#Unearthed: Learning To Skate


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's #Unearthed is a duo of stories both entitled "Learning To Skate". The first was penned in 1866 by detective novelist Metta Victoria Fuller under the pen name 'Mrs. Mark Peabody' for "Beadle's Monthly: A Magazine Of To-Day". The second is a wonderful unattributed piece that appeared in the "Wyoming Press" on March 22, 1902. Grab yourself a nice cup of tea and get ready to skate back in time.

"LEARNING TO SKATE" #1 (METTA VICTORIA FULLER)


Tintype of skaters in Central Park. Photo courtesy New York Public Library.


"Do you skate?"

"H-m! Not much. Do you?"
"Oh yes, I'm passionately fond of it! I'm sorry you don't skate!"

"Perhaps I could learn. I could like anything that you liked - but there's our turn - now!" and away the couple went, after a momentary pause, in the German.

The speakers were Miss Oylwell, of Fifth Avenue, and Bob Frothingham, favourite in society, of no particular place. Scene: Mrs. Smythe's mansion, on the avenue above mentioned, four o'clock in
the afternoon, gaslight, long, crowded room, music, thirty couple swaying and whirling about in the German.

As soon as they came to another pause, Miss Oylwell, flirting her fan, and looking very warm, continued, enthusiastically

"You must learn, Mr. Frothingham. Why, I never dreamed that man who dances as you dance, didn't know how to skate."

"It wasn't so fashionable when I was in my youth," her partner was about to confess, but he checked himself. He passed for a good-looking man of from thirty-three to thirty-five, and if he were any older he succeeded in keeping it secret. He was quite the best dancer in the room in fact, he had been chosen by Mrs. Smythe to lead the German, and she had kindly given him the richest girl on the list for his partner. Here was a chance it would be madness to neglect. From two to three hours with the richest girl in the room, young and pretty besides, and the prospect of leading her down to the five o'clock hot supper Mr. Frothingham had considered himself in clover until that unlucky reference to skating.

"Have you heard that old Doubleday has left his wife?" he asked, quite forgetting the unsuitable nature of the subject, in his anxiety to change the drift of Miss Oylwell's thoughts. She opened her blue eyes widely, but answered him quite unembarrassed.

"La, yes, a week ago. I'm going to Central Park tomorrow. Didn't you think, when you came in, that the skating would be good by that time? It was so splendidly cold."

"It was cold," asserted her partner.

"Oh, freezing! The ice will be beautiful tomorrow. I know it will. It's so funny you don't skate. That's the reason I've never met you at our Pond, I suppose. I and Carrie have season-tickets to the Pond. But, we're going to the Park tomorrow, for a little extra fun. I do wish you were going, Mr. Frothingham. Do go. You can learn in a little while. You dance so beautifully, I'm sure you'll skate to perfection. Do you know, I believe I could skate out this whole German on the ice, without a
single false step. Will Herring says never look so well as when I'm on the ice. You ought to see me in my skating costume."

"I should like to, very much though I'm sure it would be utterly impossible for you to look better than you do this minute. In my eyes, a woman always looks prettiest in ball costume and yours, Miss Oylwell, is exquisite."

"Thank you, Mr. Frothingham. I expect it is pretty - it cost enough."

"The cost would be nothing, if there was not handsome girl to wear it." The gentleman got out this tremendous falsehood with the ease of long practice. It might have been worn by an angel, yet had it not been cut in the latest mode and been of the richest material, it would not have awakened his sense of beauty. Miss Oylwell, for her part, having only sported expensive things for year or two, also still estimated them very much, as she had naively confessed, at their cost.

"La, you needn't think to flatter me - I'm used to it, and it don't have the least effect," she cried, merrily. "Will Herring said he should be at the Park at two o'clock tomorrow. I'd like awfully
to make him jealous. I do wish you'd call, and go with me, Mr. Frothingham. We'll go in the carriage, and then send it back."

This was an invitation not to be neglected. To be actually asked to the Oylwell House, to be promised drive in their carriage, and the privilege of escorting and taking care of Miss Oylwell, at Central Park, where many would see his good-fortune, lifted him up to the seventh heaven of hope. But he kept
sinking, as fast as he rose. 'Who was this Will whom she had twice mentioned, and whom she wanted to make jealous? and, oh, gracious if she should insist upon his trying to skate. However, before the German and the supper were over, he was in for it. He had promised Miss Oylwell that he would go with her to the Lake and that he would bring a pair of skates. 

What was left of that night, after Mrs. Smythe's German was over, was spent by Mr. Frothingham in state of agitation which precluded any thing like real repose. He had struggled for twenty years to make his fortune by marrying one to his hand, and had never been nearer to it than now. Miss Oylwell evidently favoured him. She had blushed at some of his compliments, which was high testimony in favour of the effect they had produced, for she, although but eighteen, was quite inured to flattery. She had actually urged him to escort her to the Park. 

Ah, if it had only been summertime, what a happy man he would have been. Then, with soft airs, and soft perfumes, and soft music, he might press her soft hand softly, and be as soft upon her as he chose. All things would have smiled upon him. But in winter - ugh, he shivered under the bed-clothes, as he thought of it. The wind was so rough, and his nose always got purple, and he was afraid that the ice would bring on his rheumatism. He should have to rise by eleven o'clock to make his toilet and, be he ever so careful about it, he was afraid of the consequences of bad night's rest, of broad sunlight and glaring snow. He should look at least ten years older than he did the previous evening, where the shaded gaslights of Mrs. Smythe's rooms told no tales of vinegar-rouge and hair-dye, of incipient wrinkles and artistic enamelling.

