#Unearthed: A Letter From Little Cecilia


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month, we'll learn about the early career of Olympic Silver Medallist, World Champion and three time European Champion Cecilia Colledge through a letter purported to have been written by her at eleven years of age describing how she first became involved in the sport and her off-ice training regimen. The piece, printed by the United Press in conjunction with the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, is interesting in that the language and writing style is slightly advanced for an eleven year old... suggesting that perhaps it was written not by her, but by her mother. Whomever the author, it certainly offers a unique perspective on this fascinating star's early years.

Megan Taylor and Cecilia Colledge

"THE EARLY YEARS" (CECILIA OR MARGARET COLLEDGE)

Being a champion figure skater is not as nice sometimes as you may think.

Sometimes when I see the American girls at play up here in Lake Placid, I would like to join them. But right now I can't for I have to think about the world's championship which I have made my mind up to win. Of course, I don't practice and train all the time. I have some spare time, and I most of it I spend playing with dolls.

I started to skate when I was about seven years old about three and a half years ago. I was skating at the London Ice Club in 1928 when Sonja Henie, who was then and is now the world's champion figure skater, and [Maribel] Vinson, the American champion, saw me and said that if I were trained I might become a champion.

I skated all of 1928 and took the bronze medal. I skated at the Richmond Ice Rink in 1929 under the instruction of Phil Taylor, father of Megan Taylor, now British champion, who is here with me. Then I was placed under the tutorship of Jacques Gerschwiler, director of athletics at Lyceum Alpineum at Zwoz, Switzerland, two miles from St. Moritz.

I started working under him in Switzerland in 1930 and remained there until June. I skated at Hammersmith's in London all of that summer alone and then in December I again went to Switzerland under Mr. Gerschwiler and entered various competitions, winning three cups.

Returning to London, I won the silver medal and was third in the British championships. I trained hard and passed for the gold medal on April 22, 1931, at the age of ten years, with the highest mark ever attained by an English skater. I stopped skating on July 2 and went to Belgium for a long rest. Returning to London on September 9, I went into training for the Olympic trials, in which I finished second, after obtaining the highest marks in school figures. I came over to America in January, landing in New York on the 13th. I hope that will bring me good luck, I mean the 13th.


Mumsy and Mr. Gerschwiler came with me. My father, Dr. Lionel Colledge, a surgeon, and my brother Manie are in London.

You may want to know my daily schedule. I arise at 6:30 and take a cold shower. Then comes breakfast and I have it with Mumsy and my trainer. I am told just what to eat and not to eat.

Mr. Gerschwiler is very stern and I must do everything just so and when I don't - Well, I will not speak of that. Then I skate all morning under the direction of my trainer. Then comes lunch, under supervision of course, then I either skate again or dance. I love dolls and when I am skating Mumsy sits on the side lines and makes dresses for my dolls. I go to bed promptly at 8 o'clock every night.

My education? It goes right on. When I am home, I am taught privately and that and skating and a bit of dancing takes up all my time.



Do I like America? Very much indeed and everyone is very kind to me.

I love your American songs; the one I like best of all is the one that says, 'Ninety-nine out of a hundred want to be kissed. Why don't you?' It is wonderful to skate to it.

I am here with Megan Taylor, representing Great Britain, and we are going to do our best, and as you would say, then some. Wish us luck.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1982 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


In late January of 1982, over two hundred of Canada's best figure skaters flocked to subzero Brandon, Manitoba for the 1982 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. While there were complaints about the ice in the tiny Kinsman Arena which was used for practices, the skaters and audiences alike raved about the great ice and audiences in the Keystone Centre where the competition was held. Thousands watched the CTV broadcast and today, you'll feel like you did too if you didn't, as we hop back in the top machine and revisit the skaters and stories at this exciting event!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Lucie Vallee and Francois Vallee of the CPA Montreal Nord lead the way in the novice compulsory dances but were overtaken by Jo-Anne Borlase and Scott Chalmers in the variation dance. Shauna Thomchuk and Alan Becken of the Thompson Figure Skating Club edged Leanne Turney and Robert Polland for bronze in a field of sixteen couples.

Thirteen year old Melissa Murphy of St. Catharine's, Ontario jumped from seventh after figures to win the novice women's title. She landed a triple toe-loop in her first appearance at the Canadian Championships but fell on a double Axel. Fourteen year old Manon Maurice of Repentigny was second and fifteen year old Melanie Jaeger of Burlington, who had won the figures, third. Frank Nowosad praised Patricia Wong's free skate "for its delicacy and sensitivity." She placed all the way down in ninth in a field of sixteen.

Defying the logic that an early start order was death under the 6.0 system, Christine Hough and Kevin Wheeler drew first to skate in the novice pairs event and were placed first by all seven judges in a field of twelve. Christine's ability to sell a program was evident even at her young age. Lynne Wagner and Ron Dale were second; Tammy and Dion Beleznay third. However, the talk of the novice pairs event were the youngest and tiniest pair in the competition. Brooke Petersmeyer and Kevin Playle, a pair of eleven year olds, were from Winnipeg and the Manitoba crowd went berserk over their performance.

Thirteen year old Marc Ferland of Beauport, Quebec finished first in both figures in free skating to take the novice men's title with ease. Sixteen year old Scott Rachuk of British Columbia was second and fourteen year old Blaise Kirchgesner of Saskatchewan third. Donald Jackson noted that Ferland "skated his free skating program well and deserved to win" but that "a big improvement in his presentation would come about if he would learn to keep his head up. He has a tendency to keep looking down at the ice." Michael Slipchuk was tenth and a young Kurt Browning twelfth of thirteen competitors in his first trip to the Canadian Championships! In his book "Kurt: Forcing The Edge" he wrote, "I asked Mom if I was really as bad as my marks made out. She thought for a minute, and then said, 'Yes'. The truth hurt, but the truth was that I badly needed help." That result spurred Kurt to make the move to the Royal Glenora Club.


