Christmas card from Wm A. Bongers Grocery and Market, circa 1950. Photo courtesy History Colorado Collection.
The holidays are a time when we come together with family and friends, celebrate and create memories. Today on the blog, we will look back at how skating has shaped the holiday memories of both everyday people and some of skating's greatest champions. From the heartwarming to the hilarious, there's a little bit of everything here to bring you holiday cheer. Happy holidays from my family to yours!
THE WHITE SHOE ICE SKATES
Originally published in "The Gadsden Times" on December 24, 1990, Marjorie Chaviers of Boaz, Alabama shared the heartwarming story of how she got her first pair of 'white shoe ice skates' when she was eleven years old: "I have had many happy and memorable Christmases over the years, but one that stands out most vividly was the Christmas of 1941 when I was 11 years old... We lived near an ice-skating rink where all the children and grownups too, skated. I had a very dilapidated pair of clamp-on skates and I think spent more time trying to keep them clamped on my shoes than I did skating. We were very poor, but of course, we didn't know we were poor at the time... Next door to us a Mrs. Pingry ran a boarding house. I washed dishes each evening for her for 25 cents. I believe she saved the whole day's dishes! Christmas Eve she asked me to stay and hand out the presents the boarders had given each other. I immediately spied this large box with my name on it, but pretended I didn't see it. After the last gift was given, they all urged me to open mine. I was shaking so hard I could barely undo the wrapping paper and ribbon and I know my mouth fell open when I saw the most pretty white shoe ice skates I'd ever seen in my life. They had all chipped in to buy them for me. I can assure you I spent nearly all my Christmas vacation on the ice rink. I'll never forget it."
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree rises behind Silke Gelberg in 1961. Photo courtesy Harry Ransom Center.
SKATING ON THE FARM
In the November 22, 1958 issue of the "St. Petersburg Times", John W. Martin recalled Christmases spent skating on the farm of his grandparents in Pennsylvania: "My sister Pat and I made a snow man early in the morning. We used pieces of coal for his eyes and nose and put a pipe in his mouth. Then we had a snow battle and built snow forts. We went to a pine forest nearby, to cut our own Christmas tree. The snow was soft and we would sink down to our knees into it. Christmas night Daddy took us ice skating. I spent of my time sitting down. While we were there it began to snow. What a beautiful sight that was. We skated in the falling snow until it became too [deep]. Then we walked home through it. Before we knew it, our Christmas vacation was over. But I had seen a white Christmas I will never forget."
SKATES IN BED
In her 1950 book "Skate With Me", Olympic Gold Medallist recalled the story of her first pair of skates: "When I was little I had a trapeze, a Charlie McCarthy doll with which I practiced ventriloquism, a pekingese, a scotty, a white Angora cat, a canary, two rabbits, mud turtles, and a white rat. I had these all at the same time. I doubt whether any girl in Ottawa was better supplied with samples on which to build a career, or at least a hobby. I might have taken up dog breeding, making doll clothes, trapeze work. But what I asked Santa Claus for, when I was so young I had to ask Mother to write my letters, was a horse and a pair of skates with boots... The skates arrived the Christmas I was six. And I couldn't use them. I was born with mean mastoids: horrors connected with the ears. By the time I was two and a half years old my ears had been opened eight times and I was scared of people in surgical white coats - grateful for their help but frightened. My unfortunate ears kept me in bed that Christmas season, but I wore my skates anyway. First I'd kick my right leg out from the covers and admire the skate and boot. Then the left leg. How beautiful I thought those skates, gleaming and further polished by Mum's sheets and blankets, and how I longed to get out on ice! As soon as I was well I started skating and won the part of Raggedy Ann in that year's carnival at Ottawa’s Minto Skating Club, our home club."
In the December 22, 1985 issue of "The Spokesman-Review", Royce Gorseth recalled a hilarious holiday encounter with two time World Champion Ája Vrzáňová: "On Christmas Eve 1955, I was 17, working my third night as a busboy at the Ridpath Hotel. As always, the Ice Capades was in town for the holidays and staying at the hotel was Ája Zanova, star of the show, who called room service and ordered cream of chicken soup. Ája Zanova! The most gorgeous woman I had ever seen in my life! Working Christmas Eve might not be so bad after all. I begged to deliver the cream of chicken soup. I was chosen. I wanted to do it right. The usual placemat on a carried tray just wasn't good enough for this occasion. On one of those folding tables with rollers, I placed a mini-oven with a Bunsen burner underneath. I ladled the soup into the nicest bowl we had in the dining room and put it in the oven along with one of the hotel's famous rolls (instead of the usual crackers). I covered the table with a white linen cloth, and poured water into an ice-filled, ruby-red goblet, which I placed beside a silver spoon on a red linen napkin. A table fit for a princess. I smiled. Up the elevator and down the hall without a hitch, and taking a deep breath I gave two gentle knocks on the door answered by Miss Zanova herself - obviously surprised to see such a setting for a bowl of soup. Even with her just-washed hair covered turban-like in a white towel, the object of my affection looked regal in a long, white, silk dressing gown with white fur around the sleeves and down the front. With great flourish, I rolled the soup into the room, took a chair from the desk, placed it in front of the table, took the bowl out of the warmer, pulled the chair back and seated my guest. My ecstasy was short-lived. At the same moment she picked up the spoon, the table collapsed, spilling cream of chicken soup, water and ice all over the white dressing gown. Gracefully, she leaped up. I was frozen with humiliation and fear. I didn't know what to do. Finally she said, "It's all right," retreating to the bathroom. I fell on my hands and knees frantically scrambling to swiftly retrieve bowl, spoon, glass and ice and wipe up the soup that spilled on the floor. "C-c-c-an I bring you some more soup, Miss Zanova?" I squeaked out. "It's all right," replied the rich, gracious voice from the bathroom... "Merry Christmas." "Same to you, Miss Zanova," I half-sobbed, dragging the mess and my ego out the door as fast as I could."
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.