Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The 1900 European Figure Skating Championships

Held on January 21, 1900 in Berlin, the 1900 European Figure Skating Championships marked the first time since 1893 that Germany had played host to the European Championships. Although good ol' Wikipedia claims "Skaters competed only in the categories of men's singles" and "the competitors performed only compulsory figures", the event included competitions for senior men, junior men and pairs skating. It also most definitely included free skating competitions, a fact that is easily referenced in ISU records as well as numerous German and Austrian newspaper accounts. The judging panel for all three events consisted of three German judges, one Swedish judge and one Swiss judge, stacking the events in favour of the German and Austrian participants.

Ulrich Salchow and Gustav Hügel

The turn-of-the-century competition pitted Ulrich Salchow - the two-time and defending European Champion - against Gustav Hügel - the two-time and defending World Champion. Sweden's Salchow took a comfortable lead in the school figures, only to be defeated by Hügel in the free skating. As was often the case in those days as figures counted for more than half of the overall score, Salchow's early lead was more than enough to win him his third European title. Although a Swede - Viktor Balck - was the ISU President at the time, Salchow defeating Hügel in Berlin with only one Scandinavian judge on the panel was still considered something of an upset, even considering Salchow's competitive record to date at the time. Norway's Oscar Holthe and Johan Peter Lefstad placed third and fourth, ahead of Franz Zilly, the bronze medallist from the very first European Championships in Hamburg in 1891. A sixth competitor, Norway's Martinus Lørdahl, was forced to withdraw as the result of an injury.

A report that appeared in the January 28, 1900 issue of the "Illustrierte Sport-Zeitung" noted, "Salchow, perhaps, did the [compulsory] exercises even better than in the previous year. He made them very large and with excellent coverage. In the free-skating, which was very nicely put together and from him was very beautiful, he began with a jump... a spiral [following with] several dance dance steps, the Engelmann Star, Hügel Star... and the end was a Haines pirouette in deep knee bend. Hügel's [figures] were also large in axis and beautifully covered, but he made a sound when he skated which was more than noticed... The verve with which he otherwise completed his program this time was not so noticeable... With a spiral he ran in, then made a very beautiful standing pirouette, several dance steps, his special Haines-Pirouette with low knee, rising to the high pirouette, and a pirouette with the same swing, then some figures of his own invention and finally a deep pirouette. Holthe and Lefstad from Trondheim, the two in a somewhat acrobatic costumes (black with white dressing) skated the [compulsory] exercises not as good as Salchow and Hügel, but both skated brilliantly in the free-skating with colossal and secure jumps and deep pirouettes. Holthe also performed a waltz on one leg, which was quite good."

The junior men's competition which was held in conjunction with the European Championships was won by Edgar Syers of Great Britain. The "Illustrierte Sport-Zeitung" noted, "Syers has significantly improved since the previous year. He's skating now with more momentum and energy and also covers the ice pretty well. His skating was indeed simple, but it was very elegant. Steiner from Vienna skated quite well, and in the free-skating, which was also very simple, he showed some pretty dancing steps."

The pairs competition was won by Viennese siblings Otto and Mizzi Bohatsch. Their program was described as "really exquisitely chosen" and reportedly received "repetitive stormy applause." Madge Cave and Edgar Syers, then engaged to be married, placed second ahead of Christa von Szabo and Herr Euler. They reportedly skated "with great calm and [were] quite elegant."

The Hôtel de Rome in Berlin around the turn of the century

The evening following the competition, the skaters and judges assembled at the Grand Hôtel de Rome for a banquet where the results of the event were announced and prizes awarded.

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

Saturday, 16 September 2017

All Hans On Deck: The Hans Gerschwiler Story

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, NISA Archives

"Besides all the honours and fun that skating has brought me, along with the chance to travel and see other countries, I shall always be grateful for the many friends it has given me all over the world... They have been just wonderful to me - generous, kind and welcoming always." - Hans Gerschwiler, "Skating" magazine, January 1948

"Bring on the heavy artillery." - Hans Gerschwiler, on men's figure skating


Born June 20, 1920 in Winterthur, Switzerland, Hans Gerschwiler grew up in a skating family. Although his uncles were famed coaches Arnold and Jacques Gerschwiler, he somehow managed to avoid taking up the sport seriously until he was thirteen, when he received his first lesson from his uncle Arnold in Neuchâtel. Despite the late start, all it took were a few lessons with his uncle for it to be glaringly apparent that he had it going on. He left school at the age of sixteen to pursue the sport and followed his uncle Arnold to London, where he earned the National Skating Association's Bronze, Silver and Gold medals within a two year span. Like most European skaters during his era, Hans Gerschwiler divided his training time between England and Switzerland.


 In 1938, Hans entered the Swiss Championships for the first time and won. It wasn't even close either; he was over one hundred points ahead of his closest rival in figures alone! After repeating as Swiss Champion the following years and making a very impressive international debut at the 1939 European Championships in Davos, Switzerland (finishing fifth in a field of twelve) he returned to England, where he remained throughout World War II. He took up residence with Cecilia Colledge's family when his uncle Arnold was called back to Switzerland for army service.

Dame Anna Neagle and Hans Gerschwiler. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, NISA Archives.

Hans worked in a factory and as a fire watcher during the War. He was rarely able to train - sometimes only once a week - with the rinks at Queen's and Richmond being the only two that remained open... with blackout curtains on the windows and gas masks in the dressing rooms should an air raid siren go off.