Dianna Poirier and Brett Schrader. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

There were numerous deductions in the junior pairs short program. The favourites, Lynda and John Ivanich, got dinged on the twist and Leslie Robinson and Neil Tymoruski on the throw double toe-loop. Leaders Julie Brault and Richard Gauthier and Bonnie Epp and Leonard Warkentin skated clean. Epp and Warkentin had been beat by the Ivanich's at both B.C. Sectionals and Western Divisionals and both the fact these teams were 1-2 after the short program surprised many. However, Brault and Gauthier ended up winning the gold with a confident, fast program that featured more difficult lifts than their competitors. Epp and Warkentin remained in second and Robinson and Tymoruski moved up to third ahead of Lynn Frasson and Mark Bystreck and the Ivanich's in a field of eleven teams. The junior ice dancers had a Tango OSP in 1982. Teri-Lyn Black and Mirko Savic won the title, besting Isabelle and Duchesnay (fourth in compulsories), Michelle McDonald and Patrick Handley, Dianna Poirier and Brett Schrader and eleven other teams. They 'skated up' in senior ice dance event, where they placed eighth out of nine couples. Mary Angela Munro and Craig Sterling of the Halifax Skating Club were thirteenth.

Julie Brault and Richard Gauthier. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

Nineteen year old Mickey Prilsauer of Sudbury led the junior men after figures, followed by Andre Bourgeois of Dieppe, New Brunswick, Troy Ruptash of Edmonton and Hamitota, Manitoba's Lyndon Johnston. Johnston moved up to win the gold with his fearless free skating efforts ahead of Brad McLean, Bourgeois and Louis Lasorsa. Prilsauer ended up in sixth. Donald Jackson praised Johnston's "good speed and body lines that may have been developed through his pair skating." The results in the junior women's event were all over the freaking place. Three different women won all three phases of the competition... and none of them won the gold or silver medals. Monica Lipson of the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club took that honour. She was fourth in the school figures and the short program and second in the free skate but Frank Nowosad praised her "ability to enhance rather plain movement." Rewarded for consistency in placing in the top five in all three rounds of competition, Natalie Reimer of Lethbridge, Alberta was second. Figures winner Lana Sherman was third, free skate winner Melinda Kunhegyi fourth and short program winner Tracey Robertson fifth.

THE PAIRS AND FOURS COMPETITIONS


Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, Rob McCall, David Dore, Barbara Underhill, Paul Martini and Kay Thomson. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Six teams vied for the senior pairs title in Brandon and the clear favourites, Barbara Underhill of Oshawa and Paul Martini of Woodbridge, did not disappoint. They won the short program with a powerful performance to "Channel One Suite" by Bill Reddie, earning first place ordinals from all seven judges. The results remained the same from first through last in the free skate. Underhill and Martini executed a triple twist and a huge throw triple Salchow, however Paul fell on a side-by-side double Salchow. In spite of the error, they earned all 5.8's for technical merit and 5.7's and 5.8's for artistic impression. The silver medal went to Lori Baier and Lloyd Eisler; the bronze to Becky Gough and Mark Rowsom. Three judges rewarded 5th place team Katherina Matousek and Eric Thomsen's clean "Swan Lake" free skate (replete with double Axels) higher marks than the teams above them. Baier and Eisler's free skate employed elements of mime and featured a gorgeous throw triple loop. Fourth place team Melinda Kunhegyi and Lyndon Johnston were major crowd favourites, as Lyndon hailed from Manitoba.

The 1982 Canadian Champions in fours skating. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

In 1982, fours skating was reintroduced to the Canadian Figure Skating Championships for the first time in eighteen years. Of the five teams that skated, four were from Ontario. The champions were Melinda Kunhegyi, Becky Gough, Lyndon Johnston and Mark Rowsom. Three young future Canadian Champions participated but failed to make the podium: Christine Hough, Isabelle Brasseur and Jean-Michel Bombardier.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall

With the reigning Canadian Champions Marie McNeil and Rob McCall parting ways and fellow Nova Scotian contenders Gina Aucoin and Hans-Peter Ponikau retiring, the Canadian ice dance landscape looked very different in 1982. McCall was back with a brand new partner... Tracy Wilson. They had only been skating together for five and a half months when they arrived in Brandon but under Bernard Ford's tutelage had already won a medal at the Ennia Challenge Cup and taken the gold at the Western Divisional Championships to qualify. In the Blues and Viennese Waltz, Wilson and McCall squeaked out a tiny lead, with Joanne French and John Thomas and Kelly Johnson and Kris Barber tied for second. In the third compulsory dance, Wilson and McCall increased their lead and a timing problem dropped French and Thomas to third.

John Thomas. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

All teams excelled in the Blues OSP, but teams who gave a more bawdy interpretation of the Blues seemed to garner higher marks from the panel of seven judges. Wilson and McCall won their first Canadian title with their "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" free dance that was described by Greg Young as "nothing short of a masterpiece."


In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves raved, "They poured out dynamic strength and theatrical savvy in the ascent above others who had years of experience together." Despite performing a charismatic free dance to "Rhapsody In Blue", French and Thomas remained behind Johnson and Barber. Fourth place went to future Canadian Champions Karyn and Rod Garossino.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Kay Thomson

In the height of the CFSA's Tracey Wainman fever, the unexpected happened: she didn't win. Despite suffering from a bad stomach flu, Wainman won all three figures (the rocker, paragraph double three and change loop) with marks ranging from 4.2-4.7. Barbara Graham said she hadn't seen such good figures at Nationals since Karen Magnussen retired. That said, however much Wainman managed to pull it together in Brandon, it was clear to her competitors that she was legitimately sick.

In the short program, sixteen year old Elizabeth Manley of Ottawa rose to the occasion with a fiesty performance to take the lead over seventeen year old Kay Thomson of Toronto and a hometown favourite, 1981 Canadian Junior Champion Diane Obigowski of Minnedosa, Manitoba, who made her senior debut at the Canadian Championships in her home province. Wainman tumbled and finished a disappointing fourth and many felt that Charlene Wong, in fifth, had outskated her as well.