It would not do to lie awake thinking of it, for the less he slept the older he should look so he fairly forced himself into slumber from which he was awakened about ten A.M. by dreaming that he was dancing the German with Miss Oylwell on a glass floor, made of ice, and that he slipped, fell and broke his false nose, and that Miss Oylwell laughed outrageously. Now, his nose was not false, although some other of his features were, and he sprung up in bed, rubbing it, and glad that it was only dream. 

He got up and drew aside the window-curtain. Everything was glittering and sparkling. It was cold, steady, crackling cold. His wild hope that there might be a thaw congealed at once. Two or three times, while dressing, he felt tempted to break the engagement, and thus lose the chance to make more important one. But he had not laboured twenty years to give up now. He would go, he would make himself agreeable if necessary, he would skate. Bracing himself with three cups of strong coffee and a dozen fried oysters, he sallied out, well-made-up and elegant looking gentleman, gloved, cloaked
and furred in the latest style. His first duty was to buy pair of skates. A shop stood ready, not far from the restaurant where he had breakfasted. The willing clerk showed him a dozen different
styles; avowing his ignorance of such things and that he wanted "the best," he paid, with an inward groan, for the pair of patent, self-adjusting, self-regulating, self-balancing, lightning skates which
were selected for him, slung them over his arm with an air of one familiar with the slippery affairs, and picked his way to the house of the rich - the immeasurably, uncountably rich - heiress.

The carriage was already at the door, and in the reception-room, Mr. Frothingham was introduced to Carrie, the younger sister who had not yet "come out," and Mr. Herring, no doubt the Will of whom he had heard. They were all ready, and eager to start.

"You've kept us waiting ten minutes," cried Miss Oylwell.

"Really, have now? That's unpardonable; but that awkward clerk was so long fitting my skates."

"A new pair?" asked Mr. Herring, politely. 

"He doesn't skate but I'm going to learn him how," said Miss Oylwell. "Let's be off, or the ice will be too crowded."

They took their seats in the carriage; the horses dashed off, glad to be moving, in such weather; it seemed to Frothingham that they were not over three minutes going the three miles to the Lake.
His companions were full of frolic. The girls were bewitching, in their scarlet petticoats and Polish boots, their coquettish skating caps and ermine furs; the cold air only made their cheeks red and their
eyes bright, and their white foreheads whiter, while poor Frothingham's eyes were full of water, and his handkerchief in constant use. He did his best, however, to be agreeable, concealing the anguish at his heart, under demeanour of youthful gaiety, all the time conscious that he was watched with jealous eyes by the handsome and healthy young fellow opposite, who, finding that he was not to sit by Miss Oylwell, made himself as comfortable as possible by the side of laughing Miss Carrie.

"Here we are! Oh, look, look what crowds! Won't we have a jolly time?" and Miss Oylwell clapped her hands.

"I wish it were another German, instead of this," sighed her companion, in her ear, pressing her hand, as he assisted her out of the carriage.

"I  don't; sir don't you see, we can dance all the year round but skating comes but once a year! You'll like it as well as I, when you get used to it."

"Perhaps I will," and he escorted her toward the ladies' dressing-room but she wasn't a bit cold, and wanted her skates on immediately.

One thing he could do gracefully, and that was to kneel to fasten on her skates but he had to be instructed in the mysteries of strapping. They were on, all right, and the other couple stood waiting
for them.

"Now put on yours, Mr. Frothingham."

"Oh, not just yet. I'll watch you awhile first."

Miss Carrie darted off by herself, with school-girl freedom, while Mr. Herring and the heiress glided off gracefully, looking so handsome, happy and well-mated, that the forlorn, forsaken one, sitting there by himself, would have ground his false teeth with jealousy, had he not been afraid of injuring the enamel. Every once in while they skated up to him, pausing to urge him to try his luck on the ice; and every time the young man appeared more easy, happy and self-assured, and the girl more radiantly beautiful. The exercise sent the warm blood to their lips and cheeks, and merriment bubbled up in their hearts. "If this goes on much longer, I'm lost," murmured Frothingham, when they sailed away for the fourth time. "Here, boy, put on these doosed things for me." When they again came gliding into port, convoying Carrie also, he had braced himself to the undertaking.

"I guess I'll try it this time," he murmured, as the heiress, all glowing and sparkling, sped up to him. 

"Wait a minute, till Mr. Herring gets out of the way," for something told him who was his most dangerous rival, and he did not like the cool, laughing light in the young man's eyes.

"Oh, I'll get out of your way. Come, Carrie," and away they flew.

"Don't you think you'd better take a chair. They're so much more comfortable for ladies," asked her partner, trying to prolong the dreadful moment when he was to balance himself on those treacherous instruments of torture strapped firmly upon his slender feet.

"You can, if you prefer one," with a little, sarcastic laugh. "I thought chairs were for invalids and old folks." Horrible! Did she suspect he must make an effort? She was growing impatient to be away again; he could see that, plainly.