Despite subsisting on meagre rations, Hans did manage to participate twice a year in exhibitions that benefited British war charities. He even did some pairs skating with Joan (Lister) Noble. Off the ice, he spoke English, French, German and Italian and was well respected by his peers. He played tennis, squash and swam, had a piano accordion and enjoyed yodelling "until his voice broke".

(Silent) footage of Hans Gerschwiler and Dick Button skating at the 1947 World Championships

When skating competitions resumed following the War, Hans returned to win two more Swiss Championships and easily skated to victory at the 1947 European Championships in Davos. His crowning moment came at the 1947 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden when he claimed the gold medal ahead of Dick Button after securing a 34.9 point lead in the school figures. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", Uncle Dick recalled, "The fateful bell sounded again and it was announced that Hans had won. I was second. He had scored seven and I had eight in this placings. But there was more to it. The score was even closer. I had made up the deficit in points! I went beyond the Swiss by 352.86 to 350. But that didn't matter; it meant an E for effort, but Hans still won. He had a majority of first places in the votes of the judges - three to two - and that's what counted. Gerschwiler was ranked first by the Swiss, Czech and English judges, with me second. I won the Danish and United States votes, with Hans second on those cards... I congratulated Hans and assured him that the best man had won."

Left: Maja Hug and Hans Gerschwiler. Right: Hans Gerschwiler and Barbara Ann Scott.

On March 3, 1947, "LIFE" Magazine reported that after Hans beat Dick "immediately the Ostermalm Stadium echoed with angry Swedish whistles." Debbi Wilkes, in her 1994 book "Ice Time: A Portrait Of Figure Skating", hypothesized that Hans "won in 1947 only because Dick Button had poor strategy and didn't compete in the Europeans where the judges could get a look at him. He couldn't break through the wall of judges all lined up for Hans. But in 1948, the Gerschwilers knew Hans wouldn't be Olympic champion the way Dick Button was skating unless they made some deals. In Prague that year for the Europeans, Arnold Gerschwiler said to Sheldon [Gailbraith], 'If Hans doesn't win, too bad for Barbara [Ann].' Sheldon said, 'Shove it up your sleeve.'"


Hans didn't win in Prague. Dick Button did... and decisively at that. This time, Dick had a 2.8 point lead on Hans in the figures too and ultimately beat the Swiss star by seven placings in the free skate. At the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Hans' error on the back loop change loop allowed Dick to increase his early lead in the figures. Hans finished second, 29.6 points behind him. Skating after Dick received a 6.0 for his free skate, Hans managed to skate quite masterfully on terrible ice but a fall left him in second with a total of twenty three placings to Button's ten. Even though he was the defending World Champion, if you look the fact that those Olympics were only his fourth international competition... an Olympic silver medal was pretty damn impressive if you ask me. Hans rebounded at the 1948 World Championships in Davos, beating Dick 1149.3 to 1145.4 in the school figures but a flawed free skate left him again in second with nineteen places to Dick's eleven and 1948.5 points to Dick's 1928.7.


In August of 1948, it was announced that Hans would be the new professional coach of the McIntyre (Porcupine) Skating Club in the northern Cochrane County village of Schumacher, Ontario starting on October 15 of that year. While in Ontario, he continued performing professionally, appearing in the Minto Follies in March 1949 alongside Barbara Ann Scott and Lois Waring and Walter Bainbridge. To improve his credentials and branch out into coaching ice dance, he actually took the CFSA's Preliminary, Bronze and Quickstep Dance tests in 1950. A World Champion taking beginner dance tests might sound funny to you, but it happened a lot in those days, believe you me.

Many of Gerschwiler's students went on to become coaches themselves, among them none other than Doug Leigh, who coached Elvis Stojko to Olympic Silver and World Gold to match his coach's successes. Hans later relocated to the U.S. and got married. He was honoured by the ISI with an induction their Hall Of Fame in 1980. When Stéphane Lambiel won the World title in 2005, he was one of the first people to send him a congratulatory message.


When considering Hans' unique contributions to the sport, skating historian Nigel Brown said it best: "Hans Gerschwiler was a scientific skater. Every movement or move, either in figure or free was calculated technically. Its cold correctness had a powerful charm about it, because it was performed to well-nigh perfection. The aim of the English school had been achieved by Hans Gerschwiler... Until now simple runs in preparation for getting a position or as momentum for a jump were often strewn all over the rink in wasteful fashion which dislocated the continuity of the exhibitions. Hans Gerschwiler pioneered the employment of intricate steps in relation to the other movements as an essential part of the programme."

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.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Oxford Skating Society And The Oxford University Skating Club


The oldest university in the English speaking world, Oxford's history traces back to the late eleventh century. Among its alumni are over twenty British prime ministers, kings of Norway and Jordan and fifty Nobel Prize winners. What many may not be aware of is the institution's important role in skating history.

Recorded evidence of ice skating's popularity at Oxford University dates back to the eighteenth century. John Scott, who grew up to twice serve as Great Britain's Lord Chancellor and as the first Earl of Eldon, wrote of the popularity of ice skating on Christ Church meadow in his days as a student at Oxford in his "Anecdote Book". He recalled, "I was skaiting over a part of the meadow where the ice, being infirm, broke in, and let me into a ditch, up to my neck in water. When I had scrambled out, and was dripping from the collar, and oozing from the stockings, a brandy-vender shuffled towards me and recommended a glass of something warm: upon which Edward Norton, of University College, a son of Lord Grantley, sweeping past cried out to the retailer, 'None of your brandy for that wet young man; he never drinks but when his dry.''"