Elizabeth Manley's coaches Bob McAvoy and Anne Schelter had put together a challenging, if not overwhelming free skate to Prokofiev's "Cinderella" for her. Frank Nowosad wrote, "The nervous sounding music used for the opening established an insistent tempo that set Manley off and running at a rate from which she never let up, not even during the adagio passages. It is difficult to discern if the frantic pace is due to the brevity of the musical cuts, the desire to get everything done, or to the quality of Manley's movement. I suspect all three. Such a complex program demands technical exactitude and Manley came forth accordingly." Manley won the free skate ahead of Thomson, whose traditional free skate to "Marinarella" by Julius Fučík (choreographed by Sandra Bezic) was also well received, however Manley's sixth place finish in the school figures kept her behind Thomson overall. Wainman, off kilter in her free skate, fell three times but managed the bronze medal with a lot of help from her win in the school figures. Obigowski, Wong, Andrea Hall and Kathryn Osterberg - who was third to figures and second to last in the free skate - followed.


In her 1991 book "Thumbs Up!", Manley wrote, "Tracey had taken her defeat very hard. She was devastated by her performance, not really able to grasp what had happened to her... All the attention had taking its toll and she had been unable to maintain her number-one status. Kay, Charlene and I tried to cheer her up, but she obviously felt terrible. It was difficult for the rest of us to celebrate, knowing how hard she had taken it."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Brian Pockar. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

To say that the odds were stacked against twenty two year old Brian Pockar in 1982 is a huge understatement. After losing his national title in Halifax in 1981 and placing behind Brian Orser at the World Championships that followed in Hartford, Connecticut, he had missed Skate America after suffering complications following an operation for a ruptured appendix. Then came the two stress fractures in his left leg in practice that caused him to miss the NHK Trophy in Japan. With only about two months of training, he arrived in Brandon unprepared and fueled by determination. He won the school figures with first place ordinals from six of the seven judges. The seventh tied Pockar and twenty one year old Gary Beacom, who won the second figure. Brian Orser, Gordon Forbes and Dennis Coi followed in the standings.

Brian Orser won the short program with a clean performance, earning 5.8's and 5.9's. His victory left Pockar and Orser in a tie with 2.2 points each under the scoring system in place at the time. Coi was second in the short program, skating cleanly though almost running into the boards after landing a required double Salchow. Pockar missed his double flip/triple toe combination. It was his first time falling in a short program at the Canadian Championships in seven appearances. He earned marks from 4.8 to 5.7 and placed fourth in that phase of the event. Beacom landed his double flip/triple toe but missed his double Axel and was third. Pockar was critical of the 'new marking system' at the time that all but assured the winner of the long program would take the gold, questioning why performing the figures and short program was even necessary.


In the free skate, Brian Orser skated very well - landing a triple Axel - but was slightly off balance on the landings of his triple Lutz and triple Salchow. In his 1988 book "Orser: A Skater's Life" he wrote, "I didn't know if I had won, but thank goodness, I had the right panel... Everyone was thrilled, because Brian had skated well. Many thought he had beaten me, but he made some mistakes, too. It could have gone either way." Two of the seven judges tied Orser with Pockar, who actually upped his game with a more technically demanding program than usual despite injuring himself a third time in practice before the free skate. Missing a triple toe-loop, he had spiked his right foot with the heel of his left blade and ending up in the hospital getting stitches. Coi skated brilliantly to move up and take the bronze. Beacom fell on his first two jumps, fought back hard but slipped to fourth.


Donald Jackson noted, "Brian Pockar was the biggest surprise to me and I felt that his long program was the most exciting event of the Canadian Championships and with his performance, almost won back his title." Stating the obvious, Pockar observed, "I don't know why it is but every time I stick another triple jump into my program my artistic impression mark goes up." Some things never change.

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.

Gold In Alexandra: The Sadie Cameron Story

Photo courtesy National Library Of New Zealand, used under Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence.

Born in 1913 in Alexandra, New Zealand, Helen 'Sadie' Cameron was literally raised surrounded by gold. The small town where she and her brother Gillies grew up was founded during the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860's and both her maternal and paternal grandparents were amongst the area's earliest settlers who arrived in search of gold. Sadie's father Samuel was a member of Alexandra's Borough Council and worked as the manager of the Perseverance gold dredge and her mother Jean was one of the small town's most beloved residents, known for her generosity and charity work. Her grandfather Thomas Brown was a stonemason who helped build the Alexandra Bridge.

Sadie Cameron and Corinne Gilkinson at the 1939 New Zealand Championships. Photo courtesy National Library Of New Zealand, used under Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence.

Sadie, an athletic young woman who excelled at doubles tennis, first took to the ice at the age of twelve at Lanes Dam, Bridge Hill. She fell in love with the sport instantly, and was unphased by a nasty fall caused by an errant twig on the ice that left her with a grazed temple and her skating partner, Fritz Backholm, with a fractured nose.

Skaters on the Manorburn Dam in 1939. Photo courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.

Enthusiasm aside, she was far from a seasoned skater when she entered the very first New Zealand Figure Skating Championships at Manorburn Dam in 1939. Despite her inexperience, she defeated three other women from Alexandra and Dunedin. Rhona Whitehouse, who penned the New Zealand Ice Skating Association's fiftieth Jubilee history book in 1987, noted, "Until 1934, when the Manorburn Dam was built, she had skated two or three times on what one might call rickety ice. The competition consisted of a forward outside eight, forward inside eight and change of edge, as well as back outside edges in the field. The only tuition she had was from an elderly Swedish gentleman who told her to 'lane ophir' (lean over). She said skaters had no idea about legs, body or shoulder positions. Her first lesson by a professional was from Norinne Calder from Australia." Later the same summer after she won her National title, Sadie bested three other skaters to win the Central Otago women's title, held at Idaburn Dam under the auspices of the Oturehua Winter Sports Club. She represented the Alexandra Winter Sports Club.
Photo courtesy National Library Of New Zealand, used under Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence.

Unfortunately, during World War II the early efforts of the New Zealand Ice Skating Association and the Alexandra Winter Sports Club ceased. There were no artificial or indoor rinks in the country at time and gas rationing made trips to the back country, where good ice was plentiful, limited. Yet in July 1943, Sadie impressed a crowd of six hundred at an ice carnival on Manorburn Dam which featured a relay race, hockey game, and exhibition skating. The July 21, 1943 issue of the "Alexandra Herald And Central Otago Gazette" noted, "There were no dull moments." Proceeds from the event went to the Patriotic and Parcels fund. She continued to perform exhibitions in these informal ice carnivals throughout the War.

Video courtesy Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, used under Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. 

