When the scores were tallied, he finished first on every judge's scorecard overall.

Georges Torchon

Germany's Ernst Baier finished second on all but one judge's scorecard and Erdös narrowly edged Dr. Hugo Distler for the bronze. France's two entries in the men's event, Jean Henrion and Georges Torchon, finished at the bottom of the pack.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Sonja Henie and Hilde Holovsky in Paris. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

Prior to the event, three time Olympic Gold Medallist Gillis Grafström gave pointers to Vivi-Anne Hultén in St. Moritz, where the Swedes were training together in preparation for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York. In Paris, Sonja Henie won the school figures unanimously. The Belgian judge had Yvonne de Ligne second, the British judge had Fritzi Burger second, the Finnish judge had Vivi-Anne Hultén second and French and Austrian judges had Hilde Holovsky second.

Reneé Volpato (left), Gaby Clericetti (center) and Sonja Henie (right) in Paris

Both Henie and Holovsky were less than their best in the free skate, but three judges still had Henie first. The French judge, valuing artistry over acrobatics, placed Hultén ahead of Henie. The British judge, Sydney Wallwork, dared to place Henie third behind Burger and Hultén.

Fritzi Burger. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

With the help of her strong lead in the compulsories, Henie managed to hang on for the win by some forty points. Burger was second, Hulten third, Holovsky fourth. Austria's Liselotte Landbeck, who three of the five judges had in the top three in the free skate, settled for fifth. France's Jacqueline Vaudecrane almost withdrew due to illness, but opted to compete and finished dead last, two places behind her teammate, Gaby Clericetti.

Liselotte Landbeck, Sonja Henie, Hilde Holovsky, Gaby Clericetti, Jacqueline Vaudecrane, Reneé Volpato and Joan Dix. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION 

Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet

As all four of the singles skaters from France had fared very poorly, the Parisian audience was particularly invested in Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet... with good reason. Their track record spoke for itself and the duo's participation in their first and last European Championships in their home country can't have been a coincidence. Despite the pressures of skating in front of a hometown crowd, they won the event with ease when both of the top Hungarian teams didn't show up despite submitting their entries. It was very close between Lilly Gaillard (Scholz) and Willy Petter and Idi Papez and Karl Zwack for silver, but Gaillard and Petter ultimately came as the top Austrian pair. Great Britain's Margaret and Kenneth Ord MacKenzie placed fourth.

Lilly Gaillard (Scholz) and Willy Petter

Following the competition, the Brunet's, Sonja Henie and Yvonne de Ligne embarked from the Gare Saint-Lazare to Le Havre and then boarded the Ile-de-France for the long steamship voyage across the Atlantic to America to compete in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Schäfer (travelling via Cherbourg on the S.S. Majestic), Baier, Burger, Hultén and Joan Dix were the only other participants from Paris who also competed in Lake Placid.

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 1922 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


The world's first insulin treatment had just been made at the Toronto General Hospital. Byron Gay's foxtrots blared on gramophone players. In kitchens across Canada, molasses and layered orange spice cakes were popular favourites. The Toronto Argonauts celebrated their win at the Grey Cup. The year was 1922 and in February, the Rideau Skating Rink in Ottawa played host to The Dominion's best skaters at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. 


If you look at the number of skaters and clubs that are represented at the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, it's hard to believe that when this event was held one hundred years ago only three clubs from two provinces participated - the Toronto and Minto Skating Clubs from Ontario and Winter Club of Montreal from Quebec.


Competitions for junior skaters weren't regularly held at the Canadian Championships in the early twenties but the host Minto Skating Club had originally planned to include these events "to educate the youngsters of Ottawa in the art of skating." They were unfortunately scrapped at the last minute and postponed until March 2. The winners of these events were Brian Meredith (Sifton Cup for boys), Marion McDougall (Minto Cup for girls), Frances Claudet (Devonshire Cup for girls 12 and under), Teddy Beament (Club Cup for boys, 1st and 2nd years), Kathleen Hose (Club Cup for girls, 1st and 2nd years) and Diana Kingsmill and Prudence Holbrook (Soper Cup for similar pairs).