By the third decade of the nineteenth century, figure skating was a popular pastime among the university's students. A student from Pembroke Street named Henry Boswell instructed other skaters in the intricacies of skating combined figures. With fellow skating enthusiasts at Oxford, he also experimented with different lengths and curves of iron blades and designed a seven inch curved club skate.

Skates inspired by Henry Boswell's design, circa 1865

Boswell commissioned a smith from Birmingham fashion four dozen pairs and distributed among the mechanics, tradesmen and college servants who comprised the Oxford Skating Society, founded in 1838. Henry Eugene Vandervell and T. Maxwell Witham, in their 1869 book "A System Of Figure-Skating: Being The Theory And Practice Of The Art As Developed In England, With A Glance At Its Origin And History" are believed to be the first to write of the Oxford Skating Society and Boswell's efforts. They recounted, "The great aim of the members of the society in combined skating was accuracy, and the attention they paid to this accounts in a great measure for the dexterity obtained. The demand for Boswell's skates was so great that the making of them was taken up by a Sheffield firm, and the improved form of iron came into general use. Mr. Boswell was not only the ingenious inventor of the skate which, so far as the iron is concerned, is the club skate of the present day, but he was also considered the best skater in the Oxford society, and, with one of the other members, was professionally engaged to skate on the artificial ice which had been moved from Baker Street to the Coliseum. It has been suggested that the germs of combined skating emanated from the efforts of this society at Oxford, and not from the London Skating Club; but with this we cannot agree, as the London Skating Club was in existence some eight years before the Oxford society, and it is reasonable to suppose that the members who formed the Skating Club were to a certain extent proficient in their art; and we find on inquiry of the now, alas! few remaining original members, that all the figures which are described in the first series were skated by the members of the Club in 1830, and that figures in combination were skated by the men who afterwards formed the Skating Club some fifteen years before that period. The Oxford society seems to have flourished during the time that Boswell was residing at Oxford; but he came to London some fourteen years ago, and from that time the society fell off, and has now, we believe, ceased to exist. We have previously stated that the names of the originators of the germs of our art are unknown to fame, and it is therefore with pleasure that we notice the name of Henry Boswell, as he is entitled to the gratitude of all figure-skaters for the careful experiments he made, and the improved form of iron which those experiments caused him to invent."


The Reverse Centre Eight And A Half, designed by Henry Boswell

Vandervell and Witham were quite correct in their assertion that the Oxford Skating Society ceased to exist. However in 1880, a second organization called the Oxford University Skating Club was formed. Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams recorded that the club's entrance test consisted of "the forward and back cross-rolls and the figures 'forward eight' and 'forward three'" and that the badge of the club's members consisted of a "model of an orange in silver-gilt engraced with the letters O.U.S.C." In 1889, "The Oxford Magazine" noted that "the annual general meeting of the Skating Club was held on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Trinity" and that a teacher named E.F.A. Hext and a reverend named A.H. Johnson were among the officers for the coming winter. It was "hoped that in the event of a frost this winter, both the club meadow at Iffley as well as the pond at Worcester College, kindly placed at the disposal of the club by the Provost, will be available for the use of the member."

"The Cambridge Review" recorded that the Oxford University Skating Club was still in existence two years later and that its skaters expressed an interest in participating in speed skating races against skaters from Cambridge University under the auspices of the National Skating Association. A letter included in the "Review" notes that "in spite of the badness of the ice everyone has been skating all the afternoons, and some all the mornings too, the latter having the satisfaction of feeling as they cut their figures, that they are cutting their lectures." Monier-Williams' book attests to the fact that the club would have still been in existence the following year but by the dawn of the twentieth century, evidence of the club's existence is spotty at best. One thing is for certain though: Oxford University wasn't just home to brilliant minds, it was also home to dedicated and resourceful figure skaters.

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.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Four Impossible Skate Guard Blogs


Sometimes researching history is a lot like fishing. You cast out a line and before you know it, you think you've got something... until it gets away from you. Not every photograph or video that sparks an interest or blurb in an old newspaper or magazine that sets you off on a wild goose chase results in you finding out the whole story. Yet, like fishing, half of the fun is trying. Today we'll explore four impossible Skate Guard blogs that never quite made it off the drawing board... and why.

MADAME KUGEL AND THE CRYSTAL SKATING ICE COMPANY

With a catchy motto that promised to sell you a portable ice rink complete with "the ice that gives all the thrills without the chills", the Crystal Skating Ice Company, Inc. set off on a massive American newspaper advertising campaign in the year 1916. The company offered to sell its portable rinks in sections at a cost of one dollar per square foot, suggesting they'd be perfect for carnivals, fairs, motion pictures and Vaudeville shows. The ice, they claimed, was stored in blocks "in a room comfortably heated" at the Shepard-Norwell Department Store's Colonial Restaurant in New York City. The advertisements also claimed that they'd set up a rink at their office on the seventh floor at 727 Seventh Avenue. A mysterious Madame L.M. Kugel - who I was able to find absolutely nothing definitive about - was the woman behind the whole operation. She claimed, "We have had answers from places all over the United States in reply to our advertisements in The Billboard. The inquiries we received were just the ones that we were looking for, and from just the kind of people with whom we want to do business." Newspapers do note that Fred Gerner, a Hippodrome skater and high jumper and Elfrieda MacMillian, champion woman speed skater from New England, gave exhibitions at a Crystal Ice Rink installed at the Sheppard-Norwell Company's Boston store. As well, apparently one Max Falkenbauer bought Ohio state rights as well as rights for Puerto Rico and Cuba under the United States Circus Corporation.  Col. A Carl Mahl bought the Iowa rights. Later the same year, a second Crystal Skating Ice Company, Inc. was even apparently set up in Quincy, Illinois on the sixth floor of a building owned by the Fraternal Order of The Eagles. The last mention of either Madame Kugel or the Crystal Skating Ice Company, Inc. is appears to be a notice that a patent is being applied for. The U.S. Patent Office's extensive records, even sorted by year and in connection with the Shepard-Norwell Department Store - yield plenty of similar outfits but not this one. Who Kugel was and the fate and real story of this operation was one mystery I wasn't able to solve.