Sadly, during the War both of Sadie's parents passed away within weeks of each other and the man in her life, David Lawrence (Tam) Cooney, a fellow skater and member of the New Zealand Army Service Corps who served with the Mechanical Transport Company, was captured a Prisoner Of War.

After the War, Sadie reunited with Tam. They married and had two daughters, Marie and Pamela, and ran an orchard in Alexandra together for many years. In her spare time, she attended a Presbyterian church and enjoyed playing golf, flower arranging, gardening and volunteering with the Girl Guides.
Although she didn't initially return to competitive figure skating when free skating events were added to the New Zealand Championships in the late forties, Sadie won a couples ice dancing trophy with her husband - who served on the Alexandra Winter Sports Club's Skating Committee - in 1959.  For many years, she remained active in the country's skating community as a judge and mentor to up-and-coming skaters. Many of the young skaters she worked with called her 'Gran'.

Sadie passed away in Alexandra on November 11, 1992 at the age of seventy nine, three years before her husband. Her obituary from the "Otago Daily Times" noted, "Friends described her as a vibrant outgoing person with a wonderful sense of humour." Though she may not have had a long, distinguished competitive skating career, she will go down in history as the first woman in New Zealand to strike gold on the ice.

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 gsuggestion 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 1943 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

The Iceland rink in 1942. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Hosted by the Skating Club of New York, the 1943 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held on March 6, 7 and 8, 1943 - a Saturday, Sunday and Monday. School figures and the preliminary rounds of the dance events were held at the Iceland rink, with finals contested downstairs at Madison Square Garden.

Unlike in Europe where in many countries figure skating's development had slowed to a standstill due to World War II, amateur figure skating in America was evolving at a rapid pace and enjoying a boom in media coverage, largely due to the explosion of professional skating tours and big budget motion pictures starring Sonja Henie.

At the same time, the USFSA was asking skaters to donate trophies and pins containing pewter for war equipment manufacture. Numerous clubs donated carnival proceeds to the War effort. "Skating" magazine even donated typewriters. The USFSA held the Annual Meeting of the Governing Council a month early to coincide with the U.S. Championships in New York. They voted to continue "Skating" magazine the next winter despite the War, but to postpone publication of the next rulebook and yearbook and publish rule changes in "Skating" instead. Despite the impacts of the War, engineer Heaton Ridgway Robertson, who was USFSA President at the time, recalled, "The competitions were continued all through the War, as were most of our other activities. This was at first considered to be impractical and perhaps not even patriotic. It was later agreed that competitions should be run wherever there were suitable entries, and other activities followed a similar course. As it turned out, there were plenty of entries in all but the Men's Senior class, and the wartime competitions were otherwise remarkably successful."


One of the highlights of the 1943 U.S. Championships was a gala benefit organized by the American Flying Services Foundation, an organization whose goal was to "keep 'em flying". The A.F.S.F. devoted itself to funding medical services for young men who were refused entry to the United States Army Air Corps due to 'correctible physical and educational defects'. Another highlight of the event were the exciting skaters who took part. Let's take a look back at the stars and stories that made the 1943 U.S. Championships so memorable!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR COMPETITIONS

The novice men's and women's titles were won by G. Austin Holt of the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club and Ann P. Robinson of the New Haven Skating Club. A young Bob Turk placed fourth in the novice men's event. Eddie LeMaire of the Skating Club of New York, the son of famous professional skaters Maud Reynolds and Francis LeMaire, bested a pair of Californians - Marcus Nelson and Jimmy Lochead Jr. - to claim the junior men's title. In junior pairs, Betty Schalow and Arthur Preusch of St. Paul emerged victorious over Ruth Flint and Lyman E. Wakefield Jr., Karol and Peter Kennedy and Donna Jeanne Pospisil and Jean-Pierre Brunet. Wakefield was a Lieutenant in the Navy and Brunet was the son of Olympic Gold Medallists Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet. Hildegarde Balmain of Kew Gardens topped eleven others in the junior women's event. LeMaire and Balmain's wins helped secure the Bedell H. Harned trophy for the most points earned by a skating club for the host Skating Club of New York.

The Bedell H. Harned Trophy. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Willie Frick and Bud Wilson's students Dorothy L. Glazier and Lyman E. Wakefield Jr. of the Skating Club of Boston made history as the first U.S. junior dance champions, defeating Nancy Blair and Michael McGean, Kathie Mehl and Allan Van Alstyne and six other teams. Dancers performed the Continental Waltz, Three-Lobed-Eight Waltz, Tango and Fourteenstep. A year earlier, the event the juniors competed in would have been the equivalent of senior dance.

THE PAIRS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS


Doris Schubach and Walter Noffke. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

No fours competition was held, but Doris Schubach and Walter Noffke of Holyoke, Massachusetts managed to defend the senior pairs title they'd first won the year prior in Chicago. Interestingly, Arthur Preusch - who had won the junior pairs title with Betty Schalow - finished second in senior pairs with a different partner, Janette Ahrens. The bronze went to Jimmy Lochead Jr. and Marcella May of the Skate and Ski Club in California. Doris and Walter later married. Looking back on her skating career years later, she recalled, "I was always afraid to perform alone and consented to enter competition only when my father suggested that Walter and I perform as a pair... We had many compliments on the originality and imaginative quality of our programs."

In the history making first Gold dance event at the U.S. Championships, six couples skated the Continental Waltz in a preliminary round, then performed the Three-Lobed-Eight Waltz, Blues, Quickstep and Westminster Waltz in the Finals. Pairs medallists Marcella May and James Lochead, who had only been skating together for eighteen months, took top honours. Marjorie Parker Smith and Joseph K. Savage finished second and Nettie Prantell and Harold Hartshorne third. Parker Smith, Savage, Prantell and Hartshorne had all won U.S. dance titles prior to the War. At the time of their medal wins in New York in 1943, Savage was sixty three and Hartshorne was fifty one. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "At times the music belched... giving forth 'shrieks when music was called for and even at its best could only labelled canned'. Another relic of these pre-Zamboni times was the water wagon system used to maintain excellent ice throughout the competitions."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Arthur Vaughn Jr. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Eugene Turner and Bobby Specht, the winners of the senior men's titles at the two previous U.S. Championships, had both turned professional. Nineteen year old Arthur Vaughn Jr. of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, who'd lost to both Turner and Specht at those Championships, took a slim four point lead in the school figures over St. Paul's Arthur Preusch and then - according to "Associated Press" reporters - "ran off with the title" in the free skating. The bronze medal went to William Nagle, the perennial last place finisher from Brooklyn who just wouldn't stop competing. Turner, Specht and Vaughn would all go on to enlist in the U.S. Army.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Defending champion Jane Vaughn had married and retired, leaving seventeen year old Gretchen Merrill of the Skating Club of Boston - the runner-up to Vaughn in 1941 and 1942 - as the heavy favourite. She took a slim lead in figures thanks to first place ordinals from judges from Boston (her hometown) and California (where she went to school). The other three judges had her second, fourth and fifth.