"What spirits you have, Miss Oylwell, and how charming you look. Perfectly charming, upon my word. Your cheeks are like roses. You don't seem a bit cold," he rattled on, to draw her attention from his efforts to stand on the smooth, glistening surface, which mocked his distress.

"Cold? I guess not. That last race put me all in glow. You do first-rate. Indeed, you do. Now, then, strike out."

"What do you mean by 'strike out?'"

"This way," and she showed him.

Despair will sometimes do what nothing less could accomplish. In sheer desperation, Frothingham struck out," and to his own agreeable astonishment, he did not bring up on his back.

"You do better than expected. Isn't it nice once you get used to it, and you'll like it better than the German. Now, take my hand, and we'll go slowly along together. That's it. All you want, Mr. Frothingham, is confidence."

"It's the first time I've ever been lacking in that," thought he, his spirits rising with this little success, and his teeth ceasing to chatter.

"Who could help learning with such a teacher," he whispered, as soon as he could command his voice, holding very tightly to the little hand nestled in his.

"Ah, Miss Oylwell, if could only hope could only dare to aspire to the thought that you might be my teacher through life to teach me all those sweet - ah-h!" and he clung tighter, and very nearly slipped up, having come into slight contact with a passing demoiselle. 

"What on earth is there that you don't know already? I'm sure I shouldn't presume to teach you - any thing but skating," replied the heiress, looking at him with the most innocent expression.

"You know what I mean, dear, dearest Miss Oylwell. You can teach me to love to adore to kneel at your feet in worship" and just then, forgetting his new art in his old one, his heels flew from under him, and he came down on his knees in good earnest. Several of the people about them laughed, and as the pretty girl who was helping him up did the same, he was fain to join in, though he felt dreadfully jarred. "Thank fortune, I didn't fall on the back of my head my wig might have come off," was his secret rejoicing.

" I didn't expect you to kneel in this crowd," said the heiress, with a soft, saucy, piquant look, which might have been encouraging, or might have been prompted merely by girlish fun. He chose to consider it encouraging, and the pain went out of his knees, and he began to feel less cold, and to believe that he could learn to skate for the sake of an interest in the oil region, and place of shelter in the avenue. 

"Let us find quiet place and sit down little while," he said. I've something very particular to say, and I'm afraid-"

"Of tripping up? I couldn't possibly sit, now; when I am so warm should take cold. Mamma has ordered me not to," and looking about her, "see that's Will! Doesn't he skate magnificently? Come, try again." 

Her suitor tried again and ever as he slid slowly along, clinging timidly to the heiress' hand, Will Herring shot past them like an arrow, returned, circled about, cut the most intricate patterns in the ice before their faces, skimmed away like swallow, back again, around, off, near, far, amid admiring cheers, followed by her eyes, until her companion grew desperate, and resolved to draw her away from that dangerous rivalry, let what would come. With wild ambition to achieve, he struck out bravely, and the heiress glided by his side, her eyes, how ever, still fixed upon the champion skater's retreating form. 

Suddenly there was cry of warning. Too late. The couple were quite beyond a stake marked "dangerous," the ice was cracking beneath their feet, the water was rising over it a step or two away. Light and skillful as Miss Oylwell was, she could, even then, have turned away, and escaped the consequences of her carelessness, but poor Frothingham could not turn himself a hair's breadth,- and clung tenaciously to her hand, dragging her down with him. There was a shriek - surely, not her voice - splash, crash, splash, and both were floundering in the water. Men dashed aimlessly about, and women screamed. "Stop yer yellin'!" roared an ungallant policeman, to the excited crowd, and keep back," as he run up with plank, "t'ain't deep enough to drown'd 'em, but it's too cold to feel good." His advice was obeyed by the most, but one young man who had been rods away the previous minute, could not be held back, and sprung into the water as naturally as Newfoundland.

"Get her on the plank," shouted the policeman, and while he stayed one end of the board on firm ice, the young man assisted the young lady to foothold then a dozen hands reached out and pulled her to aqua firma, and her rescuer gave his assistance to her companion, still floundering and splashing
amid the ruins of the splintered ice.

For moment all was fuss and confusion, then Will Herring, dripping and steaming, was clasping Miss Oylwell's wet glove and looking very much as if he wanted to kiss her.

"Oh, Will, it was so good of you to get me out."

"But you mustn't stand here, not a moment. Is the carriage waiting? Yes, I see it, just coming up. Will any one lend the young lady a dry shawl or two? We will drive home as fast as the horses will take us. You'll both take your death of cold. Come, Frothingham."

But no Frothingham answered.

"Where is he? Where can he be Didn't he get out ?" anxiously cried Miss Oylwell, while little Carrie cried, and Herring, shivering, looked about for his rival.

There was no Frothingham to be seen. Yes, no Mr. Frothingham, but another person who certainly looked as if he had been in the water, though how he, too, came wet and shivering, no one
could say. But two persons went into the water, and he was not one of them. This was quite an elderly man. His head was bald, and looked pitiful, with out any hat, that article being still afloat in the air hole. There was something else beside the hat it may have been a wig. Looking twice and thrice, and seeing no one else but this half-drowned individual, light broke gradually upon Will Herring, though it was all dark yet to Miss Oylwell.

"Good heavens Frothingham, is this you?" he burst forth. Miss Oylwell looked, and gave a little
scream.