ELSE AND OSCAR HOPPE


Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Born June 11, 1886, Oscar Hoppe claimed the bronze medal at the 1912 German Championships behind Werner Rittberger and Artur Vieregg. The following year, he teamed up with Else Lischka to win his the pairs title of his city - Troppau - along with the men's title. The next year, he and Lischka won the German pairs title. At the end of World War I when Austria-Hungary was defeated, Troppau became part of Czechoslovakia and became known as the city of Opava... so naturally Oscar, who trained at the Troppauer Eislaufverein - started representing Czechoslovakia. From 1925 to 1931, he made several trips to the World Championships with his wife Else (Meixner) Hoppe. They even won the bronze medal in 1927, Czechoslovakia's first at the Worlds in pairs. Off the ice, Oscar worked as a Handelskammer official. He passed away on January 19, 1936 in Opava at the age of forty nine. I wasn't able to find anything on Else. Two Else Hoppe's with birth dates that would logically coincide with Oscar's are listed in the International War Graves index as 'body lost or destroyed' so it is quite possible that she didn't survive World War II... but that may not be the case at all.

STARS OF THE FUTURE

Historian Elaine Hooper was going through the National Skating Association's membership records back in from 1930 when she contacted me to point out a name that appeared that I'm sure will amuse just about any fan of "The Big Bang Theory"... Dr. L. Hofstaedter. The clipping is below and he's listed on the alphabetical list just two places ahead of the fabulous Gladys Hogg.


As we were discussing the fact that one of my next blog subjects would be Veronica Clarke a.k.a. Biddy Bonnycastle, she also sent me a clipping showing her membership with the National Skating Association at the time. This would have been when her grandmother sent her overseas to attend a finishing school in England with her sisters. My name was immediately drawn to the last name on the list.


Yes... movie star Montgomery Clift. As it turned out, I found this blurb in Patricia Bosworth's 2012 biography of him: "Brooks [his brother] became a champion figure skating in Saint Moritz, and Monty, always competitive, followed close behind. Years later, when he toured with the Lunts in 'There Shall Be No Night', the entire cast went ice skating on frozen Lake Michigan, and Monty impressed everybody with his precise figure eights and dizzying corkscrew turns. 'He was as graceful as Fred Astaire,' an observer recalls."

Montgomery Clift

Unfortunately, beyond a proficiency at skating, there just really didn't seem to be much more to the story beyond the snacky actor's NSA membership. He didn't move to Hollywood until the mid-forties and his first two films didn't even come out until 1948, the year Sonja Henie made her last big box office picture, "The Countess Of Monte Cristo." Had he been on the scene about a decade earlier I'm sure his skating talents would have been put to good use on the silver screen during the craze of Sonja spin-off skating movies. The timing just wasn't right.

THE MYSTERIOUS DR. LANGER


Dr. Walter Langer, a member of the Skating Club Of New York, travelled to New Haven, Connecticut in 1928 to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships where he finished third behind Roger Turner and Frederick Goodridge. He later performed in the famed "Land Of The Midnight Sun" ice carnival at Madison Square Garden in 1930 that boasted an all star cast including Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie, World Champion Willy Böckl and U.S. Champions Maribel Vinson-OwenTheresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles.

When the Olympic Games came to Lake Placid in 1932, Dr. Langer took advantage of his Czechoslovakian heritage and entered as a representative of his home country. He finished tenth out of twelve skaters, around six hundred points back of the medallists Karl Schäfer, Gillis Grafström and Bud Wilson. This disappointing defeat would prove to be the last mention I could find of Langer competing as a figure skater.

Gail Borden II, Jimmie Madden, Dr. Walter Langer, William Nagle and Roger Turner at the 1931 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Now just who was this character? The truth is, it's pretty complicated. There was a Walther Langer who was born August 23, 1889 in the Oderfurt district of Ostrava, Czechoslovakia. Records show that he worked as a civil engineer in Czechoslovakia and lived in Vienna, Austria, Breslau (Wrocław), Poland and Havana, Cuba before he emigrated to the United States in the roaring twenties. This particular Walter - or Walther - Langer went by Dr. Walter Langer at his New York City perfume company Hartnell Perfumes and claimed to have "a Ph.D in chemistry". He also claimed to have ties to Austrian nobility and self-titled himself The Baron von Langendorff.