Over five thousand spectators watched the final phase of the women's competition. Fifteen year old Dorothy Goos of New York, who was only fifth after figures, won the free skate but still finished seventeen points behind Merrill overall, as figures counted for sixty percent of the overall score. Janette Ahrens moved up from fourth to third, while Ramona Allen of Oakland and Phebe Tucker from New York, who had been second and third after figures, dropped 'off the podium'. Associated Press reporters noted, "Issue was taken with the judges on the ground that they rated Miss Merrill's free skating clearly better than Ramona Allen's and Jane Zeiser's. Both Miss Allen and Miss Zeiser [of St. Louis] presented superbly organized material in flawless fashion, while the new champion was a bit rocky in spots on the Garden's fast surface." The day after the event, Gretchen's mother told reporters, "Gretchen already has an attractive Hollywood offer, but she will not consider it." The reason her mother gave was that was 'coming out' as a debutante that November and "wouldn't have time for pictures".

USFSA President Heaton R. Robertson presenting Gretchen Merrill with her trophy 

Maribel Vinson Owen, who coached both Gretchen Merrill and novice men's champion Austin Holt, told reporters, "It's so much more nerve-wracking to have your pupil competing than it is to compete yourself.... I get a special thrill out of teaching, for I've had some extraordinary pupils. Gretchen Merrill is a hard worker and a wonderful showman. She is never satisfied, so she will go on getting better and better."

Quoted in the March 29, 1943 issue of the "New York Post", Gretchen Merrill recalled her win thusly: "Gosh! I was the most surprised person there. I did all right in the school figures - loops, rockers, eights and things like that. But when I came to the free skating I was so close to getting that cup and so nervous. I was tightened up. So I fell. My gosh! I didn't think I'd won. I was sitting there so dejected. People kept telling me I'd won but I wouldn't believe it. Then finally it was official. And I was so happy - and so surprised - I laughed till I cried."

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.j

Donald B. Cruikshank, Man Of Many Hats

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

Born July 16, 1907 in Ottawa, Ontario, Donald Babcock Cruikshank was the son of Dwight Phelps and Elizabeth (Babcock) Cruikshank. At the time of his birth, his parents were both American citizens. His father was a factory manager at the Library Bureau Company, which manufactured office furniture. He began skating at the age of seven in 1914, following in the footsteps of his parents and older sister Mimsi, who were regulars at the Minto Skating Club. Off the ice, he was educated at Andover and Deerfield Academies in his youth.

Though Donald took some lessons from Gustave Lussi, performed in several group numbers in the Minto Follies and competed in a few club junior events, it wasn't until the thirties, when he was in his mid twenties, that he began to focus seriously on the competitive side of skating. In Donald's eyes, education and employment took first priority for a time. He studied at Dartmouth College and worked at the Pittsburgh Steel Mills and Remington Rand in Buffalo, before returning to Canada to become involved in his father's business. Around this time, Dwight Phelps Cruikshank was the Minto Skating Club's President.

Robert Surtees, Naomi Slater, Aidrie and Donald Cruikshank - The medal winning Minto Four at the 1937 North American Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

After winning the bronze medal in the senior pairs competition at the Canadian Championships with partner Kathleen 'Kay' Lopdell in 1933, Donald won the pairs, waltz and tenstep competitions at the Minto Skating Club's annual competition with three different partners: Lopdell, Frances Claudet and Frances Sharp.

Kay and Eva Lopdell with Donald B. Cruikshank. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club.

In the years that followed, Donald amassed three silver medals in pairs skating and two silver medals in fours skating at the Canadian Championships and won medals in both pairs and fours skating at the North American Championships. In an interview with Teresa Moore, he recalled of his fours skating days, "There was a real desire to do well, not just for yourself but for your partners. If you failed, you didn't just failed yourself, you failed the whole team."

Donald also amassed an incredible eight top three finishes in the waltz, tenstep and fourteenstep competitions at the Canadian Championships in a five year span. Four of them were gold. Although Donald at times went through ice dance partners like musical chairs, the woman who was usually at his side was Aidrie Main, a talented and feisty skater who became his first wife during the period they were competing together.

Aidrie and Donald Cruikshank. Photos courtesy "Canadian Skater", "Skating" magazines.

Donald was often criticized by judges for his interpretation of pairs skating, which some felt was a little too much in the vein of ice dance. At the 1933 North American Championships in New York City, American judge Joel B. Liberman chastised Donald and Kay Lopdell for a "lack of pair dances in either ballroom position or side by side". At a time when pairs skating and ice dancing were both trying desperately to define themselves, Donald just couldn't seem to please anyone or get consistent feedback from the judges.

Barbara Ann Scott, Donald Cruikshank and Mary Scott (Barbara Ann's mother)

In the forties, Donald served as Vice President of the CFSA, President and Vice President of the Minto Skating Club and Vice President and managing director of the Steel Equipment Company, Ltd. He was also a regular at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. Though his final competitive appearance as a skater wasn't until 1949, it was also during this period that he first ventured into the judging world.

Donald's first international assignment was the 1947 European Championships in Davos, Switzerland. Realizing the considerable expense of Barbara Ann Scott attending competitions in Europe at a time when skaters had to conform to strict rules of amateurism, he spearheaded a fundraising campaign with Melville Rogers, soliciting funds from Ottawa businessmen to help finance Barbara Ann and coach Sheldon Galbraith's trips. They raised approximately ten thousand dollars in ten days.

