A Johannesburg Jumper: The Eric Muller Story

Arthur Apfel congratulating Eric Muller at the 1950 South African Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

The son of Helene (Ruzicka) and Dr. Isidor Muller, Eric Ludwig Muller was born in Vienna, Austria on November 7, 1922. He was the youngest of three children and his older siblings, Kurt and Elisabeth, were fraternal twins. His father was an engineer with business interests in South Africa. In his youth, he attended a boys school called the K. K. Staatsrealschule, which in 1935 was renamed the Robert Hamerling-Realgymnasium. 

When Eric was thirteen, he and his mother emigrated to South Africa aboard the Giulio Cesare,  following his father who emigrated separately aboard the Giulio Cesare's sister ship Duilio. Their decision to relocate was a fateful and timely one. The following year, The Aliens 1 Act of 1937 was enacted by the South African government. This Act put into place an Immigrants Selection Board, which screened each immigrant from outside of the British Empire. The Act was enacted with the goal of reducing Jewish immigration to the country. 

Between 1933 and 1939, over five thousand Jews emigrated from Austria and Germany to South Africa, hoping to escape the anti-Semitic wave in Europe... and Eric and his mother were two of them. Had they stayed in Vienna, they very well could have lost their home and possessions before losing their lives in Nazi concentration camps. Eric's siblings names weren't among ship manifests so it is unclear what their fates were during the War. The fact that the Arolsen Archives - International Center on Nazi Persecution lists numerous Kurt and Elisabeth Muller's isn't encouraging, to say the least.

Prior to World War II, Eric was educated at Jeppe High School in Johannesburg. In 1937, less than a year after he arrived in the city, an ice rink was set up during The Empire Exhibition, funded by a gold mining company. Afterwards, the setup was moved to Springfield under the name the Wembley Ice Rink. It was at this rink that Eric began pursuing the art of figure skating. This was the same year the South African Ice Skating Association (SAISA) was formed. 

Eric and Arthur Apfel were among the country's first serious figure skaters. In those early days, there was little professional instruction, so amateur skaters like Eric and Arthur had to help each other when training for the first SAISA figure and dance tests, which were modelled after the tests of Great Britain's National Skating Association. Their progress would have greatly depended on trial and error, reading books and the advice of foreign skaters that visited Johannesburg.

During the War, the skating club at Wembley Ice Rink's membership swiftly dropped from four hundred to two hundred. Ice dancing contests (the country's first competitions) ceased and the number of shows and tests taken declined drastically. Forced to hang up his skates, Eric joined the South African Corps of Signals, a branch of the South African Army. He did radar research work and was on active service on several coastal radar stations in the Special Signal Services division. He was fortunate enough to be able to keep up his education through the War, and earned an engineering degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in March of 1944.

After the War ended, Eric dusted off his blades and resumed skating at the Wembley Ice Rink in Johannesburg. Inspired by the success of his friend Arthur Apfel, who won the bronze medal at the 1947 World Championships in Stockholm, Eric entered the South African Championships the following year and took first place. He went on to win another three National titles in 1949, 1950 and 1951. All of these events were open to both men and women. He also won an open free skating competition at the Johannesburg rink in 1950 and the 1950 and 1951 National ice dance titles. At the free skating competition in 1950, he defeated Travers Penrose, one of the country's most dominant skaters in future years. When Eric won the 1950 South African title, he was the only skater in the competition to do a Lutz, loop and Salchow jump. Arthur Apfel remarked in a short write-up in "Skating World" magazine, "Muller skated with his usual accuracy in the figures and performed some fine high jumps in the free." 

The fact that both Arthur and Eric, two of South Africa's first elite skaters, were Jewish is certainly an interesting historical note - especially so considering that during wartime in South Africa, many Jewish immigrants to the country were treated quite poorly. One of the country's political parties had enacted the The Aliens 1 Act of 1937, while another argued that it was too lenient. A great many Afrikaners people openly espoused pro-Nazi views. For two Jewish athletes to emerge victorious in the post-War years was indeed significant.

Eric set aside his skates at the age of twenty-eight after winning his final two National titles in 1951. He and his wife Lily had three children, but one of their sons sadly passed away. He acted as director of the engineering company his father had founded, which had nearly three dozen property holdings, and worked as an associate building contractor with The South African Institute Of Electrical Engineering.  He was extremely active in the Johannesburg community, serving on nearly thirty suburban committees, including the Johannesburg Emergency Campaign. He served as a Chairman of King David Schools and as a council member of the South African Board of Jewish Education, and was an active member of the Linksfield-Senderwood Hebrew Congregation. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing the piano, coin collecting and tennis. 

Elliot Wolf, the long-time principal of King David High School Linksfield recalled, "I remember Mr. Muller very well, as an executive on council of the SABJE and as a parent. He was a remarkably good-looking man with European charm! He was a great architect and was in fact responsible for designing many of the buildings of the King David Schools. I still cherish vivid memories of him as he supervised the building operation on the school premises. I knew nothing of his figure skating talent."

In the seventies, Eric relocated to Beverly Hills, California. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985 and passed away in Los Angeles on April 19, 2006 at the age of eighty-three. His gravestone reads, "A man of vision, courage, wisdom and humor."

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.