"If it's you, pray, come along. The lady will freeze to death." The fortune hunter gave one glance at the heiress' face, and saw that the game was all up for him.

"I  can't nor won't go, till I find my teeth," he muttered, speaking as plainly as chattering toothless jaws would allow him. They cost over a hundred dollars before gold went up, and they'd be
twice that now. "Won't some fellow dive, and find my teeth? I'll give five dollars to anybody that'll get my teeth."

"That wouldn't pay for gettin' wet," sung out a rough chap.

"Well, ten, then," he moaned, in desperation.

"Offer a reward, and come away. You'll take your death-cold," remonstrated Will. The ladies can't wait."

"I don't want them to; I'll get a private vehicle, and go to my hotel."

"Goodbye, then," cried out Will, and we are afraid there was triumph in his voice.

It was no time to stand upon ceremony, and Miss Oylwell hurried home to dress. The next day she was on the ice again with Will Herring, not a bit daunted by yesterday's misfortune but alas, Mr. Frothingham was no more seen by her side. Neither was he met again, for some weeks, at a German or soiree. 

Upon sending to inquire after his health, Miss Oylwell learned that he was confined to his room by influenza, and received in return the following characteristic billet-doux.

"Miss Oylwell,

As it was entirely owing to your solicitations that I attempted to learn to skate, I must hold you directly responsible for the effects of the accident which followed. I send you the bill."


Miss Olywewll was an honest young woman, and seeing the justice of this demand, she immediately settled the bill.

The rumour of her engagement to Will Herring was quite prevalent before Mr. Frothingham got out again. That gentleman is still unequaled in the German, and it takes great deal to make him
blush. But he has been known to do it when some unconscious fair one has chanced to ask him, if he is fond of skating?

"LEARNING TO SKATE" #2 (UNATTRIBUTED)


It was Thursday evening and Mr. Doddleby was calling on Miss Harmer. That had been Mr. Doddleby's invariable custom for at least four months and Miss Harmer had begun to look upon Mr. Doddleby in the light of a serious proposition. Mr. Doddleby was no longer in youth's springtime, and, therefore, Miss Harmer, who certainly could be counted in that class, had made careful inquiries about his bank account, ascertaining that his rating was AA1 and had resigned herself to a pleasant fate, says the Chicago Chronicle. On this particular Thursday evening Mr. Doddleby had made a remark about the monotony of the winter season when there were no forms of diversion open to loving hearts and willing minds except the theater, and this he voted decidedly dull.

"Oh, Mr. Doddleby," gurgled Miss Harmer, "don't you enjoy skating? I just love to skate." Mr. Doddleby gasped a little, swallowed hard and managed to say that skating was one of the accomplishments of boyhood he had failed to acquire, inasmuch as he had spent his early years in a region where there was no body of water larger than a cistern.
"Oh, but you could learn so easily," insisted Miss Harmer. "Why, I think I could show you how myself."

Mr. Doddleby gallantly declared that if any inducement on earth could move him to don a pair of skates and make a public exhibition of himself it was the one that Miss Harmer had just offered, and the end of it was that Mr. Doddleby, fond, trusting old man, promised to lead his inamorita to the ice in Lincoln Park on the next evening and there take his first lesson in skating.

It was not without many doubts and misgivings that Mr. Doddleby sallied forth the next evening with Miss Harmer hanging on his arm and regaling him with many tales of her fancy skating done in days of yore - not so very yore, of course, for no young woman will talk of anything further back than three years unless it is connected with the infant class in the Sunday school. At the park Mr. Doddleby sought out the man who rent skates to all comers and timorously asked for a couple of pair. They were slammed down on the counter before him, he paid his deposit and looked helplessly at the shining skates.

"How do I put these things on?" he asked Miss Harmer. "There seems to be as much machinery about them as though they were submarine torpedoes."

"Oh, that's easy," said Miss Harmer. "Just adjust the clamps, set the screws, throw the lever, and there you are."

Mr. Doddleby began on her pair, and after considerable ground and lofty tumbling got them adjusted. Then he slowly went at his own, and it was apparent that his own heart failed him whenever he looked over the smooth sheet of ice on which thousands of young people were enjoying themselves.

"I don't know how this is going to go," he said nervously, as he essayed to stand up.

"Oh, it will go all right." said Miss Harmer reassuringly, and at that moment it did. Mr. Doddleby's feet went with it and he clutched the young woman desperately and saved himself.

"Come out on the ice," said Miss Harmer.
"Keep hold of my arm and you will be all right. Now, then, just strike off like this."

She dropped Mr. Doddleby's arm and struck off. Before she had gone ten fet Mr. Doddleby became aware that his feet were slowly but surely parting company. One of them seemed bent upon joining the gay throng and the other evinced a desire to slide along the shore. Mr. Doddleby felt certain that this sort of thing would not last very long. He did not know just how it would wind up, but that there was a finish ahead of him seemed certain. He looked down nervously at his moving feet and noticed that one of them was winning the race. It was six inches farther from where it should have been than the other one was. He made a desperate effort to haul it in and the move was fatal. The off foot, which he was not paying any attention to, continued its trip along the shore, greatly accelerated as to speed, and he went with it.

Just as he was scrambling up the bank and shaking the cold, wet snow out of his hand Miss Harmer came up with a rush, executed a wide sweep on both skates and stopped before him, flushed and panting.