The competition was held on February 17. Tickets ranged from fifty cents to a dollar and fifty cents, if you wanted to have a reserved seat for the free skating events in the evening. A report from "The Ottawa Citizen" recalled, "Competitors from Montreal and Toronto... brought their friends with them, nearly fifty visitors being present. Owing to the severity of the weather the spectators in the morning were limited to competitors and club members and these, finding it a little too cold to stay in the body of the rink, took refuge in the clubrooms and watched the events from behind glass." The three judges, Louis Rubenstein., J.J. Cawthra and Matthew Bonnell, "faced a cold day's work, the temperature being lower than ever remembered for this annual event." 

Both the men and women had to skate figures... but they weren't the only ones! At the 1922 event, eight skaters who entered the pairs and fours events (but not singles) were required to perform four out of the five figures that the singles skaters had completed before the judges. While the figures counted for sixty percent of the singles skaters' scores, they only counted for one twelfth of the marks for the pairs and fours skaters. This exercise, which had never been tried before at the Canadian Championships, was considered to be "educational". It was "thought that by compelling these tests, the competitors would be encouraged to enter the singles events in coming years and would gain confidence by this experience."

The figures for the women, pairs and fours skaters were held in the morning and at one thirty in the afternoon, everyone took a break for lunch. Colonel Cameron Edwards, the President of the Minto Skating Club, invited everyone in attendance to an afternoon of skating at Government House the following day and told the the visitors from Toronto and Montreal that they were welcome "to visit the Minto and make use of the club premises whenever they were in Ottawa."

After lunch, the three men's competitors (Melville Rogers, John Z. Machado and Duncan McIntyre Hodgson) performed their school figures. By all accounts, they were quite well-matched in their execution of most of them. Ormonde B. Haycock, who had won the first official Canadian men's title back in 1905, was in the audience and cried out "Very good!" when Melville Rogers performed one figure. Whether his show of support had any influence on the judges is unknown. The Closed Marking System was used.

A large crowd braved the cold and showed up for the free skating events in the evening. Jeanne Chevalier, the winner of the Canadian women's title in 1921, did not compete. Ottawa's Dorothy Jenkins, who had been runner-up the previous two years, succeeded her as women's champion. She was in "perfect time with the music and that in itself made her exhibition a treat to watch... In her jumps, during which she twisted and changed edge, she sometimes leaped a foot or more in the air. Her spins were marvelous and very pretty. Her dance steps were airy and light and she seemed to flit across the rink from figure to figure like a butterfly. She finished with a perfect grapevine backward to the end of the rink and well deserved the storms of applause that marked the end of her program." Alden Godwin, also of the Minto Skating Club, was the runner-up and pre-War Canadian Champion Eleanor (Kingsford) Law finished third. The other three competitors were Jeannette Rathbun and Mrs. Clifford Sifton Jr. of Toronto and Mrs. F. Stanton Mathewson of Montreal.

Duncan McIntyre Hodgson of Montreal successfully defended his title as Canadian Champion in the men's singles with a free skating program that "showed wonderful grace and speed. His skating was very rhythmic, keeping perfect time with the music. He changed feet and edge with the greatest of ease. He executed some beautiful spins and jumped... high off the ice repeatedly... One particularly spectacular piece of skating consisted in a leap in the air, a turn, and a crossing of the legs in what used to be called a 'twinkle' in old English skating, without a slip or loss of balance of poise. He performed very fine work on the toes. Another graceful movement was a backward spiral on left outer edge with arms folded." Melville Rogers suffered a fall and stumble in his free skating performance and finished second overall, ahead of John Z. Machado.


Ottawa's Alden Godwin and Major Andrew Gordon McLennan were victorious in the pairs event and Elizabeth 'Bet' Blair, Florence Wilson, Philip Harvey Chrysler and Cecil Rhodes Morphy brought the Earl Grey Trophy for fours skating home to the host Minto Skating Club. 

Instructions for mask-making issued during the Spanish flu pandemic. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of Alberta, A13187.