Donald's first wife Aidrie (Main) Cruikshank. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

By all accounts, Donald was a fair judge who was unphased by peers that exerted obvious national bias. At the 1947 World Championships in Stockholm, he didn't bat an eyelash when the a bloc of four Scandinavian judges gave unusually high marks to Sweden's Britta Rahlen. Two of them placed her in the top three. He, along with the rest of the panel, had her tenth or lower. She placed ninth. He judged and refereed at numerous Canadian and North American Championships, the 1967 World Championships in Vienna, Austria and 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan.

The Cruikshank family on ice. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

Perhaps Donald's most important contributions to the skating world occurred during the period of 1951 to 1953, when he served as CFSA President and played an important role in introducing centralized testing to Canada. He also pushed for changes in the judging world during this era. Teresa Moore recalled, "Cruikshank... felt Canadian judging needed to be improved. There were too few judges, and not enough experienced ones. When Cruikshank came into office, there was still no formal method of appointing judges, no trial judging and no system for selection. The promotion of judges was also unprofessional, in Cruikshank's opinion. Judges continued to be promoted because they were known by other judges. This method had been used since the Association first started promoting judges, but a country that had an Olympic champion and a blossoming skating community from coast to coast required more sophistication in the training, selection and appointment of judges." By calling out 'the elephant in the room', the CFSA began to slowly acknowledge and address its shortcomings in this department. Another of Donald's important contributions to Canadian figure skating included his suggestion that the CFSA develop a public relations campaign to improve attendance at the Canadian Championships.

Left: Donald B. Cruikshank and Mary Petrie McGillvray at the 1972 Winter Olympics. Photo courtesy Marie Petrie McGillvray. Right: Barbara Ann Scott and Barbara Ann Cruikshank. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

With his first wife Aidrie, Donald had three daughters, Barbara Ann, Betsy and Susan, and a son, Bobby. He later married a woman named Ted and settled in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Officially retiring from the skating world in 1982, Donald was given the Award Of Excellence by the CFSA at their Annual General Meeting, awarded by then CFSA President David Dore. In his acceptance speech, he read a poem he had penned, which was later reproduced in the July-August 1982 issue of "Canadian Skater" magazine:

"At Minto Club, I got my start
'Cause Mom and Dad said learn the art
Of making Eights and Threes and Loops
Your prize could be some brand new boots

To Dey's Arena, from school I went
The knee and leg must be bent
Those words from Poole and Chatté stayed
Deep furrows in my mind they made

Then came the competitions, tough
The judges made things very rough
I skated Pairs and Foursomes too
For fifteen years, and I was through

But then again that was not all
Revenge, I thought, could be a ball
Why not be a judge, I said
Forget the rules we all so dread

Those early days were really grim
I froze to death, rinks cold as sin
Until the ISU at last
Said skate inside, no wintry blast

And then my time arrived to show
If I did or did not know
To mark a skater up or down
Think hard my boy - don't be a clown

And so it went, through all those years
There're no regrets, I shed no tears
This tribute given by your hand
My thanks again, you're simply grand."

Charles Cumming, William de Nance, Norris Bowden, Donald B. Cruikshank, Nigel Stephens and Norman V.S. Gregory. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. 

Donald was later inducted into the CFSA (Skate Canada) Hall Of Fame in 1991, alongside lifetime friends Barbara Ann Scott and Sheldon Galbraith. He passed away in Cuyahoga, Ohio on March 13, 1992 at the age of eighty four. His first wife and longtime skating partner Aidrie lived to be one hundred.

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.

Son Of Lazarus: The Martin Gordan Story


Born October 15, 1876 in Berlin, Germany, Moritz Rudolph Martin Gordan was the son of Lazarus Louis Gordan and Caroline (Lamm) Gordan. Martin's father was a wealthy Jewish merchant who sold shoes and fabrics for clothing at his store Gordan & Burchard zu Berlin. Martin and his younger sister Gertrud grew up wanting for very little at the family's home at Oranienstraße 42. Sadly, Martin's father passed away in January 1892, when he was only fifteen.

At a very young age, Martin took up figure skating at the Berliner Schlittschuhclub. He soon proved to be a precocious talent who showed an unusual skill for special figures. After finishing second to Gustav Euler in a junior competition in Berlin in 1897, he won an international competition in similar pairs skating with British skater Edgar Syers the following year. In 1899, he entered the European Championships, placing fourth in the men's event behind Ulrich Salchow, Gustav Hügel and Ernst Fellner. In 1900, he competed in an pairs competition held in conjunction with the World Championships with partner Hedwig Müller. These events were held in Davos, the famous Swiss winter sports mecca where he spent considerable time training during the long winters alongside a who's who of European figure skating.


In 1901, Martin travelled to Scandinavia, where he competed in the Championships of the Copenhagen Skojtelöberforening and the Nordic Games. In Denmark, he finished second in the men's event behind Copenhagen's Erik Lagergren and second in pairs behind Edgar and Madge Syers. His partner in this event was Great Britain's Phyllis Squire, later known as Phyllis Johnson. At the Nordic Games, he was third in singles behind Oscar Holthe and Einar de Flon and second in pairs behind Christa von Szabo and Gustav Euler. This time, his partner was again Hedwig Müller. The February 19, 1901 issue of "Päivälehti no 16" described his performance at the Nordic Games thusly: "Yes, he knows how to turn and bend. His strengths, on the other hand, are those patterns that require strength and adversity."

Martin Gordan, Edgar Syers and Ernst Fellner in Davos. Photo courtesy Stadsarkivet Stockholm.

In 1902, Martin travelled to London, England to compete in the World Championships held at the National Skating Palace. He and Fraulein Weingartner placed third in the pairs event. In singles, he finished third behind Ulrich Salchow and Madge Syers. Cojntemporary sources have consistently claimed that many people believed that Syers outskated Salchow and should have won this event... but Martin actually defeated Madge Syers in the free skating phase of the competition. There have also been modern claims that Martin was outraged by being defeated by a woman, but primary sources don't support any of these arguments... good stories they may make, notwithstanding.