Asian Canadian Skating Pioneers Through The Years

Ari Furukawa and Tsutomu Tom Kimoto skating in Slocan, British Columbia, circa 1945. Photo courtesy Nikkei National Museum.

"I have... gone skating several times... I really did have fun. We used to walk all the way down to the lake to go skating. The scenery around there is just beautiful!" - Handwritten letter from Kimi Yamamoto, a student at the Tashme Evacuation Center, 1943

When Barbara Ann Scott was busy practicing double Salchows and double threes during World War II, over ninety percent of the Japanese Canadian population were being forcibly relocated to internment camps. Families were separated; houses were confiscated and sold. Men were forced to toil away on farms and do back-breaking road work. 

Behind the high wire fences that separated the detainees from the rest of the world, some chose skating as an escape from the harsh reality they were facing. An excerpt from the January 16, 1942 issue of "The N.C.", quoted in Yon Shimizu's "Exiles", stated, "When the extreme cold sets in, they have very little to do. However, these young men recently solved the problem by building a skating rink on the ball ground, sprinkling water over the entire surface. The older men find skating very hard to master, but the young men are deriving much enjoyment from this winter. Haruo Murata seems to be the ace skater of the lot, followed by his older brother, Gisuke, and George Funamoto... Skating has indeed become very popular in our camp, with nearly thirty men participating in the sport."

Japanese Canadian detainees in British Columbia selecting skates in 1943. Photo courtesy National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada.

In 1943, twelve young Japanese Canadian men from the Tashme Evacuation Center east of Hope, British Columbia were assigned to work in the forests of Ontario. When they missed their appointment with a National Selective Service officer, it was feared that they'd escaped. They'd simply gone skating on a nearby pond. 

In the fifties, Canadian figure skating was about as white as you can get. Some skating clubs had decades old policies that denied membership to would-be skaters that didn't already know someone who was a member. These policies were a convenient excuse for club officials to turn down Jewish people, people of colour and people of Asian heritage. 

One of the very, very few Asian Canadian skaters to compete in the fifties was young Tazuko Oishi. She placed a disappointing fourteenth in the novice women's event at the Western Canadian Championships in Trail in 1955 and never made it to the Canadian Championships. She and her friends Asako Sasaki and Miyoko Chiba skated out the Vernon Figure Skating Club in the Southern Okanagan valley of British Columbia.

Nearly a decade later, a small group of very talented young Canadians of Japanese ancestry burst onto the scene and made history as the first Asian Canadians to compete at the national level. The first was Hamilton, Ontario's Janice Maikawa. She made her first appearance at the Canadian Championships at the age of thirteen in 1967, placing eleventh in the junior women's event. Two years later, she won the Western Ontario senior women's title. At the 1971 Canadian Championships, she placed eighth in the senior women's event and second in novice pairs with her partner Reid MacDonald. In 1972, she placed fourth in junior pairs and sixth in the senior women's event. A wiz in school figures, she placed second to Karen Magnussen in the first phase of the competition that year. Had it not been for a disappointing free skate, she would have made the Olympic team. Janice's expertise in figures was a juxtaposition to Sarah Kawahara's brilliance in free skating.

Sarah Kawahara winning the junior women's event at the 1967 Central Ontario Championships. Photo courtesy Sarah Kawahara.

Choreographer extraordinaire Sarah Kawahara won the Central Ontario Championships at the junior level in 1967 and made her debut at the Canadian Championships in 1968, finishing just off the podium in the novice women's event, right behind Sandra Bezic. Four years later, young Naomi Taguchi of the North Shore Winter Club placed sixth in the novice women's event at the Canadian Championships. Three years prior, she had bested twenty six other young women to win the Juvenile Girls title at the B.C. Coast Championships.

Sarah Kawahara performing a layback spin. Photo courtesy Sarah Kawahara.

A precocious and brilliantly artistic free skater, Sarah Kawahara was Osborne Colson's star pupil. He coached her from her second figure test to her Gold figure, free and dance tests and the senior ranks at the Canadian Championships. Sarah recalled, "Janice Maikawa and I were good friends back in the day. She had great school figures. Mary Jane Halsted was our figure coach. I used to go out to Hamilton and stay with Janice’s family. Mary Jane would pick us up and take us to Guelph Summer School. My coach Osborne Colson would go to Banff, Alberta in the summer and he wanted me to study with Mary Jane for a couple summers. In those days I was not aware of any barriers. I loved to skate and my parents were willing to get me to the rinks. Osborne Colson was my driving force and inspiration. I was always in the minority in everything I did. I studied ballet at the National Ballet. My Mom would take me on the bus and subway to class. I was the only Asian in the classes at the time. Same with drama class. I was one of two Asian kids all the way through high school at Forest Hill Collegiate. I never really thought much about it. Being an only child I was fortunate that my parents gave me every opportunity to learn related arts, like piano, drama, ballet. My parents were evacuated inland from British Columbia to Montreal where they met. I was born in Montreal. We moved to Toronto when my Dad was transferred while working for Procter and Gamble's TEK HUGHES brushes."