The 1922 Canadian Championships, though much smaller than the events we see today, were a happy occasion. Three years earlier the event had been cancelled in the height of The Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic

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 1907 Minto Skating Club Fire

Illustration of a skating carnival at the Old Rideau Skating Rink, 1895. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

In November of 1949, the Minto Skating Club suffered a devastating loss when a harrowing fire destroyed its rink on Waller Street in Ottawa. Unbelievably, it wasn't the first time the Club had suffered at the hands of flames. Forty-two years prior, during the reign of King Edward VII, the exact same thing happened.

Around six o'clock in the morning on Friday, January 25, 1907, a young girl named Gravelle was on her way to an early mass service at the Sacred Heart Church when she saw smoke billowing out of the south end of the Rideau Skating Rink on the corner of Theodore (now Laurier) and Waller Streets.

The Rideau Skating Club (left) and No. 2 fire station (middle) on Theodore Street. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

Summoning her courage, she ran to the No. 2 fire station and told an engineer what she saw. He sounded the station's gong and sent another man to pull an alarm box. 

By the time firemen made it next-door to the Rideau Skating Rink, the occupants of the caretaker's quarters were in grave danger. An article from the January 25, 1907 issue of "The Ottawa Citizen" recalled, "Firemen entered the building by breaking in a window. Clouds of smoke were coming out of the tea room part of the rink and sweeping up through the air space to the northern section, where the caretaker resided... The firemen made their way up the two flights of stairs to where [Sol] Hebert lived and first brought down the old lady - Mrs. Turgeon. Then Miss Maxwell and Mrs. Hebert and daughter [Pearl] came down safely. By this time the caretaker's part was filled with smoke and Hebert, himself, who had stayed behind to endeavor to save some household effects, found his exit cut off. He went to the top window, however, and the firemen spread a net, into which he jumped and escaped with a shaking up."


Though eleven streams of water were aimed at the Rideau Skating Rink, a draught caused flames to sweep towards the rink. As the fire intensified, the rink's girders gave way and the main part of the building collapsed. 

Though some pairs of skates managed to survive the blaze because they were located in a check room near a set of dressing rooms that weren't badly damaged in the fire and building collapse, pretty much everything in the rink was destroyed. The Cliffsides, Emmetts, Bankers and Crescents hockey teams all lost records and equipment which they had stored there, as did the Minto Skating Club, which had its headquarters there.

Ironically, the biggest victim as a result of the tragedy wasn't anyone who was even at the rink. Because pretty much every fireman nearby was responding to the fire at the Rideau Skating Rink, Captain Joseph A. Mills of the No. 1 fire station on Duke Street was left alone to respond to an alarm from box 126, which ultimately only turned out to be an overheated pipe at a house on Murray Street. While rushing around the corner of Barrett's Lane, the thirty-three year veteran of the Ottawa Fire Department was thrown from his hose sleigh when rushing around the corner of Barrett's Lane. When he was found, he was unconscious, blood was oozing out of his nose and ears and two of his ribs were broken. It was later determined that he had a fracture at the base of his skull. After spending almost a month in the hospital, he was released but he suffered a permanent vision impairment and was unable to work again.

The cause of the blaze was something of a mystery. The rink had been packed with 'fancy' skaters the night before and the Minto Skating Club's secretary J.H. Labbe said that when he left at 10:30 at night nothing was amiss. Sol Hebert and another rink employee, William Lemieux, told authorities that when they finished well after midnight, there was no sign of fire anywhere. They asserted that there hadn't been any heat on in the part of the rink where the fire started but those who were first on the scene seemed to think the fire started in the rink's tea room, where a range would have been used. The damage was estimated at approximately twelve thousand dollars and the rink was only ensured for about five thousand dollars of that.

The destruction of the Rideau Skating Rink necessitated the cancellation of the 1907 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, which were tentatively slated for late February or early March, but it inspired an incredible response from Ottawa's skating community. In seven days, seventy-five thousand dollars in capital was assured by a group of investors known as the D.V. Rogers Syndicate, to build a new skating rink in Ottawa "of the same dimensions as the big one in Montreal". 

A view of Theodore Street at the turn of the century. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

That a skating club has lost everything not once, but twice, and kept on going strong is a testament to the perseverance of Ottawa's skating community.

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.