"Come on!" she said gayly, "It's glorious."

"Yes, it must be," said Mr. Doddleby weakly, as he brushed the snow from his overcoat.

Miss Harmer struck off and Mr. Doddleby did the best he could. As the young woman is strong and husky, she carried him forty feet across the ice before he managed to get his feet wrapped around each other, and when he was on the way down he heroically grasped two or three skaters near by and brought them with him. Luckily the ice was firm and the shock did no material damage - to the ice. The indignant skaters who had joined Mr. Doddleby scrambled to their feet, handed him a few opinions of their own and skated on. Miss Harmer was sweetly waiting when he arose.

"Don't you think you could try it alone now?" she asked. Mr. Doddleby had decided to indignantly retire from the ice and bid Miss Harmer a cutting good-night, but when she looked at him that way he weakened.

"I don't know but I could," he faltered. Miss Harmer encouraged him with a bright smile.

"I'll wait here for you," she said, and Mr. Doddleby struck out for himself. The first four or five strokes were not so bad, but when he let himself go across the ice he discovered to his alarm that he was like a runaway automobile. He could neither stop himself nor steer. Dead ahead of him a fancy skater was cutting doves and bleeding hearts on the ice before an admiring circle of spectators and Mr. Doddleby discovered that he was going to become one of the party. He plunged into the ring of onlookers like a wild engine and crashed head-on against the fancy skater. That gentleman was just putting the finishing touches on a Hummingbird, and what he said to Mr. Doddleby need not be set down here. Two kind strangers picked up the dilapidated Mr. Doddleby and started him toward the spot whence he had come, but again his feet proved treacherous, and Mr. Doddleby went careening into the arms of Miss Harmer. They both sat down and when they had rested a little while they slowly arose.

"Perhaps we had better not skate any more," said Miss Harmer, with some difficulty.

"Perhaps?" echoed Mr. Doddleby. "Huh!" The grunt was so very excessive that Miss Harmer, thinking of the bank account and the AA1 rating, led the way in silence to the shore.

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The 1938 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just established the March Of Dimes to combat infant polio, Thornton Wilder's famous play "Our Town" made its debut only weeks earlier and everyone was tapping their toes to Benny Goodman's steppy new tune "Sing, Sing, Sing".


Two weeks before German troops invaded and annexed Austria, a much less scary 'war on ice' took place at the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society's newly built, one hundred and fifty thousand dollar Ardmore Rink.

The Ardmore Rink

The two-day 1938 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, held on February 25 and 26, 1938, drew in capacity crowds of fifteen hundred from the early morning hours until after the clock struck midnight. With reserved seat tickets at three dollars and thirty cents a pop sold out for most events, many skating fans shelled out two dollars and twenty cents just for the privilege of standing in the arena and watching skaters trace rockers and counters. Today, we will take a trip back in time to the thirties and explore the skaters and stories from this fascinating and all but forgotten competition.

Pictorial courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Hosted by the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, the competition marked a 'grand opening' of sorts for the newly constructed, member-owned Ardmore rink, which cost an estimated one hundred and forty four thousand dollars to build. It had only opened on January 8 of that year, so skaters could still smell the paint from the navy-blue ice when they arrived to compete.


A record-setting ninety entries arrived to compete in the novice, junior and senior events and the "Philadelphia Inquirer" noted, "Costumes ranged from top hats, tails and evening clothes to sweaters, slacks and ski pants." Both days of the event, the competitions began at nine o'clock in the morning and continued well after midnight. A capacity crowd of fifteen hundred attended the second day of competition, either paying three dollars and thirty cents for a reserved seat or two dollars and twenty cents for the 'privilege' of standing during the proceedings. Let's take a look back at all of the excitement!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR COMPETITIONS


Barbara Ann Gingg and Eugene Turner

To the delight of the hometown crowd, Arthur 'Buddy' Vaughn Jr. of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society managed to hold on to an early lead in the school figures and win the novice men's crown. However, the performance of the night came from Bobby Specht, who moved up from fifth to take the silver with an outstanding free skating performance. Floyd 'Skippy' Baxter settled for the bronze ahead of William Grimditch, Jr. and achieved fame the next year by becoming the first man to perform the Axel jump on clamp-on roller skates. Twelve year old Gretchen Merrill, representing the Skating Club of Boston, emerged victorious in a field of twenty novice women. Charlotte Walther of New York bested Dorothy Snell and Mary Taylor in the junior women's event.

Gretchen Merrill

Los Angeles' Eugene Turner only expanded upon his twenty one point lead over Minneapolis' Leonard Brannan in the school figures, winning the junior men's title by a wide margin. A married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Penn-Gaskell Hall III, won the junior pairs event ahead of Chicago's Ruth English and Louis Pitts and St. Paul's Angeline Knapp and Dr. J.N. Pike. Mr. Penn-Gaskell Hall was the secretary of the host club and Mrs. Penn Gaskell Hall (Annah 'Bunty' McKaig) was the daughter of the host club's president and competition chair. As you can well imagine, there was some squawking in the stands from visiting skaters and families about the conflict of interest.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Robin Lee

Representing the St. Paul Figure Skating Club yet training in Chicago, eighteen year old Robin Lee entered the competition in Philadelphia as the three time and reigning U.S. Champion and heavy favourite. He didn't disappoint, earning five hundred and twenty six out of a possible six hundred points after performing the six required school figures. St. Paul's Erle Reiter was only seven points behind Lee after the figures, with Ollie Haupt Jr. of St. Louis trailing in third with four hundred and
seventy five points and Manhattan's William Nagle far behind with three hundred and ninety three.