The Baron von Langendorff and Eveline Diane Westall

The Baron von Langendorff and his British wife Eveline Diane Westall bought out their business partners Felice and Hartnell, renaming the company Evyan Perfumes. Together, the couple developed the famous White Shoulders fragrance. An entry from the Timeless Perfumes blog explained, "The name, White Shoulders, supposedly came from a dinner remark by The Duke of Marlborough, about how Lady Evyan's shoulders looked so white in her evening gown. An image of her in an evening gown was later embossed on the White Shoulders bottles. It would be more politically correct today to simply say the fragrance is based mainly on white flowers... gardenias, lilies, tuberose, jasmine, etc., and is worn on the shoulders when in an evening gown. Of course, it is also suited for anytime use, day or evening. The name may have been inspired by a Mary Astor film of the same name that came out in 1931. Before introducing White Shoulders, Hartnell sold a perfume called Menace and magazine ads featured a model who resembled the title character in the White Shoulders movie. Felice and Hartnell may have wanted to push the hard tough female image during those wartime years but Menace was a strange choice of name for a women's fragrance. Lady Evyan preferred the soft, feminine, grace and dignity with lace, theme. White Shoulders was first bottled in the same bottles as Menace with a large and quite ugly H on the bottle. It was placed in a pretty lace and satin box designed by Lady Evyan, she a collector of antique lace. Once the Hartnell period ended, beautiful bottles were created for White Shoulders and the other Evyan fragrances."

In the forties, The Baron von Langendorff bought a thirty two acre waterfront property in Westport, Connecticut between South Compo and Imperial Avenues and called his estate Golden Shadows. It was built on the site of the home of artist Angus MacDonall and was home to illustrious gardens with a gazebo, a greenhouse full of exotic flowers, an ice skating pond and a healthy shroud of mystery. For the decades, the property was known by locals simply as The Baron's Property.

In the late seventies, The Baron von Langendorff retired to a thirty seven room mansion in New York City previously owned by railroad magnate Stuyvesant Fish. A January 21, 1991 article from "New York Magazine" explained, "Mason got a call from the Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, better known as Dr. Walter Langer, the creator of White Shoulders perfume and the owner of Evyan Perfumes. Mason gave the courtly old man a tour. 'I thought he was just getting a preview of the art for the Sotheby's sale,' she says. A couple of days later, however, the baron said he would pay $1.5 million in cash for the house. By the summer, it was his. The baron had recently married his second wife, Gabriele Langerwall Klopman Langer von Langendorff, whose flamboyant appearance and behaviour had earned her a certain notoriety in New York society over the years. But he still had a passion for his late first wife, Lady Evelyn Diane Westall, who had helped create the perfume company. He had maintained her New York office exactly as it had been at the time of her death eleven years earlier. She had been called Lady Evyan. And now, in her honour, he named the Sonnenberg mansion Evyan House. But it was almost empty, and in his first few years as owner, the baron did little to change that. He spent weekends in Westport; while in New York, he stayed in a penthouse apartment atop his company's First Avenue offices. His wife had her own suite in the Pierre... After a year or two some of the baron's furniture began to arrive. In 1981, he hired Jane Ashley, an interior decorator, to move in and help fix up the place. Paintings of women with the White Shoulders decolletage were hung on the walls in homage to Lady Evyan. On rare occasions, the baron used the house for corporate functions. By 1983, the baron was in poor health, and his $125-million fortune was the object of a bitter feud between his wife and Leona Robison, the president of Evyan Perfumes. On September 14, 1983, the last owner of No. 19 Grammercy Park died."

Aside from the fact that the country of origins match up and that the Baron von Langendorff had a skating pond, there just wasn't enough proof to satisfy me that Dr. Walter Langer the skater and this perfume Baron were one in the same. To top it off, the Sports-Reference website, which usually - but not always - gets it right, claims that the Dr. Langer who competed at the 1932 Winter Olympics was born in Ostrava in 1899... and died on October 27, 1955. Yet, when you do the genealogical legwork, you just can't find a thing with these dates that makes sense. As much as I dug my heels in to complete this particular blog, I just couldn't rely on my assumptions. When you're researching, you have to go strictly with the primary source material. In this case, there just wasn't enough to make the case.

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.v

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Put Your Hands Together For Biddy Bonnycastle

Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun

Born May 17, 1912 in Toronto, Ontario, Millicent Veronica Allen Clarke was the daughter of
Charles and Miranda (Allen) Clarke. Her father was a well-respected leather and sheepskin manufacturer who sold jackets to the military that were used in World War I. He worked with his brothers at the family company Clarke & Co. Her mother, according to her son Angus, was a "strong, dominant and determined" woman who devoted considerable time to various local charities and social groups.

Sadly, Veronica's uncle Alfred was a victim of the S.S. Lusitania tragedy in 1915 and her father died of a heart attack when she was only six years old. Her mother sold her interests in the family business, raising enough money to ensure her daughters had food on the table, a roof over their heads and a decent education.

Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives

Veronica grew up in Forest Hills with her mother and older sisters Jocelyn, Katherine and Aldyth. She was educated at Bishop Strachan School and at a finishing school in England. As a young woman, she had two loves - ballet and figure skating. Though a talented dancer, when she was presented with the choice between continuing dance lessons or focusing entirely on her efforts at the Toronto Skating Club, skating won out.

John Machado, Veronica Clarke, Margaret Henry and Stewart Reburn. Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun.

A year after her sister Jocelyn - a talented opera singer - tragically passed away at the age of twenty nine of ulcerative colitis, Veronica made her debut at the Canadian Championships at the age of fifteen, teaming up with Stewart Reburn to finish third in the senior pairs competition. The following year, she claimed the medal in the junior women's competition and won the Canadian fours title with Reburn, John Machado and Margaret Henry.


Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun

Over the following decade, Veronica would go on to win an incredible seventeen more medals at the Canadian Championships, including two more fours titles and two more pairs titles with her second partner Ralph McCreath. She even won the Tenstep and Fourteenstep, skating with McCreath and Jack Eastwood.