Charlene Wong

Charlene Wong of Pierrefonds, Quebec made history in 1983 as the first Asian Canadian skater to win a medal at the senior level at the Canadian Championships. A wonderful all-around skater, Charlene won the figures at Canadians at both the junior and senior level and worked with Sandra Bezic to showcase her artistic side, always showing up at events with well-packaged programs and consistent jumps. She made history again in 1988 as the first Asian Canadian skater to compete at the Winter Olympic Games. Like Sarah Kawahara, Charlene arguably made her most important contributions to skating as a professional. She won the U.S. Open professional title in 1990, toured with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and coached Mirai Nagasu to the U.S. junior and senior titles in consecutive years.

Netty Kim

At the age of fourteen, Netty Kim made history as the first Asian Canadian winner of the Canadian junior women's title in 1991. Four years later in Halifax, the pre-optometry student from the University of Waterloo became the first skater of Asian heritage to win the senior women's crown. She was the daughter of Korean immigrants who ran a convenience store in North York. 

An Asian Canadian woman didn't win the Canadian novice women's title until 2007. The winner that year was Rika Inoda of the North Shore Winter Club. Two years prior, Japanese born Utako Wakamatsu made history as the first Asian Canadian skater to win a medal in senior pairs at Canadians with her partner Jean-Sébastien Fecteau.

Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe

Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe teamed up in 1986. Megan became the first ice dancer of Chinese descent to win a medal at the Canadian Championships in both junior (1994) and senior (1997).  Megan and Aaron reigned as one of Canada's top dance teams for a decade, winning an incredible ten consecutive senior medals at Canadians and representing their country at six Four Continents Championships, five World Championships and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino. Today, they are without a doubt two of Canada's absolute best ice dance coaches and in 2011, they worked with Nam Nguyen, the talented young son of Vietnamese immigrants, who went on to win his first of two Canadian titles in 2015. Megan recalled, "Back in 1990 at our first Nationals in novice there weren't many Asian Canadian ice dance teams and very few Asian dance teams on the world scene in general. It did feel a little lonely out there at the beginning! Gradually this changed and today's ice dance scene looks much different and is far more inclusive. I hope that the cultural diversity of competitive dance continues to broaden."

Patrick Chan

Moncton, New Brunswick's Hugh Yik accomplished a series of historic firsts in 1997 and 1998, when he became the first Asian Canadian skater to win the novice and junior national titles in successive years. Ottawa born Patrick Chan repeated Yik's novice/junior feat in 2004 and 2005 and became the first man of Asian descent to win the Canadian senior men's title in 2008. Patrick, of course, went on to win three Olympic medals, three World titles and three Four Continents titles.

While Canadian skaters of Japanese, Chinese and Korean heritage may be very well represented at the elite level now, it's important to recognize that it absolutely hasn't always been this way - and that diversity is something always worth celebrating.

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.

Devoted To Evolution: The Joel B. Liberman Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"As a rule an author has one or two popular ways of contrasting the past with the present. He can treat the past as lying in comparative doleful ignorance, or he can explain that the past was infinitely superior to the day we live in. Of course, either method is the popular journalism of the moment, and in reality there is no sharp contrast, but a gradual transition which leads the past into the present." - Joel B. Liberman

Born January 17, 1883 in New York City, Joel 'Joseph' Brandon Liberman was the son of Lewis and Elina (Helena) Liberman, immigrants from Warsaw, then part of Russian Poland. After arriving in America, Joel's father passed away. His mother later remarried to Isidor Munstock, a merchant of hunting supplies. He grew up in a large, wealthy, blended Jewish family.

Joel B. Liberman's draft registration card from 1918, the same year he first competed at the U.S. Championships

In the era when socialite Irving Brokaw reigned supreme as the 'skating king' of New York, Joel took up everyone's favourite sport. His skating career wasn't a success from the very start though. When he first participated in the U.S. Championships in 1918, he finished in last place in the men's event.

Grace Munstock and Joel B. Liberman

Throughout the roaring twenties, Joel was a perennial competitor in contests both in New York and elsewhere. In 1923, he won an informal waltz contest held at the first North American Championships in Ottawa with Florence Wilson. That same year, he joined forces with Clara Hartman, Paul Armitage and his stepsister Grace Munstock as the New York four. The first year they entered the U.S. Championships, the Boston four pulled out because of one of the member's illness, so the title wasn't officially 'won'. In 1924 and 1925, the New York four became U.S. Champions. Grace and Joel also won a trio of medals in the pairs event at the U.S. Championships, each time finishing behind Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles.

Grace Munstock and Joel Liberman

Though Joel was certainly a talented skater, his most important contributions to the figure skating world were unquestionably 'off-ice' ones. He was a well-respected judge and referee who officiated at numerous U.S. and North American Championships. He served as an official at the 1930 and 1932 World Championships and 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympic Games. He also served for many years on the executive of the Skating Club of New York and Artists' Skating Club.

Joel's service to the USFSA spanned three decades. He served as the Association's Secretary from 1924 to 1928, and then again in 1931 and 1932. As head of the USFSA's Test Committee in 1922, he was the one who recommended the adoption of the eight test system. As head of the Amateur Status Committee, he developed the first code of rules on sanctioning. A regular contributor to "Skating" magazine, he took great pains in educating the skating world about the rules and regulations of the sport. He was the person responsible for penning reviews of the both first Olympic Games and World Championships on U.S. soil.