Erle Reiter. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

By accounts, all three of the top men delivered fine performances in the free skating, but the standings didn't change. Lee won his fourth consecutive U.S. men's title and American Railway Company agent William Nagle claimed yet another a last place finish. Former USFSA President and ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright recalled of Nagle, "He just kept entering and entering... and he always finished last!" The only exception to 'the Nagle rule' was at the 1930 U.S. Championships, when the man somehow managed to win the junior pairs title with Helen Herbst.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION



After Maribel Vinson turned professional, the U.S. women's title was up for grabs and there were five talented women chomping at the bit to stake their claim to it. Five foot five, sixteen year old Joan Tozzer, the only child of a Harvard Professor of Anthropology, took a strong lead in the senior women's school figures over nineteen year old Audrey Peppe, the niece of Olympic Medallist Beatrix Loughran, Katherine Durbrow of New York, Polly Blodgett of Boston and Jane Vaughn of Philadelphia. Vaughn had the unfortunate luck of taking a rare fall in the figures, placing her further behind than she likely would have been otherwise. However, the "Philadelphia Inquirer" noted that Vaughn's "four-minute free skating exhibition surpassed that given by the Misses Tozzer and Peppe."


Sadly, Jane Vaughn's mishap in the figures placed her so far behind she was only able to move up to fourth ahead of Durbrow, with Tozzer, Peppe and Blodgett taking the top three spots. Tozzer's victory over Peppe was actually extremely close - one tenth of a point close - and Peppe's free skate to "Hungarian Rhapsody" earned her more points than Tozzer in that phase of the event. Tozzer told a "Philadelphia Inquirer" reporter, "Winning the title was quite a shock. Of course I was surprised and am thrilled and everything." She had been skating for six years under the tutelage of Willie Frick and her victory was remarkable in that some years prior she was thrown from a horse and trampled, suffering a broken leg. The February 27, 1938 issue of "The Philadelphia Enquirer" noted that Jane Vaughn "finished fourth, but her four-minute free skating exhibition surpassed that given by the Misses Tozzer and Peppe." Complaints over Peppe's loss to Tozzer continued at the Skating Club Of New York long after the event, but (as is always the case) nothing came of it.

THE PAIRS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS

Later the same night that she won her first U.S. women's title, Joan Tozzer teamed up with twenty one year old Harvard senior M. Bernard Fox to win her first U.S. pairs title. Another Boston pair, Grace and Jimmie Madden took the silver, while Ardelle Kloss Sanderson and Roland Janson of New York took the bronze. Tozzer and Fox's win was a considerable upset at the time, as the Madden siblings were considered by many to be the logical successors to the crown vacated by Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill.


A fours competition was not contested that year. A whopping fourteen teams entered the Silver Dance competition, a testament to the popularity of ice dance in the U.S. during the pre-War and War eras. After an elimination round, Nettie C. Prantel and Harold Hartshorne took top honours, ahead of Katherine Durbrow and USFSA President Joseph K. Savage, Louise Weigel and Otto Dallmyer and Marjorie Parker and George Boltres. All four of the finalists represented the Skating Club of New York.

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.

Abandoned Austrians: Champions That History Has Overlooked


Karl Schäfer, Eva Pawlik and Trixi Schuba are just a few of the many names that come to mind when we think of Austrian figure skaters who have achieved excellence in the figure skating world. However, the country that wholly embraced the graceful style of the legendary Jackson Haines and brought the waltz to the ice has had its fair share of champions that have been notoriously overlooked. Today, we'll explore the fascinating stories of eight of Austria's finest forgotten skating stars!

OTTO PREIßECKER 



Born August 3, 1898 in Vienna, Otto Preißecker first really caught the attention of the Austrian figure skating community in February 1919, when he won the national junior men's title at Eduard Engelmann's rink. Representing the Cottage Eislaufverein, he later won an impressive three Austrian senior men's titles in the years leading up to Karl Schäfer's reign as the country's top dog. Impressively, Otto earned a total of three medals at the European Championships between 1925 and 1928 as well as a bronze medal at the 1925 World Championships and a pair of silvers at the 1927 and 1928 World Championships, both times failing to defeat Willy Böckl. Reinventing himself as a pairs skater, he teamed up with Gisela Hochtalinger to win the bronze medal at the 1930 European Championships in Berlin.

Gisela Hochtalinger and Otto Preißecker at the 1929 World Championships in Budapest. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

Although his figure skating résumé was more than impressive, Otto's off-ice accomplishments were nothing short of remarkable. He served in the military during the Great War, studied medicine and graduated with a degree in dentistry. After working as an auxiliary doctor and an assistant professor at a dental institute, he became the executive director of the Department of Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery in Vienna and spearheaded several thorough veterinary dentistry studies. Turning down a teaching position at the German University in Prague, he became a university professor and board member at the University Of Innsbruck. He passed away on May 30, 1963, just months after he retired at the age of sixty four.