Veronica Clarke and Ralph McCreath. Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun.

Veronica's biggest accomplishment came at the 1937 North American Championships in Boston, where she finished second in the women's event to Maribel Vinson-Owen... and then went on to defeat her and partner George 'Geddy' Hill in the pairs event. Though Veronica was an exceptional skater who received training from legendary coaches Gustave Lussi and Werner Rittberger, she skated much of her career in the shadow of her training mates Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith. However, at five foot seven, she was a striking figure on the ice that was in high demand to skate in carnivals throughout Canada and the United States. When she travelled to England at one point to train, the National Skating Association even went so far as to state they were "frightfully delighted" to have her perform.

Letter courtesy Hilary Bruun

The Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada actually named Veronica to the 1936 Winter Olympic team, but since so many skaters from the Toronto Skating Club had been selected to compete in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the club circulated a letter informing the skaters that not everyone's travel expenses would be covered. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. Veronica's mother forbid her from attending the Games in Nazi Germany, stating it was "an unsafe environment". Based on some of the stories told of the experiences of the British contingent at those Games, Veronica's mother's fears weren't unfounded. Around the same time, the family home on Russell Hill Road was burglarized and all of Veronica's major competition trophies were stolen. Her daughter Hilary recalled, "These trophies were never found and presumably melted down and sold. This was a huge disappointment to Mom and she was devastated I am told."

Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun

Veronica retired from competitive figure skating shortly before she married Charles Humphrey Bonnycastle on June 29, 1938. Throughout her skating career, she'd been known in skating circles by the nickname 'Biddy', given to her by her grandmother because she was the youngest. So, in marriage, Veronica Clarke became known to friends by the catchy name Biddy Bonnycastle.

Veronica's husband was soon appointed as the headmaster of Rothesay Collegiate School in New Brunswick and soon the happy couple welcomed a daughter, Hilary, and a son, Angus. Veronica skated recreationally on both an outdoor pond and a covered rink at the university regularly, often wearing a favourite buckskin jacket that a friend of her father had given her as a gift on a trip out West. Locals, who'd never seen a 'fancy' skater of her calibre before, were amazed. She tried giving lessons to skaters in Rothesay and Saint John, but found the New Brunswick skating scene to be a bit behind the times and slow to change.

Veronica, Charles, Angus and Hilary Bonnycastle. Photo courtesy Angus Bonnycastle.

Quoted in an oral history interview on file at the Rothesay Living Museum, Veronica reminisced, "Before I got married I did nothing but skate. I mean I did get educated. I went to the Bishop Strachan School School and I managed to squeak through there but my heart was in skating and I skated all over the place. I was sent out to Vancouver once with a group of five. I took part in all the Canadian Championships and the highlight of my career was when I went down to Boston to compete against the Americans and I came second in the singles and I won the pairs with my partner, Ralph McCreath. So we were North American champions. Really, then I got married and I am afraid my career was nearly over at that point, although I did skate. A Saint John policeman came to me and said would you go and skate at the Forum for us and I said yes. The policeman said if you skate for us we will treat you right and I couldn’t resist that."

Photo courtesy Hilary Bruun

Inspired by her late uncle Reverend Robert W. Allen, Veronica devoted much of her life to church and charitable work. She served as President of her local branch of the Red Cross, the Anglican Women's Church Organization, Kennebecasis Garden Club, Riverside Golf and Country Club, played golf and enjoyed music, flowers and reading. However, figure skating remained a lifelong passion. Well into her older years, she watched the sport on television religiously with family friend Rory Grant, often commenting about how drastically the sport had changed since she'd competed. She was so upset about the elimination of compulsory figures that she wrote a letter to the "Telegraph-Journal".

Veronica's daughter Hilary went to great lengths to arrange a touching meeting between her mother and Ralph McCreath when they were both seniors. Hilary recalled, "I was very nervous about it because I thought maybe it would be dead silence. They just sort of looked at each other. It was so long ago! She must have been late seventies or eighties when I did this. They were sort of shy and then they finally began to chatter about the old days and we just sat there looking at them sort of spellbound because they were working... communicating together. Finally, we left the room and let them talk because we felt they didn't need us looking at them."

Sadly, Veronica passed away on July 27, 1999 in Saint John, New Brunswick at the age of eighty seven. Though she won twenty medals at the Canadian Championships and a North American title, she has yet to be honoured posthumously with an induction into the Skate Canada Hall Of Fame... or given much recognition at all for that matter. As is the case far too often in the skating world, certain skaters are fêted for their accomplishments while others are historically ignored. The fact that Veronica has fallen into the latter category is nothing short of unfortunate.

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.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The 1959 European Figure Skating Championships

Alain Calmat, Karol Divín and Alain Giletti

In the decades leading up to the 1959 European Figure Skating Championships, the stunning outdoor ice in Davos, Switzerland played host to some of the most important competitions in figure skating history. Ulrich Salchow, Karl Schäfer and Barbara Ann Scott all won European titles in the skating mecca. Sadly, the competition held from February 1 to 8, 1959 would prove to be the final time that "the largest natural sprayed ice rink in existence" in Davos would play host to the European Championships and as far as grand finales went, the skating at this event did not disappoint. Many of the competitors arrived well in advance of the competition to acclimatize themselves but found themselves limited in their practice time as both the rink where the competition was to be held and another rink adjacent to it used for practices - separated by a wall of snow - closed at five in the afternoon daily. Let's take a look back at the stories and skaters who made headlines at this historic event!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


West Germans Margret Göbl and Franz Ningel finished fourth in the pairs event in Davos in 1959.