From 1934 to 1945, Joel served as head of the USFSA's Judges and Judging Committee, playing an important role in the sport's evolution in America during World War II. In 1942, he penned the Judges Manual, which was sponsored by Heaton R. Robertson. Robertson later remarked, "His Judges Manual... marked the pioneer effort to lay down a better interpretation of the principles upon which judging should be based. The subject of judging is a very large one... We should be most grateful to Mr. Liberman for his splendid work in laying such a substantial foundation for its development."

Outside of the skating world, Joel was a very successful patent and corporate law attorney with an office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. He served for eight years on Board Of Directors of the Lionel Corporation, which manufactured toy electric trains. He was also a director of a lighting business, Holophane Company, Inc. 

Joel B. Liberman's sketch of Jackson Haines

Joel was also a talented artist who spent two years studying with French born painter Nan Greacen Faure. His painting "Sutton Place" won award at an exhibit of the Bar Association Of New York in 1948. 

Joel B. Liberman's sketch of Ulrich Salchow

Joel lived for many years in Scarsdale Village, New York with two of his sisters, a chauffeur and housemaid. He passed away at the Community Hospital in Elizabethtown, New York on July 31, 1955 at the age of seventy-two as a result of pneumonia and a heart attack. Following his death, a trophy in his memory was donated to the winners of the U.S. junior pairs title. In his obituary in "Skating" magazine, Howard Meredith wrote, "He was a lawyer by profession, a linguist and antique collector by avocation, and in his later years an artist. Skating was perhaps his favorite sport but tennis, handball, sailing and swimming had also been part of his athletic curriculum. He was a fine gentleman and a loyal friend and those who knew him over the years will miss his wise counsel and advice."

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.

Asian Heritage Month and Canadian Jewish Heritage Month


May is Asian Heritage Month, Canadian Jewish Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month! Skate Guard celebrates the important history of skaters of Asian and Jewish heritage with extensive timelines from Canada and around the world, as well as required reading lists of past stories featured on the blog.

You can find all of the special content for Asian and Jewish Heritage Month by tapping on the top menu bar of the blog or visiting the following pages:


You can also check out this month's issue of "Skating" magazine for content celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

To nominate skaters of Asian and Jewish heritage to the Skate Canada Hall Of Fame, click here.

#Unearthed: The Ice Grotto

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. #Unearthed is a monthly feature on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a compelling journey through time. 

This month's gem is an article from the January 1896 issue of "Ice And Refrigeration" magazine describing The Ice Grotto at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition, the first artificial ice rink in the Southern United States. Also included is a clipping from "The Atlanta Constitution" highlighting the exploitation that went on at the rink.

"THE ATLANTA EXPOSITION" (AUTHOR UNKNOWN)


So much has been said of the Atlanta Exposition that nothing need now be added, the Exposition having closed, except that it was a great success as a representative Southern effort, although, like all public enterprises of like character, the ultimate financial exhibit is not as satisfactory as might be wished. However, the readers of "Ice And Refrigeration" are now less interested in those considerations than in the exhibits of ice and refrigerating machinery. No large machines were erected on the grounds, but two interesting exhibits were made by two new competitors for public favor, who are best known at present, perhaps, to our readers as builders of the 'small' machine, although that type of machine is but an incident of their business. The first of these is the Economical Refrigerating Co., of Chicago, who had a 1-ton machine in operation in Machinery hall, as shown by the illustration herewith. The machine requires about one horse power, gas or electric motor, and will cool about 2,000 cubic feet under ordinary conditions of insulation, etc. As shown by the picture, the machine cooled an "Alaska" butcher's box, and was actuated by a Crocker-Wheeler electric motor. The machine, which is entirely automatic in its performance, and self-contained - compressor, condenser and ammonia drum being all contained within the one casting - and refrigerates by direct expansion, was run continually during the week, being shut down only on Saturday night; and on closing down or on starting up again on Monday morning, no valves were (or need be) changed, the only action required to start or shut down the machine being to turn on and shut off the motive power. The machine was awarded a gold medal and diploma by the committee on awards.


The other exhibit was more elaborate, being none other than the "Midway" concession known as the "Ice Grotto," which is herewith illustrated - an ice palace and skating rink, where, as a local paper said, the following paradox was visible: "Five Esquimaux, attired in heavy furs, stood on the Midway and watched a fancy skater as he cut many curious figures on a lake of ice. The group was in the ice palace, and a perspiring crowd watched the arctic people as they danced around to keep warm." The exhibit, as a whole, may be described as follows: The building was 35 feet wide and 130 feet long. The front was built to represent an iceberg, and was 50 feet high, with a 12-foot flag staff, making 62 feet over all. The framework of the iceberg was of wood, covered with cotton duck, painted to represent ice, and decorated with mica and powdered glass, which made it glitter in the sun by day, while at night the electric light made it appear like a real iceberg studded with sparkling gems.