Exploring The Collections: Competition Programs

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

This month, I'd like to talk about Competition Programs! As early as at least the roaring twenties, these fact-filled booklets have served as 'companions' to the experience of viewers at competitions, listing the names and (at times) skate orders of skaters, the clubs or countries they represented, offering a time schedule and in many cases, spaces for spectators to write down and calculate the judges scores. 

If you're lucky enough to come across a used Competition Program, you may find the scores recorded in pencil, as well as notes about the performances as the spectator saw them - what colour dress the skater might have worn, whether or not they fell or not, what jumps they may have performed, etc. Some collectors may get giddy over pristine copies of things, but there's far more value in a well-loved, written-in Program as far as I'm concerned!

A flip through the program for the 1989 European Championships in Birmingham reveals messages from Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, ISU President Olaf Poulsen and World Champion Courtney Jones, who was the Chairman of the Organizing Committee and President of the ISU at the time. There's a list of all of the people who served as Committee Chairs, a timetable of events, a history of the European Championships by ISU Historian Benjamin T. Wright, guides to judging and 'what to look for' by NSA Historian Dennis Bird and sportswriter Sandra Stevenson, short bios and photos of competitors, skating-themed puzzles, a map of the venue, a list of past winners, an autograph page, an order form for event merchandise and numerous advertisements.

A program from the 1970 Canadian Championships in Edmonton, which sold for one dollar, is somewhat abbreviated in comparison to the robust 1989 European Championships program. There's a list of Committee Chairs and CFSA Officers, letters from CFSA President Doug Peckinpaugh, Alberta Premier Harry E. Strom and Edmonton Mayor Ivor G. Dent, a list of the judges and where they were from, a brief history of the sport, schedule, list of competitors and clubs, the eligibility requirements and prizes for each event, an explanation of judging, a list of the 1969 Canadian Champions, a handful of photographs and an autograph page.

One thing that's of great interest from a historical perspective that I often see in Competition Programs are articles detailing more regional or club histories. These articles, often penned by club members or local historians, give a sense of the city that hosted the Championship's past and what sense of importance the Championships may play in that region's own skating future. Take a city like a Halifax, which hosted the World Championships in 1990... but hasn't hosted the World Championships since. A flip through that year's program gives a real sense of what a big 'get' the Championships were as compared to an international competition in say, Vienna which has hosted many ISU Championships.

For a list of the Competition Programs in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you've got programs collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you!

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 Best Of 2021: A Skate Guard New Year's Spectacular

2021 has been yet another challenging year but one thing we can be thankful for is the presence of figure skating in our lives. Many of us haven't been in an ice rink for some time... but thanks to the incredible efforts of organizers around the world, we've been able to cheer on our favourite figure skaters from the safety and comfort of our homes.

As we applaud the great figure skating stars of the present and future, we have been perhaps more appreciative than ever of the sport's rich history. Many beloved members of the community have passed away this year, among them Olympic and World Medallists, respected coaches and professional stars. Their deaths all serve as a sad reminder that the pioneers of the sport won't be around forever. 

In case you may have missed them, here's a little countdown of 10.0 of the most compelling stories shared on Skate Guard this year. A Happy New Year to you and here's to more fascinating figure skating history in 2022! 

10. THE QUALIFYING ROUND QUAGMIRE

In May, we looked back at the complicated history of qualifying rounds being used to cut down on the number of entries at ISU Championships. The story behind 'keeping things short and sweet' was anything but!

9. FRIDA SEGERDAHL-NORDSTRÖM: AN UNLIKELY SWEDISH FIGURE SKATING PIONEER

Frida Segerdahl-Nordström is best known for being a pioneer in the world of hunting, but in the nineteenth century she was the first woman in Sweden to skate in front of an audience... with 'The Great American Skating King' Jackson Haines. We explored her fascinating story on Skate Guard in March.

8. IS ONE THE LONELIEST NUMBER? COLD HARD FACTS ABOUT SKATING FIRST

It took some serious digging through old archives to put together this particular piece in September! Is there any basis to the old skating superstition that skating first is unlucky? Or is the truth a little more complex than lore?

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

7. AN AMERICAN IN KYOTO: THE JACK B. JOST STORY

Remember that time an American won the Japanese men's figure skating title? This August, we took a deep dive into Jack B. Jost's extraordinary life story.