Twelve pairs contested the pairs title in Davos in 1959. The retirement of the Czechoslovakian team of Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal, who had won both the 1957 and 1958 European titles, left the field wide open. The athletic Soviet team of Nina and Stanislav Zhuk were considered favourites by some, but there was much buzz about the promising West German partnership of Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler.

Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler in 1959

With her former partner Franz Ningel, Marika had won the bronze medal for three consecutive years from 1955 to 1957. In the end, the Austrian, West German, Polish and Swiss judges placed the West Germans first, the Czechoslovakian and Soviet judges had the Zhuk's first and British judge Pamela Davis (like the cheese) stood alone in giving her vote of confidence to her country's champions Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles. Future World ice dance champion Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman, skating double duty in both the pairs and ice dance events, finished a dismal last. In winning, Kilius and Bäumler became the first German pair since the Falk's to claim the European title.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION 



Czechoslovakia's Karol Divín and France's Alain Giletti had been one-two in 1958 at the European Championships in Bratislava and were both considered top contenders for the men's crown in 1959. Inspired by the 1952 innovation of Dick Button, both Giletti and his compatriot Alain Calmat attempted triple loops in practice in Davos. In the school figures, the Austrian, Czechoslovakian, West German, East German and Dutch judge placed Divín first while the French and Soviet judges gave Giletti the nod. A third contender, Austria's Norbert Felsinger, earned first place marks from the Swiss and British judges.


Norbert Felsinger and Joan Haanappel

Alain Calmat won the free skate with first place ordinals from six of the nine judges, the other three preferring the concise style of Divín. A young Manfred Schnelldorfer landed a double Axel in his free skate and Felsinger beamed while delivering the finest free skate of his career in a scarlet tailcoat, but Divín and Giletti remained in the top two positions on the podium.



THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Hanna Walter, Sjoukje Dijkstra and Joan Haanappel

Hanna Walter had placed second at the 1958 European Championships in Bratislava, but her winning teammate Ingrid Wendl had retired. A specialist in the school figures, Walter was all but assured a victory in the first phase of the competition if she skated up to her usual potential. She met all expectations and received first place ordinals from six of the seven judges, the Dutch judge placing her in a tie with Joan Haanappel. Holland's Sjoukje Dijkstra, West Germany's Ina Bauer and Austria's Regine Heitzer trailed behind Walter and Haanappel.

Ina Bauer

Bauer won the free skate with first place ordinals from five of the nine judges. Two judges apiece placed Dijkstra and Czechoslovakia's Jana Dočekalová (who attempted a triple Salchow) first. Heinz Maegerlein's 1964 book "Triumph auf dem Eis" noted that both Bauer and Dijkstra skated exceptionally well in the free skate. Walter and Haanaapel delivered less than stellar performances, each receiving ordinals as low as tenth place. There were so many entries that the skaters who ranked twenty first through twenty eighth skated in a second group in the free skating. The results were later combined with the twenty who advanced to the top flights of skaters. In the end, the gold went to Walter, the silver to Dijkstra and the bronze to Haanappel.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Fifteen ice dance teams vied for gold in Davos in 1959 but the one team that everyone was talking about was Doreen Denny and Courtney Jones. Prior to their appearance in Switzerland, naysayers had expressed doubts as to whether or not Jones would be able to achieve the same level of success as he had previously with June Markham. As soon as the Britons took the ice for their first practice, the critics were silenced. However, with 1958 European Bronze Medallists Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby unable to attend, Great Britain - who had swept the podium the previous five years - was left with only two teams competing in Davos. The compulsory dances were interrupted after only six teams skated. Bright sun and strong winds had left the ice conditions less than desirable and the event had to be postponed to the next day. In a class by themselves, Denny and Jones easily won their first international title together ahead of teammates Catherine Morris and Michael Robinson.

France's Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel

In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "It took the absence of a third British couple to break their stranglehold on the European podium since the first Dance event in 1954. The Guhels drew attention with their unique free dance to be honoured with the first non-British medal. Rita Paucka and Peter Kwiet skated a very fast free marred by a spill to end fourth. Elly Thal and Hannes Burkhardt pulled up a notch to fifth with their free dance." As was often even more the case then that it is today, there was very little movement in the ice dance event with the exception of Romanová and Roman. The judges had no clue what to do with the sprightly young team. The British judge had them in fourth and the Italian judge had them in eleventh, where they ultimately ended up. Denny and Jones' winning free dance was broadcast on BBC Sportsview alongside features on cricket, curling and football.

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 'likhing'? 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.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Mascara And Mazurkas: Make-Up In Skating Through The Years

1951 Avon Cosmetics advertisement featuring Barbara Ann Scott

As trends in figure skating have changed over the years, so too obviously have trends in its fashion and hair. As skaters became stars of the stage, screen and even the circus in the early twentieth century, another aspect of their appearance came into consideration... what they wore on their skin.


Most earlier accounts of the make-up skaters wore speak to portrayal of certain characters, sometimes controversial and even dangerous. Red McCarthy painted himself with silver lead based paint 'make-up' in as King Bat Of The Forest and Canadian and American skaters alike donned blackface to perform in club carnivals. Ice Capades star Donna Atwood told NEA Staff Writer Alicia Hart that skaters wore "heavy, dark make-up" for a Tahitian number. She claimed, "If we didn't remove our make-up often enough, we'd soon find our pores had become terribly enlarged."