Clipping from the November 1, 1895 issue of "The Atlanta Constitution" that highlights the exploitation that went on at The Ice Grotto

The Phoenix wheel was just across the Midway, fronting the iceberg, and as it revolved its lights were reflected by the iceberg, making a very beautiful sight. Standing on the highest point of the grounds the grotto could be seen from every point of the Exposition, having been elevated 150 feet above the level of Lake Clara Mere, so that one could easily imagine that he was looking at a mountain of ice studded with diamonds. A negro remarked to another when standing on the bank of the lake, half mile from the berg, that, "A white man done frozen a mountain of ice, and covered it over with diamonds." The entrance was made to represent an ice grotto, on entering which the way seemed blocked with ice, and the effect was so natural that many put out their hands to touch it to see if it were real. Others shivered and said that it was too cold for them to enter, and would not enter until told that the auditorium was heated by steam. Those who thought their way blocked found on turning to the left what seemed to be a tunnel hewn through solid ice, following which they entered a beautiful auditorium 30 feet wide and 50 feet long. This also was lined with cotton duck, painted to represent ice, and at the farther end was a plate glass front, which separated the auditorium from a frozen palace in which the temperature was kept near zero. This palace was 22 feet wide and 35 feet long, 14 feet high. The floor was frozen for skating, while the walls and ceiling were piped and festooned with frost and icicles. The skating surface was always frozen, and there was almost continuous skating by experts from 10:00 A. M. to 11:00 P. M. The surface was kept in good condition by simply sweeping with a wet broom every hour, the skaters at no time being kept off longer than ten minutes. After the rink was closed at night the employees flooded the ice half an inch deep with water, and by the next morning this was as smooth and slick as glass.



The ice surface was used only for trick skaters, except now and then contests were given by skaters from the audience. The ice cut by the skates was always dry, and was swept up in banks and used for snow ball matches. Imagine fifty men and women from the audience going into this frozen palace and joining in a game of snowballing, while the audience sat in a warm auditorium and viewed the scene with nothing but a plate glass and stage between them. There was a small stage between the audience and the  plate glass, and on this stage a band of Esquimaux gave performances of their native songs, dances and athletic sports. They were covered with their fur robes, and had the frozen palace for a background, which, when different colored lights were flashed on it by a powerful electrical projector, made a sight never to be forgotten. When this performance was over the audience was passed out through a grotto which ran along the right side of the ice palace into the Machinery hall, which was 30×33 feet, and beautifully decorated with bunting. In this hall were the compressor, condenser, gas receiver (two views of which are here- with shown) and also the beautiful refrigerators built by the McCray Refrigerator and Cold Storage Co., of Kendallville, Ind. Here also was a large bottle-freezing apparatus, in which 500 bottles, holding 1/2-gallon of water each, were frozen each day. These bottles had the name of the Stillwell-Bierce & Smith-Vaile Co. blown on them, and were distributed free each day among the saloons and restaurants, drinking places in Machinery hall and offices, to advertise the machine. After the audience had seen the machinery, they were passed on through the frozen palace to see the beautiful incrustations of ice and frost, intermingled with sparkling icicles at close range, while the electrical projector played on them. An average of about 1,500 people passed through this palace each day, and the manager had no trouble in keeping the temperature near zero, with the outside temperature at 80°; and even when the weather was cold, he kept the temperature in the engine room and auditorium 70° with steam heaters, thus always making the machine work against at least 70° of temperature. All of this refrigeration was done by an 8-ton refrigerating machine known as the "Victor," designed by N. R. Keeling, and built by the Stillwell-Bierce & Smith-Vaile Co., of Dayton, Ohio. The exhibit described was put up by N. R. Keeling as concessionaire, and cost about $11,000 exclusive of refrigerating machinery. The machine was awarded a gold medal and diploma by the committee on awards. The well known Frick Co., of Waynesboro, Pa., exhibited no refrigerating machinery, but had a 250 horse power engine furnishing power in the Machinery building; also one high speed automatic 150 horse power engine, to which was belted an Edison dynamo for the electric fountains and search lights.... The Garlock Packing Co., which furnished the packings, ammonia and steam for the Ice Grotto plant, had also packings - in all the steam pumps in boiler house.

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 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 Poison And Power Of The Pen


In the roaring twenties, a duo of Austrian twentysomethings named Elisabeth 'Lilly' Scholz and Otto Kaiser were one of the most successful pairs teams in the world. Vienna born Otto and Graz born Lilly were known for their athletic and daring style. Otto's weightlifting background allowed them to perform lifts that were considered quite acrobatic for the time, and their early incarnation of a death spiral was a highlight of all of their performances. They won their first of four national titles in 1924 and the following year won their first medal at the World Championships. They claimed the Olympic silver medal in 1928 and were the runner-up's at the World Championships for three years in a row, narrowly losing twice in three-two split's of the judging panel. Their greatest success came in 1929, when they won the World pairs title in Budapest. 


Lilly Scholz and Otto Kaiser. Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein.

In late September of 1929, Lilly married Hans Gaillard and decided to hang up her skates. Otto chose to continue his training and soon paired up with Hansi Kast. After a year off the ice, Lilly missed the thrill of competition and teamed up with a man with the unfortunate name of Willy Petter. Lilly and Willy, as they were sometimes called, drew praise for their "difficult, effective and well executed" program, won two national titles and two medals at the European Championships from 1930 to 1932 and had starring roles in the ice revues "Das Verlobungsfest am Hofe des Eiskönigs", "Eislinde" and "Winterfried". Otto and Hansi struggled, finishing second to last at the 1931 World Championships and off the podium at the 1932 Austrian Championships. 

Lilly Gaillard and Willy Petter. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

In 1933, things started to unravel for Lilly and Willy. Despite giving two of their best performances, they narrowly lost the Austrian and European titles to Idi Papez and Karl Zwack. They were extremely disappointed and opted not to compete in that year's World Championships in Stockholm. Their decision was panned in the press. "Der Tag" criticized them for poor sportsmanship and on February 11, 1933, the "Wiener Sportagblatt" published a highly critical, anonymous letter claiming that the duo had used the excuse that they were "suddenly too tired to skate."