Photo courtesy Dutch National Archive

In the years that followed, Martin won a second bronze medal at the World Championships and two medals at the German Championships. He also competed at three other European and World Championships, though his results were far less impressive. On January 20, 1908 in Celerina, Switzerland, Martin participated in what was perhaps his final figure skating competition - the contest for the Engadine Challenge Cup. Great Britain's John Keiller Greig won the event by over eighty points; Martin finished last, earning more points but fewer placements than Gwendolyn Lycett. After retiring, he judged at the 1910 European Championships in Davos and the women's and pairs events at both the 1911 World Championships and 1931 European Championships.

An account of one of Martin's free skating programs from one of Robert Holletschek's books noted that his program consisted of "cross over left forward outside, curve right forward outside, three turn step, spectacle (Brille)-Rocker, Wing Eight figure with loops, Cross over right backward outside, Waltz jump, two three turns with toe pointing, jump, eight figure with grapevines, two Spectacle (Brillen)-Rocker, dance steps to the music, double three, toe spins, eight figure with three turns and loops, bracket, cross over, counter, stand on toes." Interestingly, he performed only two smalls jumps, one dance sequence and a couple of short spins, but excelled at a variety of step combinations, field movements and special figures. German skating historian Dr. Matthias Hampe - whose assistance in researching this article was invaluable - noted, "Martin Gordan from the Berliner Schlittschuhclub had moved farthest from the Viennese School among the German skaters and was described as a follower of the skating style of Henning Grenander."

Special figures of Martin Gordan's design

An account of Martin's skating from the March 29, 1902 issue of "The Leader" noted his "Berlin style was different to the others, and slightly more rough and unfinished. He confirmed that impression when he chose his own figures, but he is, of course, a strong and bold skater, with plenty of confidence [and] a very firm edge."

Off of the ice, Martin was an avid amateur photographer and entrepreneur. In 1900, he founded the Berliner Illustrations-Gesellschaft (Association of German Illustration Photographers) with school friends Karl Ferdinand Delius and Heinrich Sanden. It was the first company in Berlin devoted to the production and distribution of press photos. By the end of World War I, there were nearly twenty such agencies in the city. Martin married at least twice (in 1909 and 1909) and both of his wives names were Anna. According to an article by Nathalie Neumann in the "Journal Of Photo History", Gordan "continued [with] the BIG [Berliner Illustrations-Gesellschaft] until its closure in 1934 by the National Socialists [and was] active in the relevant photography committees during the Weimar Republic and the heyday of the illustrated press." Along with Karl Ferdinand Delius and Heinrich Sanden, he was considered one of the pioneers of sports photography in Germany.

Little is known of Martin's fate during World War II. Numerous historical documents confirm that he was Jewish, but databases of Holocaust survivors make absolutely no mention of him being detained or interred in any of the larger concentration camps. Genealogist Renee Steinig, whose assistance in researching Martin's story was vital, learned that Martin's sister Gertrud and her son Dr. Erich Faerber escaped to Shanghai, Lutheran birth record or not. Following the War, Gertrud emigrated to America, passing away in Ohio in 1966. The January 28, 1972 issue of the "Cleveland Jewish News" noted that Martin's nephew Erich "devoted his law practice to aiding refugees in their restitution claims against Germany." What we do know is that Martin survived the War, passing away on June 22, 1961 in the spa town of Baden-Baden, West Germany at the age of eighty four.

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.

Dashing Duos: The Stories Of 6.0 Canadian Waltzing Champions

In the years before ice dance was established as its own discipline at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, dozens upon dozens of delightful dance teams competed at the National level in Waltz, Tenstep and Fourteenstep competitions. 'Back in those days' it wasn't uncommon for skaters to compete in any combination of singles, pairs, fours and ice dance competition at the same event, often with different partners in different categories. Today, we'll explore the stories of three duos who claimed gold medals in the Waltz, Tenstep and Fourteenstep events that predated the first official Canadian ice dance championship in 1947. The achievements of these dashing duos may be overlooked but believe me... their stories are quite interesting!

HELEN MALCOLM AND JOE GEISLER

Early in the second World War, the number of entries in the Waltzing and Tenstep competitions at the Canadian Championships dropped considerably as more and more skaters enlisted or became involved with war work. Helen Malcolm of the Montreal Winter Club, who won the bronze medal in the junior pairs event in 1940 with Peter Stranger, teamed up with Joe Geisler to win the Waltz event in 1941.

Joe Geisler skating with Mary Jane Rowe. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale du Québec.

Joe Geisler, an immigrant from Germany, went on to be known as 'Mr. Figure Skating' in Quebec, serving on the CFSA board of directors and as chair of the Eastern Canada Section and of the 1967 North American Champonships. For his dedication to the development of skating in Quebec, he was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall Of Fame in 2001.

GLORIA LILLICO AND WILLIAM A. DE NANCE JR.

At the 1945 Canadian Championships at the Varsity Arena in Toronto, fifteen year old Gloria Lillico claimed the bronze medal in the senior women's competition and William (Bill) A. de Nance Jr. claimed the silver medal in junior pairs with partner Joan McLeod. Lillico and de Nance Jr., who took dance from Albert Enders at the Toronto Skating Club, teamed up to finish first in the Waltz and second in Tenstep. The following year, they finished second in the Waltz and the Tenstep together.

Gloria Lillico with Elizabeth Taylor at an Ice Follies show in 1948

In 1947, Bill formed a partnership with Joyce Perkins and finished second in the Waltz, Tenstep and the first Dance championship of Canada behind Margaret Wilson Roberts and Bruce Hyland. He later teamed up with stenographer Joy Forsyth to finish second in the Waltz and Tenstep at the Canadian Championships in 1950. Off the ice, Bill was a lawyer, author and accomplished tap dancer. Gloria went on to skate in the Ice Follies.

JANET AND FRASER SWEATMAN

Janet and Fraser Sweatman were both born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Their mother, Constance Travers Sweatman, was an accomplished writer of novels, radio plays and poetry. Their father, William Travers Sweatman, was a prominent lawyer and photographer who served as President of the Winnipeg Board Of Trade... and the Winnipeg Winter Club, of which he was one of the founders.

Constance and Janet Sweatman

Nearly a decade before focusing on ice dance with his sister, Fraser achieved success as both a singles and pairs skater. He won a bronze medal in the junior men's event at the 1929 Canadian Championships and a silver in senior pairs with Audrey Garland in 1935... besting Constance and Bud Wilson.