Cosmetic ad from the Oshawa Skating Club's 1945 "Ice Frolics" carnival program

In his book "Ice Cream", Toller Cranston recalled how Andra McLaughlin Kelly told him Sonja Henie "went to elaborate pains with her make-up... [She] did not apply it directly to her body in the usual way, with a powder puff or sponge. Instead, she had herself dipped into a vat of candy-floss-pink liquid makeup that had been specifically created for her. When Andra showed me a sample of the colour, I found it grotesque. Andra assured me, however, that under exactly the right lighting conditions (which the star, of course, demanded), Sonja's entire five-foot-three, 110-pound body glowed like a perfect Georgia peach. The tint of the potion, manufactured exclusively for her use, became known as 'Sonja Pink'."

Sonja actually offered up her make-up advice to the masses in a piece that appeared in "Photoplay" magazine in 1939... and didn't mention being dipped in a vat of foundation once: "If you find yourself so busy and occupied with one thing or another all day long, that you can hardly find time to powder your nose, much less renew your lipstick, take Sonja Henie's advice on how to keep your lipstick on. Sonja says she powders her lips before she applies the lipstick because the rouge then stays on twice as long. To set it even more, try using the most indelible lipstick you can find in a definitely light shade. Then, over that, use your regular stick in the shade you prefer. Sonja says that if you follow this procedure 'no matter what you go through during the day some colour will be left.'"

Max Factor ad from the 1951 issue of the "Ice Skating International Directory"

In a 1951 article published in the "Ice Skating International Directory", Max Factor Jr. pitched the need for all skaters to wear theatrical make-up. He wrote: "The right type of glamour make-up is as essential for the Ice Skater - either in solo appearances or as a member of the cast of the ever-increasing number of Ice Shows - as for any other type of production or personal appearance before the public. Many of the outstanding Skaters have appeared in films and have come to my Hollywood Studio for advice on their make-up, and in England, where there is a continuous stream of new productions on ice, the Max Factor Hollywood Make-up Artists' services have been in great demand. The basic glamour make-up for a Skating Show is much the same as for a theatrical or film production - most performers know enough about stage make-up and so I do not propose to go into the fundamentals in this brief article - BUT there is one important difference to remember. In a stage production the players are separated from the audience; they rarely come close. Skaters, on the other hand, are frequently within a few feet of the spectators. 'Glamour' make-up is easily acquired, but not so easily retained without a certain amount of care and attention. A performer in your field, who comes into close range of the audience must look as glamorous at close range as from a distance under the brilliant lighting. Skating artists should keep very clean outlines to the eyes and mouth. Use brushes for both. Lip Gloss applied over the lipstick gives a lovely sheen which is attractive and at the same time, protective. It also has the virtue of lengthening the life of lipstick application. For face and limb make-up the most popular shades with Ice Skaters in Max Factor Pan-Cake make-up are Nos. 24, Tan Rose and 2879. Some performers prefer to use Pan-Stik (the latest form of make-up) for the face, and Pan-Cake for the body. But this is something for the individual to decide. Atmospheric conditions in a rink are, of course, very different from those of stage or set, but performers on the ice find that Max Factor Pan-Cake remains perfect as a make-up under the most strenuous conditions - even under water - but that is a different medium altogether, altogether it may be a comforting thought for those who 'skate on thin ice'."


As we know, Cover Girl doesn't cover boy, so Max Factor make-up soon became a staple in the cosmetic bags of both men and women touring with professional shows. In her 1956 book "Thin Ice", Jacqueline du Bief advised, "Make-up is an element that must not be neglected but it should be used with discretion because if applied too lavishly there is a risk of giving the face too set an expression. Its intensity, as with the colour of the costume must depend on the lighting used."

In the amateur ranks, many men resisted putting on a little make-up until the rise of television made it almost a necessity. Interestingly, the program for the Oshawa Skating Club's 1950 "Ice Frolics" carnival lists a female make-up artist for the female skaters and a male artist for the males. Though they were generally far more minimalist than the female stars of the ice shows, most competitive female skaters embraced cosmetics with open arms. By the early seventies, the Washington Ice Rink was offering make-up lessons to female skaters of all ages. Some twenty years later, former Canadian ice dancer Linda (Roe) Bradley opened her own business - The Artistic Impression Makeup Company - offering seminars, consultations and even her own make-up line for skaters.


While many skaters succeeded at the cosmetic craft, others have been often critiqued. The inimitable Toller Cranston threw shade at two time Olympic Gold Medallist Oleg Protopopov's radiant shade of orange foundation and no one will ever forget that famous line uttered by Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 Winter Olympics when the medal ceremony was delayed while Olympic officials tried to find the Ukrainian anthem. After she'd been mistakenly told that Oksana was re-applying her make-up, Nancy said in front of the cameras: "Oh, come on. She's going to get up there and cry again. What's the difference?" Two years earlier, Jim Kershner of the "Spokane Chronicle" gleefully snarked, "I'm sorry, but this sport is just too frustrating to watch. It's excruciating to see all of those skaters' bottoms careening across the ice like human curling stones... I'd like to see a category called 'Makeup Per Square Inch,' in which points are subtracted for each pound of makeup employed. This would solve one of the biggest problems in figure skating today: huge chunks of makeup scattered over the ice after a skater takes a fall. The problem is even worse when it's a female skater." Sportswriters are a quaint bunch, aren't they?


All kidding aside, the trends in skating make-up may have greatly evolved over the years but one thing is for certain: cosmetic companies have made a small fortune off of figure skaters... and that's not likely to change any time soon.

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.rf