Lilly Scholz and Willy Petter

Five days later, Willy Petter sent a handwritten letter to the "Wiener Sportagblatt" that was published under the headline "Why Gaillard-Petter No Longer Skate". The Petter letter said, "We were, as stated in the article, hurt because we didn't win the last two competitions. Anyone who knows us wouldn't be so reproachful. I honestly don't understand, since we've been sporting over the course of the year. Career losses and wins and alternating orders have been made and we always accepted this without the word. We can, without being immodest, claim that both pairs belong to the same class and that... the decision of victory and defeat comes not only from the skating itself, but almost more in the attitude of the  judges - of their personal sympathy or from their fondness for the style of one or the other couple. It has evolved over the years that the skater is not only skating but also... must learn how these officials and these judges are to be traded. Expressing your own opinion as the most ridiculous little things can have an affect... Generations of skaters change, but the officials almost always remain the same, and then they remain still in office when younger ones have been there for a long time. These are perhaps less experienced officials, but they are more original in their thinking. But those are exceptions to the rule and many become entangled in the old ways... Under these circumstances, not only do we have to suffer, but also a lot of other skaters at the Wiener Eislaufverein. We don't just know each other, the skaters and the officials, but it is certainly no coincidence that in the last few years many transfers from the Wiener Eislaufverein to the artificial ice club took place. The conditions are more favorable there, especially because they are less complicated and the number of officials is significantly lower. The mood in general and various opinions have moved us, but that has nothing to do with sporting successes or failures. It would appear in the circles of the Wiener Eislaufverein that our resignation was by no means particularly painful."

Hans Pfeiffer, the President of the Österreichischer Eiskunstlaufverband, didn't take kindly to Willy Petter's letter, nor did the good folks at the Wiener Eislaufverein. Though Willy contacted the "Wiener Sportagblatt" in early April of 1933 to clarify that his letter was directed at club officials at the Wiener Eislaufverein and not competition judges, this had little effect. The Österreichischer Eiskunstlaufverband gave him a severe reprimand and unanimously voted in favour of a two-year suspension from competition. The unfortunate consequence of this was that it effectively ended the competitive career of World Champion partner Lilly, who had come out of retirement to skate with him in the first place. Willy went on to work behind the scenes with the Karl-Schäfer-Eisrevue and Wiener Eisrevue and Lilly faded into obscurity. 

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Willy may have been one of the first pairs skaters to openly criticize the powers-that-be in the skating world, but he wasn't the last. History repeated itself two decades later when World Champion Norris 'Norrie' Bowden had the courage to call out Canadian skating officials publicly in a letter that was mailed to over two hundred CFSA clubs. Though Norris' letter stated that "any opinions expressed are purely those of the writer", both he and his partner Frances 'Frannie' Dafoe were banned from judging for five years. 

Excerpts from Norris Bowden's letter, republished in David Young's "The Golden Age Of Canadian Figure Skating"

Though Lilly and Willy and Frannie and Norrie faced very real consequences by standing up to their federations, their courageous actions enacted change. In the years leading up to World War II, top Austrian skaters continued to flock away from the Wiener Eislaufverein and in Canada, as David Young aptly wrote in his book "The Golden Age Of Canadian Figure Skating", "many of the improvements in competitions which [Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden] fought for have been implemented, and are now accepted without question."

Gone are the days of skaters penning their grievances in cursive and heading to the post office. In our modern age of retweets, Instagram stories, press conferences and mixed zones, it is perhaps easier than ever for those in the sport to make their concerns heard. The skaters today who are using their voices to stand out against injustice and enact positive change in the sport deserve our respect and admiration, as do those who have spoken up on a wide range of important issues in years past - often at a great cost.

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 Twentieth Century Bernard Fox Story

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

"Joan and Bernard slipped over the ice with long silken glides that, because of their very effortlessness, were a moving picture of joyous youth." - Maribel Vinson Owen, "Advanced Figure Skating"

The son of Mary (Fitzpatrick) and Matthew Fox, Matthew Bernard 'Babe' Fox was born October 6, 1916 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He had two older brothers, Paul and Gerald, and in his youth divided his time between the family's year round home in Brookline and summer home in Marblehead. His Roman Catholic parents were well-to-do enough to employ three live-in servants. His father was the President and Director of the Brigham dry goods merchandising company and a former chairman of the Board of Directors of the B. Peek Co. in Lewiston and Filene's in Boston.

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Bernard got his start on the ice while attending The Rivers School in Brookline, where he was captain of the hockey team. He didn't take up figure skating seriously until he was sixteen. He received instruction at The Skating Club of Boston from Willie Frick and was mentored by George Henry Browne.

Joan Tozzer, Bernard Fox and Margie and Jenny McKean. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1935, Bernard won the U.S. novice men's title and travelled abroad to England, where he toured the country's top ice rinks, learning dances like the Kilian, Blues and Viennese Waltz which weren't widely known in the United States at the time. The trip ended badly - his pairs partner Joan Tozzer broke her leg and Bernard injured his knee.