Arnold, Hans and Jacques Gerschwiler. Photo courtesy Stella Gerschwiler.

6. THE HALF-BROTHERS GERSCHWILER

Arnold and Jacques Gerschwiler are both members of the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame - and with very good reason! Between them, they taught dozens upon dozens of the world's best skaters of the twentieth century. In June, we took a close-up look at both of their life stories as well as some rare family photographs from Arnold's daughter Stella's private collections.

5. AIRBORNE: A TIMELINE OF CANADIAN JUMPING HISTORY

Who doesn't love a good jump? Here in Canada, we appreciate a good triple Axel as much as the next person. Back in March, we took a little journey through the history of Canadian figure skating and highlighted important Canadian milestones achieved in the air. P.S. - I like to call this one Meagan Duhamel's Greatest Hits. 

Photo courtesy Akbar Vanterpool

4. AXELS AT THE APOLLO THEATER: THE JOSEPH VANTERPOOL STORY

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Akbar Vanterpool about his father's incredible story. As one of the first men of colour to make a name for himself in the figure skating world, Joseph Vanterpool appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and skated at the historic Apollo Theater. If you haven't read up on him in this blog from March, you need to get on that.

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

3. IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Behind every great champion in the sport are incredible coaches. In February, we put the spotlight on the talented men and women who had a hand in the success stories of figure skating's highest achievers.


2. THE HARLEM-ON-ICE TOUR

During Black History Month in February, I had the privilege of highlighting the story a barrier-breaking figure skating tour in the forties featuring an all-African American cast. 


1. THE ALMANAC OF PROFESSIONAL FIGURE SKATING COMPETITIONS

Skate Guard's fourth full-length feature, released this May, explores the long and storied history of professional figure skating competitions, from the Victorian era to modern day. Through results, interesting historical tidbits, photographs and videos, this feature challenges the modern perception that professional competitions were only a thing of the nineties.

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

Impossible Blogs Of 2021


History is full of fascinating untold stories. Over the last twelve months, I've tried to unravel many of them as best as I could. However, for every blog you end up seeing on Skate Guard, there's usually another one that never made it off the 'cutting room floor', so to speak. Today, we'll take a look at five stories from skating history that I wasn't able to fully delve into for a variety of reasons. The stories may be incomplete, but I think you'll agree that they are very interesting nonetheless!

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Throughout the twentieth century, there were numerous instances of Asian skaters showing up at international competitions with programs that weren't the required length. Others misunderstood the required elements in a short program or the steps in a compulsory dance. It's really no wonder either - as written materials from the ISU weren't written in the languages these skaters spoke. Not understanding which death spiral you were supposed to perform is one thing... but not even being eligible to compete is another entirely! The May 1967 issue of "Skating" magazine noted, "Chang Om Ok, petite champion of South Korea, journeyed all the way to Vienna, Austria only to find that she couldn't represent her country at Worlds. An ISU regulation, unfamiliar to the South Koreans, states that a competitor must be twelve years old. Chang Om Ok is ten! But her trip was not in vain. She appeared as one of the skaters at the exhibition following the event." I would have loved to have delved more into young Chang Om Ok's story... but it proved to be an absolute dead end.

WE WANT YOU, WE WANT YOU, WE WANT YOU AS A NEW RECRUIT



From propaganda posters to visits to elementary schools, the American military has employed numerous strategies to recruit new members. One of the most creative - and little known - was a 1959 campaign in New York City that used figure skating to draw in recruits.

In August of 1959, the United States Army set up a portable ice rink next to its recruiting station in Times Square, New York. Five skaters from the Ice Capades, who were performing in nearby Atlantic City, volunteered their time to perform two ten minute shows a day for a week for passersby as part of a recruiting campaign called Operation Hometown.

The campaign caused quite a raucous. Hundreds stopped what they were doing to watch the novel sight of figure skaters performing on a busy street in the middle of summer. Motorists stopped their cars in the middle of lunchtime traffic and one distracted taxi driver even rear-ended a Broadway bus. After the skaters finished each show, First Lieutenant Norman M. Merrill delivered a speech about Operation Hometown's mission to enlist men in the Army Air Defense Command and train them to repair, maintain and operate missiles at Fort Totten. Men who signed up were guaranteed that they'd be trained in new York and were sworn into the Army at a special ceremony at City Hall on August 28, 1959. Some of the recruits from Operation Hometown ultimately ended up going overseas to serve in the Vietnam War.