LEOPOLD LINHART



Born July 29, 1914 in Vienna, Leopold Linhart grew up skating at Eduard Engelmann's rink and had his first taste of success in 1930 at the age of sixteen, when he won a junior men's competition in Hernals. At his first major international competition in 1934, the European Championships in Seefeld, he lost the bronze medal by only one ordinal placing. Ever trying to emulate his training mate Karl Schäfer, he rose through the ranks to win the silver medal at the Austrian Championships behind him in 1936 and earned a trip to the Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Twenty one year old Leopold had a disastrous sixteenth place showing in the figures at those Games, but rebounded with an outstanding free skate, defeating even the athletic Freddie Tomlins in that phase of the competition to move up to eleventh overall. Turning professional after a sixth place finish at the 1937 World Championships in London, Leopold coached in Prague and skated exhibitions in France during World War II. After returning to Austria, he went on to coach a who's who of Austrian figure skating in the fifties, sixties and seventies, including Olympic Gold Medallist Trixi Schuba.

PAULA ZALAUDEK



Although many figure skating competitions for men were cancelled during the Great War owing to the country's heavy military involvement, women's figure skating in Austria flourished from 1914 to 1918. If you went to a figure skating event during that period, you definitely knew the name Paula Zalaudek. In 1914, she became only the second women in Austria to have passed the First Class skating test. The undisputed leading lady of the Training Eisklub Wien at the time, Paula enjoyed an enduring rivalry with Gisela Reichmann. The March 4, 1914 issue of the "Illustriertes (Österreichisches) Sportblatt" described her as a "fresh, amiable and above all, Viennese talent" who transplanted "the grace of the Viennese ball" to the ice.

Left: Gisela Reichmann and Paula Zalaudek; Right: Paula Zalaudek

Reigning as the Austrian women's champion from 1914 to 1916, Paula lost her title to Gisela Reichmann in 1917, left Vienna and travelled with Egon Kment to demonstrate skating in Budapest, Hungary. Her complete disappearance from historical records after that time leads one to speculate as to whether or not she may have been one of the over thirty eight million civilian casualties of the Great War or a victim of the 1918 flu pandemic which claimed the life of fellow Austrian skater Alois Lutz... yes, that Lutz.

GEORG ZACHARIADES



Hailing from Vienna, Georg Zachariades was an 'all-around' sportsman whose achievements as a skier and mountain bicyclist were every bit as impressive as those on ice. In 1891, 1893 and 1894, he won ski races at Semmering and representing the Linzer Bicycle Club, he won one hundred kilometer races in Bohemia and Moravia. In 1893, he even set a bicycle racing record on the Laurin and Klement Halbrennmaschine.

As a skater, there was no denying that Georg was extremely impressive. Inspired by Jackson Haines, he was imaginative in his special figure designs and was by accounts an inspired free skater. Swedish skating historian Gunnar Bang recalled, "He danced in time to Viennese music... no one was better in this respect."

Special figure of Georg's design

Claiming the German-Austrian men's titles in 1892 and 1893, Georg placed an impressive third of ten skaters at the 1892 European Championships in Vienna. The following winter at the Verbands-Preis-Wett-Eislaufens at the Wiener Eislaufverein, he finished second behind his training mate Karl Sage. Later that month, he claimed the bronze medal once again at the European Championships, this time behind Eduard Engelmann Jr. and Henning Grenander.


After dropping to second and fourth at the 1894 German-Austrian Championships and European Championships, Georg finished second at the first international figure skating competition in Davos and promptly retired from competitive skating. He was honoured for his sporting achievements at a reception at the Volksgarten in January 1895 hosted by the Linzer Bicycle Club.

Though he devoted much of the rest of his life to bicycling and not skating, Georg found himself in legal hot water after a serious accident in June 1901. Though injured when his automobile went careening off a Viennese bridge, he was charged with speeding "at a furious pace" and endangering the lives of tramway workers in a nearby pit. The judge fined him for the offence.

ERICH ERDÖS


The son of Rudolf and Gabriele Erdös, Erich Karl Erdös was born March 27, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. His father was of Slovakian descent and his mother Austrian by birth. Living in a city with a long-standing love affair with figure skating, it's no surprise that young Erich, his brother Alois and sister Charlotte found their way to the ice at young ages. By the time he was a teenager, Erich was busy carving out loops and brackets at the Engelmann rink. At the age of eighteen in 1932, he won his first medal at the Austrian Championships and made his international debut at the European Championships in Paris. Struck by his elegant free skating, the Belgian judge at that event actually placed him ahead of the reigning European and World Champion in the free skate Karl Schäfer. As it turned out, that Belgian judge wasn't the only one who would dare to place young Erich ahead of Karl in the years that followed.


Standing at five foot ten, with brown hair and gray eyes, handsome Erich was often a crowd favourite, noted skating historian Gunnar Bang. Yet, after claiming the bronze medals at the 1933 European Championships in London and the 1934 World Championships in Stockholm, he disappeared from the competitive scene as quickly as he'd risen to prominence, turning professional after a disappointing seventh place finish at the 1935 World Championships. The September 21, 1935 issue of the "Wiener Sporttagblatt" lamented his decision, noting it was a "heavy loss" for Austrian skating and that he was "one of one most talented skaters [who] has honoured Austria."