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The following season, Joan and Bernard won the U.S. junior pairs title. Bernard also won the junior men's crown, making history as the first man to win the national novice and junior titles in successive years. A noteworthy feature of Joan and Bernard's pairs routine were the Salchow jumps they did past other, which Maribel described as "a particularly rhythmic move, as the sway of their bodies as they approached on the rather long preparation was interesting and the dip for the jump was timed so that they passed each other actually in the air."

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

After claiming the bronze medal in senior pairs in 1937, Joan and Bernard went on to win three successive U.S. senior pairs titles. They also won the North American Championships in 1939. During their competitive career, Bernard was studying at Harvard University, where Joan's father worked as a professor. He graduated with a Bachelor Of Arts in 1938.


Joan and Bernard were named to the 1940 Winter Olympic team, but as we all know, those Games were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. Joan's engagement was announced before the 1940 Nationals, as was the fact that she planned to "completely, absolutely" retire from the sport once she was married that July.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Joan spent much of the War in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her husband Phillip served in the Police Reserve, spending "three nights a week out in a patrol car hauling in drunks, blackout violators, settling domestic troubles, seeing that all alien radios are locked up, etc." She worked four days a week in the Women's Air Raid Defense, plotting airplanes around the islands on giant maps. In her spare time, she volunteered with the U.S.O. 

Bernard served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy from May of 1942 to November of 1945 and was deployed for a time in the Mediterranean, with sea and shore assignments in African, Italian and French waters. 

During the invasion of Southern France, Bernard was the Liaison Officer for Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, the  Commander of the United States Forces in the Mediterranean, aboard the Flagship of the French Fleet. The ship was hit three times by German shore batteries at Toulon, and Bernard was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Silver Star for his bravery and service.


During the time he served in the military, Bernard was still very much involved with skating. He served on the USFSA's Competitions and Rules, Skating Standards and Judges and Judging Committees and acted as a judge at several U.S. Championships. In 1948, he judged the men's and pairs events at the Winter Olympic Games and the women's event at the World Championships. The fact he never judged at a major international event again can be well explained by his marks at those Worlds in Davos. In the free skating, he and the Swiss judge who sat stood out like a sore thumb, placing the twenty skaters in the exact same order, often differing wildly from the rest of the panel with their marks.

M. Bernard Fox and Lucy Linder Pope's wedding. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Bernard had married Lucy Linder Pope six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, with whom he had two sons, David and Richard. The couple divorced in the late sixties and she remarried to acclaimed Australian tennis player and coach Harry Hopman.

An episode of Bernard Fox's show "Code 3"

In the early fifties, Bernard began a long career as as a screenwriter and producer at the DuMont Television Network's WABD station in New York. He moved to Los Angeles in 1953, serving as Vice-President of Roland Reed Productions. in 1956, he started his own film production company in Hollywood, under the name Ben Fox. He specialized in Westerns and outdoor documentaries and his credits included "Waterfront", "Code 3", "Whiplash", "The Monroes" and "Racquet Squad". He also wrote several unsold pilots, including "Harbor Inn", "Charter Pilot", "Rails" and "The Forest Ranger". He directed three weekly radio productions for the U.N. Association of New England and did some production work for Hal Roach Studios in Culver City. In his memoir "Eighty Odd Years In Hollywood", director John Meredyth Lucas recalled that one of Bernard's scripts a "Ben Casey" episode was so "terrible" that he had to rewrite it behind his back. "The day after it aired, Ben called me," he recalled. "He quibbled about the casting of minor parts but told me, 'I thought you did a good job of directing.' I don't think he was being snide. He really thought what he'd seen was his script."

Bernard passed away in Santa Monica, California on October 6, 1998 - his eighty-second birthday. Though Joan Tozzer was inducted to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1997, Bernard has never been honoured for his contributions to the sport in the thirties and forties.

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 1954 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy The Glenbow Museum

South of the border, journalists Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly had just released a thirty minute documentary on McCarthyism. The country's Liberal government was led by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent  The latest fashion trends were Garbadine suits and taffeta dresses. Jo Stafford's "Make Love To Me" blared on Electrohome stereos. The year was 1954, and from March 11 to 13, Canada's best figure skaters convened in Calgary, Alberta for the Dominion's Figure Skating Championships.


The announcement that the Championships would be held in Calgary for the first time since 1948 was made at the CFSA's Annual General Meeting at the Glencoe Club on Hallowe'en in 1953 - the first CFSA meeting held in Alberta. The CFSA was celebrating its fortieth anniversary, taking into account the organization's many years as the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada. From 1914 to 1954, it had grown from two to one hundred and twenty-five clubs.

Top (left to right): Barbara Gratton, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, Charles Snelling. Bottom (left to right, top to bottom): Joan Shippam, Doreen Leech and Norman Walker, Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul, Dick Rimmer. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1954, the European Championships in Bolzano and World Championships in Oslo had been held in late January and mid-February. The Canadian and U.S. Championships were both held in March, in the height of carnival season. Their results were considered when the CFSA named the North American and World teams at their autumn 1954 Annual Meeting.


When skaters and officials arrived in Calgary, they were met by a group of 'caddies' (skaters who held up the judges' scores) dressed in leather jackets and white cowboy hats. By the time of the free skating finals at the Stampede Corral, even the judges were sporting white hats. Social events included a reception at the Glencoe Club, numerous supper parties hosted at the homes of local skating officials and a trip to nearby Banff to swim in the hot springs. Let's take a look back at the most important aspect of these Championships - the skating!