Why didn't this story warrant a blog of its own? How five skaters from the Ice Capades ended up performing split jumps and Salchows to recruit soldiers is anyone's guess and information on this Operation Hometown campaign isn't available in the National Security Archive.

SONJA BLACKMAN


This snippet, which uses a term that is very offensive today but was common at the time, appeared in "Skating" magazine in 1965. I was instantly intrigued. The same first name as Sonja Henie, from Jamaica, training in Switzerland and a pioneering skater of colour... There definitely had to be a story there. Without a doubt there is, but it's not one I was able to come up with. British and Swiss newspaper articles from the sixties don't mention a Sonja, Sonia or Sonya Blackman and a thorough combing of a big stack of old British skating magazines unfortunately didn't turn up a single mention.  Raymond Wilson remembered that she was really friendly and might have had lessons with Michael Abbott, but unfortunately that was about all I could come up with.

THE RINK MANAGER WITH STICKY FINGERS

It's pretty rare I make an exception and 'allow' roller skating on the blog... but I started researching this one thinking it was about an ice rink and said "who cares?" because the story was just too juicy!

From 1882 to 1884, twenty-eight year old Thomas R. Ackrill, Jr. served as manager of the Roller Skating Rink on Dwight Street in New Haven, Connecticut. Under his management, business boomed, with over thousands of paying customers coming through the rink's doors each year and carnivals and special guest performers attracting large audiences as well.


Thomas, an emigrant from England, was considered a well-connected, popular and promising young man and was a member of New Haven's First Baptist Church. However, when he married a young woman several years his junior, her parents were staunchly opposed to their union and the marriage was kept quiet for some months afterward.

Thomas packed his bags and disappeared in late January of 1884, leaving his wife and child behind. One thousand dollars went missing as well. The dough belonged to the Roller Skating Rink's proprietor H.H. Bigelow. The January 25, 1884 issue of the "New York Times" noted, "It was his custom to forward each Saturday to Mr. Bigelow, who resides in Worcester, a statement of the receipts and expenses of the rink for the week, with a draft for the amount of the net income. Last Saturday he drew from the bank the entire sum to the credit of the establishment and failed to send either draft or statement to Mr. Bigelow. Sunday he left his wife, saying he was going to New York, but would return the following day. At a way station he telegraphed her to go with her little child to her parents and remain until she heard from him again. Since then nothing has been learned as to his whereabouts. Yesterday the discrepancies in his finances were discovered. His friends say that his departure could not have been due to domestic troubles, for he and his wife idolized each other, nor can his flight have been due to the shortage in his accounts, for he had many friends and relatives who would gladly have aided him had he been financially embarrassed. Until quite recently Ackrill was Captain of the Ramblers' Bicycle Club, and spent money freely to make the organization a success. At a recent election, the club elected another Captain, and Ackrill, who felt that his services entitled him to a re-election, took umbrage and resigned. Several other members, who felt that he had not been treated fairly, withdrew from the club. Ackrill's friends say that he took his defeat so much to heart that he has been despondent, and hardly like his usual self. Of late he frequently talked in a way which indicated serious mental trouble. Many think he is suffering from aberration of mind, and that he will return and clear up his record."

In the days following Thomas' disappearance, a highly suspicious Mr. Bigelow travelled from Massachusetts to New Haven to conduct an investigation of his own. He interviewed Thomas' family members and friends and learned that prior to his disappearance, Thomas had been spending too freely and living beyond his meager salary. In April of 1884, Thomas' father-in-law took his landlord to court. This came about because when Thomas' wife followed his instructions and fled to her father's house with their child, she left the rent unpaid. The landlord, Henry M. Gorham, kept the couple's piano. Thomas' father-in-law argued that the piano belonged to his daughter, and could not be held for Thomas' debts.