Audrey Garland and Fraser Sweatman. Photos courtesy Nathan Kramer of the Manitoba Historical Society, Winnipeg Free Press.

After competing with Garland at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (where the team had the bad luck of drawing the first position in the starting order), Fraser teamed up with Janet to win the Birks Cup for Waltzing and finish second in the Tenstep at the Canadian Championships in 1938... again besting the Wilson's! What made the Sweatman's success in 1938 so remarkable wasn't only the fact they skated in minus forty temperatures. They were also only voted the third best team in the Tenstep at their own club's selection competition just days prior. The
February 26, 1938 issue of the "Winnipeg Free Press" recalled their performance in that year's Winnipeg Winter Club carnival thusly: "In a lovely Alpine village a pair of waltzers, Janet and Fraser Sweatman... were clad in green and white, with tiny pointed Alpine hats. The rhythm and ease of these two skaters brought them the Canadian waltzing championships in January, and they demonstrated their fine pair skating well."

Clipping courtesy Manitoba Legislative Library. Used with permission.

The following year, the siblings claimed the national Tenstep title that eluded them the year before. Fraser and his parents then moved to Toronto, where their father died in 1941. He married, had three children and served in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and Canadian Army during World War II, earning the rank of Captain.

Janet Sweatman. Photo courtesy Nathan Kramer of the Manitoba Historical Society, Winnipeg Free Press.

Janet married a Winnipeg businessman living in Toronto and moved to Barrancabermeja, Colombia for a time before settling in Montreal. Fraser entered the medical supply business, joining Ohio Medical in 1954 and working to develop high quality equipment for anaesthesiologists and establish safe practices for anaesthesia. Fraser passed away on May 15, 1991 in Toronto at the age of seventy seven after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease and Janet passed away some years later.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The Ice Cycles


The Ice Cycles tour started with a bang in 1946 as a co-production between the Ice Capades and Ice Follies. Three years later, the Ice Follies bowed out, leaving the show under the ownership of John H. Harris' company International Ice Attractions, Inc.


By the fifties, The Ice Cycles operated primarily in Canada and the northern U.S. but also hit several cities in America's Midwest and West Coast. In short, if the Ice Capades tour didn't stop in a city for whatever reason, the Ice Cycles most likely did. Thanks to a stroke of luck at an antique shop in Great Village, Nova Scotia, I chanced upon a copy of the program of the 1953 tour. I also did a little digging to offer a greater sense of what that year's tour was all about.


For starters, in most cities that Ice Cycles stopped during the 1953 season, the show played non-stop matinee and evening shows to packed crowds for days at a time. Some of the stops were longer (an eleven day stop at San Diego's Glacier Garden in November 1952) and others longer (a three day stop at the Ottawa Auditorium in April 1953) but on average the show played in each city for a good five days.


Among the numerous stops were Fresno, Spokane, Portland, Shawinigan, Toledo and Calgary's Stampede Corral. Ticket prices ranged from one to three dollars, with programs going for thirty five cents apiece. The tour travelled with its own musical director, percussionist, organist and conductor and hired orchestras in each city it visited to play as needed.

Shirley Winter

The cast of the Ice Cycles Of 1953 wasn't full of instantly recognizable names but that's not to say some very talented and popular skaters didn't participate. France's Raymonde du Bief made her Ice Cycles debut on the 1953 tour and was perhaps the biggest headliner. Other prominent professional skaters who participated included Margaret Field and Jimmy Lawrence, Chuckie Stein, Shirley Winter, William Knapp, Marjorie Taylor and Ronnie Baker, drag comedienne Willie Kall and the handsome Marshall Garrett. Trixie The Skating Juggler was a huge hit during the first half of the tour but left after Christmas to be replaced by the adagio team of June and Bob Ballard. Charles and Vida Uksila directed the performances and wardrobe and choreography was done by Chester Hale, Rosemary Stewart and Bob Dench.


Though hailed as 'nine shows in one', what made the Ice Cycles Of 1953 tour historically significant was that it marked the first time the Walt Disney version of "Cinderella" was staged on ice in North America. This historic 'first' took place through an exclusive arrangement with Walt Disney and understandably played a huge part in why the audiences were so abundant. Keep in mind that at point in the film version that we all know and love had only been out for three years!

The half-hour long skating adaptation of Walt Disney's "Cinderella" condensed the entire story, starring Field and Lawrence as Cinderella and Prince Charming, Shirley Winter as the Evil Stepmother, Terry Derfield and Gayle Winters as Anastasia and Drizella and Priscilla Matson as the Fairy Godmother. The December 11, 1952 issue of the "Spokane Daily Chronicle" noted, "The number is the longest and by far by the best in the show. The costumes and the props in the 'Cinderella' play are breathtaking. One prop, the pumpkin coach, seen only for a few seconds, is valued at several thousand dollars."

Willie Kall and Marshall Garrett

Other prominent acts included "Gypsy Gold", a lavish production number starring du Bief, Knapp and Winter and The Ice Cyclettes and Cycliers; a Christmas act with youngster Chuckie Stein dressed as Santa Claus himself; a Teddy Bear's Picnic and a patriotic number called "State Of The Union" dedicated to those serving in the Korean War. In December when the show was in Spokane, a free, condensed matinee show was given for anyone under the age of sixteen, provided they made a clothing donation to be sent overseas. The December 14, 1952 issue of "The Spokesman-Review" explained that the donations were being accepted so that "a number of youngsters will suffer a little less from the bitter cold of their Oriental winter." This kind gesture was coordinated by John H. Harris and a former Ice Cycles cast member serving in Korea named Lieutenant Roger Russell.

"Minstrel Daze"

After studying skating's regrettable history of bringing blackface to the ice, I was a little terrified when I saw that the grand finale of the Ice Cycles Of 1953 was called "Minstrel Daze". Thankfully, the powers-that-be on the tour that year had the good sense to completely avoid the horribly offensive and racist fare offered by others who tackled similar themes, instead dressing the skaters like the kind of Southern dandies one might see at Blanche Devereaux's family reunion.

Delightfully campy, with elaborate stage sets, intricate costumes and diverse casts, the touring ice shows like Ice Cycles that enjoyed success throughout the world for decades serve not as relics of a bygone era but as reminders of skating's true entertainment potential.

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