THE JUNIOR EVENTS

New champions were crowned in all four of the junior disciplines. Doreen 'Do Do' Leech and Norman Walker bested Claudette Lacaille and Jeffery Johnston to win the McLaughlin-Stephens Cups for junior dance in a three-two split. The dances were the Ten-Fox, European Waltz and Paso Doble.

Doreen Leech, Norman Walker and Patricia Spray

The victors in junior pairs were a promising young team you may have heard of... Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul of Toronto. The Toronto teenagers were ranked unanimously first by the five judges ahead of four other teams, all but one from the West Coast. Wagner and Paul were already being praised for their effective shadow skating, and their ten inch height difference was striking. Wagner attended St. Clement's School; Paul the Lawrence Park Collegiate.

Eight talented young men competed for the Howard Trophy in the junior men's event. All but one judge placed Dick Rimmer of the Minto Skating Club first. The second place skater, Norman Walker of the Connaught Skating Club, received ordinals ranging from first to sixth. Sixth was Bob Paul. Dick Rimmer was a fifteen year old only child. He was in tenth grade at Guelph Collegiate, studying Mathematics, Latin and French.


There were a whopping fifteen entries in the junior women's event. The unanimous winner was Joan Shippam of the Porcupine Skating Club, with hometown favourites Dianne Williams and Karen Dixon second and third. It's worth noting that nine of the fifteen skaters represented West Coast clubs. Joan Shippam was less than two months shy of her sixteenth birthday and took her high school classes by correspondence so she could focus on her skating. She was the oldest of three siblings and enjoyed swimming and badminton.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS

As was customary at the time, there were separate contests for the Waltz, Tenstep and Senior Dance. Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan of the Granite Club won the latter two events, but lost the Dance title to Doreen Leech and Norman Walker, the junior dance champions. Eighteen year old Fenton had won the 1953 junior dance title with Glen Skuce and enjoyed swimming and painting. McLachlan was a tenth grade student at the Lawrence Park Collegiate who enjoyed philately, leathercraft and basketball.

Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The dance event consisted only of compulsories - the Ten-Fox, Paso Doble, Quickstep and Three-Lobe Waltz. Though many junior dance champions 'skated up' in the senior ranks in the years that followed, Leech and Walker hold the unusual distinction of being the only couple in history to win both the senior and junior dance titles in the same year. Leech was a twenty one year old stenographer; Walker worked several part-time jobs to finance his skating.

THE PAIRS AND FOURS COMPETITIONS

Audrey Downie, Patricia Spray, Brian Power and Norman Walker of the Connaught Skating Club were the only entry in the fours event. As the rules required more than one team to compete for the prize to be awarded, the British Columbian team gave an exhibition instead - but it was marked by the judges nonetheless. The four broke up later in the year when Spray got married and Walker turned professional to coach at the Wascana Winter Club.

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Fresh off a win at the 1954 World Championships in Oslo, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden were the obvious favourites in the senior pairs event. They trounced their competitors - Audrey Downie and Brian Power and Dawn Ann Steckley and David Lowery - earning first place marks from every judge. 


Reviewing the event in "Skating" magazine, Anne T. Wickware remarked, "Frances wore a most attractive turquoise skating dress which featured fine fan pleats and glittering sequins at the neckline to relieve the basically tailored design. The extraordinary unity of their performance and the superb lifts and jumps confirmed the high standard of their achievements. Nevertheless, the two other pairs did not let their performances fade before the World Champions and the whole event was extremely well received."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

After the school figures, only four points separated the top four senior women. Carole Jane Pachl, who would go on to win the Canadian title from 1955 to 1957, was unable to compete due to injury. Barbara Gratton managed to defend her Canadian title by the slimmest of margins in a three-two split over the Glencoe Club's Sonja Currie, who won the Canadian junior title in 1953. 1952 Olympian Vera Virginia 'Vevi' Smith took the bronze, ahead of Dawn Ann Steckley, Ann Johnston and Barbara Jean Jacques.

Left: Sheldon Galbraith, Douglas Court and Barbara Gratton in Calgary. Right: Hans Gerschwiler and Sonja Currie. Photos courtesy "The Albertan".

Barbara Gratton's winning free skate was set to a medley of music from the 1937 Walt Disney film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".  She was seventeen years old and a grade thirteen student at Loretto Abbey in Toronto. She planned to attend the University Of Toronto in the autumn.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Peter Firstbrook had turned professional, paving the way for a new Canadian Champion to be crowned in Calgary. Charles Snelling and Douglas Court sported Canadian 'flashes' from their trip to the World Championships in Oslo. Snelling had been the runner-up to Firstbrook at the previous year's Canadians; Douglas Court the junior men's champion. Despite an unusual wardrobe malfunction - a pocket comb falling out of his jacket early in his free skating performance - Snelling held on to his lead in the figures to unanimously defeat Court and the third men's competitor, Toronto's Paul Tatton.


Charles Snelling was only sixteen and was so excited by winning the Minto Cup that he carried it around at the after party. He was a grade eleven student from Toronto who enjoyed playing baseball, building model airplanes and collecting photographs of street cars.

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.