Here's the hole in this story... and it's a rather big one. At some point, under unknown circumstances, Thomas returned to Connecticut. Newspaper archives don't offer up any clues as to what happened when he returned or how he got himself out of the jam he was in. Unbelievably, in January of 1885, Thomas was named assistant manager of the Roller Skating Rink in Lincoln, Connecticut. That autumn, he another job managing the Qunniac rink. It lasted around a month and then he resigned and got a job at a bakery.

In 1891, he was charged with embezzling $125 from Philando Ferry, his boss at the bakery on Church Street in New Haven. The February 28, 1891 issue of the "Morning Journal And Courier" noted, "The story connected with Thomas R. Ackrill's embezzlement... is another one of those cases in which the wife of some other man is involved. The woman is Mrs. Charles P. Thompson, wife of the member of that name of the firm Platt & Thompson of Orange Street. Ackrill has been paying her attentions for a considerable length of time and the husband's suspicions were correspondingly aroused. Private detectives from New York have been busy for some weeks shadowing both Ackrill and Mrs. Thompson. A detective occupied the next room to them at one of the local hotels, and this with other facts coming to light led the wife to take her departure to New York, where she is now. She sent word to Ackrill that she was out of money, and that led to the crime he committed, but which without much doubt he intended to replace. He met Mrs. Thompson in New York and there was apprehended by a detective who was following the party in the husband's interests, but knew nothing of the embezzlement. Ackrill confessed this and was given the opportunity to voluntarily return." Upon his return to New Haven, Thomas was arrested and Mr. Thompson filed for divorce from his wife. Philando Ferry ultimately dropped his case against Thomas after a "harmonious settlement" was made.

Thomas later remarried and got a job as a labourer in a die machine factory. He passed away in 1915, and I suspect the 'whole story' went to the grave with him.

HALA KOSLOFF


The success of Charlotte Oelschlägel's shows at the Hippodrome during The Great War led to an figure skating's explosive popularity in America. Rinks were bustling with activity, women were going gaga over the latest skating fashions and the country's top skaters became legitimate stars... and one of the biggest names of the era was a woman who went by the name Hala Kosloff.


Hala first grew the attention of the press in 1916 when she gave a series of figure skating exhibitions with Carl Waltenberg on an ice rink at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. Not long after, she materialized in New York City, where she gave a series of exhibitions at Iceland and the rink on the roof of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. However, it was a series of bold and balletic skating exhibitions at Thomas Healy's Golden Glades that drew her the plaudits of theatre critics. On November 11, 1917, the "New York Herald" raved, "Hala Kosloff, who is as fresh as the North, a refugee from the bitter tragedies of the war trodden countries, left Warsaw, Russian Poland, and made her fame in Paris. The Palais de Glace, known by the cosmopolitans as the best Parisienne attraction, worshipped the charm and grace of this beautiful and supple mistress of the ice. For two years the fame of Hala Kosloff in Paris made her the favourite. Now she comes to America and surpasses her former station in the Winter Ice Show. Miss Kosloff, who glices out on the ice from the self-opening egg, is a marvel in white in a well rendered travesty on Chanticloer. Her other numbers impel a lasting impression of her acting ability on the ice." In another number, reported "The Sun", she depicted "her majesty the Leghorn, and around her skate a flock of as beautiful chicks as ever wore the down of incubator babyhood." For this number she apparently wore a giant feather headpiece. As late as January 1923, she was performing duets at skating carnivals in Lake Placid with no less an authority on skating than Irving Brokaw himself.

Irving Brokaw and Hala Kosloff. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

But who was Hala Kosloff? Conflicting reports claimed that she hailed from Riga, Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and Warsaw. French newspapers from the decade prior to the time she surfaced in America offer zero mention of any skating performances of a Hala or Mlle. Kosloff.


The only possible clue to Hala's identity that showed up in the 1920 U.S. Census was a record for a boarding house on Broadway and 101st Street that listed a twenty-two year old named Hala Rusloff, who emigrated from Poland in 1914. This address was only a short distance away from Thomas Healy's Crystal Carnival Ice Rink on Broadway and 95th Street. Yet, there's zero mention of any Hala Kosloff or Rusloff anywhere after 1923. What became of this skating star of the silent film era... and who was she? In this case, history seems to be hiding the whole story.

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.