Following in the footsteps of Melitta Brunner, Edi Scholdan, Karl Mejstrik and the many other gifted Austrian skaters who made the decision to go abroad to perform and teach during this era, Erich took up residence at Kensington Gardens and began teaching at Queen's Ice Club in London. While in London, he appeared in the "St. Moritz" ice show at the London Coliseum alongside Pamela Prior, Hazel Franklin and Otto Gold and gave lessons to fellow professionals at Earl's Court.

In 1939, Erich's sister Charlotte - who was teaching skating in Paris - passed away under mysterious circumstances. She was staying in a hotel at the time with a lover, got up and went to an adjoining room and didn't return. Her lover went to go check on her and found her naked and dead on the floor with a empty bottle of hair dye lying next to her. Though murder and suicide were originally hinted at by Erich, an autopsy revealed Charlotte had meningitis of the brain. After marrying Iris Coe in 1944, Erich moved to the United States and joined the cast of Holiday On Ice for a time before returning to England to coach at the S.S. Brighton and falling off the face of the map.

THE FELLNER BROTHERS


Rising to prominence concurrently in the last decade of the nineteenth century, brothers Josef and Ernst Fellner were both members of the Wiener Eislaufverein, They both made their competitive debut at the Verbands-Preis-Wett-Eislaufens at their home club on January 8, 1893. Josef placed second in the junior men's class; Ernst sixth. That same winter, the brothers appeared in the Viennese Eisballet "Im Reiches des Eisgottes". In 1897, Josef won the junior men's gold and Ernst the senior men's silver at the annual competition at the Wiener Eislaufverein that preceded the Austrian Championships. The following year at the same event, the brothers squared off in the senior men's class. Ernst won the figures; Josef won the free skating. After the marks were tallied, Ernst defeated his brother by a mere one sixth of a point.

In 1898, Josef turned the tables, defeating his brother and making history as the first winner of the men's competition at the Austrian Championships. The following year at the European Championships in Davos, Ernst won the bronze medal behind Ulrich Salchow and Gustav Hügel, receiving a first place ordinal from the Swiss judge.

Both brothers retired from competitive skating around the turn of the century. Josef went on to serve on the side of the Central Powers during the Great War and become a respected international judge, serving on panels at the European and World Championships. Champions who were the benefits of his scoring included Lili Kronberger, the Jakobsson's, Fritz Kachler, Herma Szabo, Willy Böckl and Karl Schäfer. He also served as the chair of the ISU Judges Committee from 1923 to 1925 and as the Austrian Federation's President from 1945 to 1950.

MARTHA MUSILEK


Born June 8, 1924, Martha Musilek got her start on the ice at the Wiener Eislaufverein in the thirties and surprised many by placing seventh in her first major international competition at the age of fifteen, where three of five judges had her in the top three in the free skate. That event was the 1939 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, which proved to be the final World Championships before their cancellation due to World War II.

Coached by Karl Schäfer at the Engelmann rink early in the War, Martha won gold in 1942 and 1943 at the 'Ostmark' Championships during the period Austria was annexed into Germany by the Nazis. The January 8, 1942 "Das kleine Volksblatt" raved, "This title is really most worthy. Those in the Engelmann Arena cheered everything Martha did [from] the beginning. She performed her three Axel-Paulsens, then a pirouette with a three foot change and steps at an uncanny pace." Two months later, Martha defeated German Inge Jell, Briton Susi Demoll and five others at an international meet at the Wiener Eislaufverein. The March 2, 1942 "Kleine Volks Zeitung" summed it up by saying, "Martha Musilek came, saw and conquered."


In 1945, twenty one year old Martha married Robert Bachem of the renowned J.P. Bachem publishing house and settled in Cologne, Germany. The couple quickly welcomed two children while the German press lamented that she wasn't on the ice winning titles. Determined to make up for lost opportunities, Martha got back on the ice as soon as she had her second child and started training for the 1948 Winter Olympics, hoping to represent Germany.

When the decision was made that Germans would be forbidden to participate in any event that the ISU was affiliated with, she realized that her only chance to compete in St. Moritz was to represent Austria. However, she was informed that the only way she would get her Austrian citizenship back was to get a divorce from her husband. Under the guise that a divorce was in the works, she departed from Munich to Vienna, her move facilitated by the Austrian Repatriation Commission. However, when she arrived in Vienna she received the bad news that any woman who was born in Austria but wanted to return home from Germany without their husband wasn't allowed to do so unless the divorce had already been finalized. With her daughter in tow, she stalled for time in Switzerland and finagled berths on the 1948 Austrian European, Olympic and World teams.

Martha Musilek and Erich Zeller. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

However, things didn't go quite as planned for Martha. At the European Championships in Prague, she placed a disappointing eleventh. At the Olympic Games in St. Moritz, she moved up two spots to ninth and at the World Championships in Davos, she delivered an outstanding free skate but placed only seventh, hampered by characteristically weak figures. Her Olympic dream fulfilled, she announced her retirement and revealed that she never had any intentions of divorcing her husband in the first place. The December 18, 1948 issue of "Der Spiegel" reported that after representing Austria in those Games "the German national Martha Bachem and her child were placed on the list of persons to be expelled. They went back to Germany in the return home transport." Ironically, after spending much of her lifetime after her skating career ended in Germany, Martha passed away June 19, 2015... in Vienna, Austria.

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

Edges At The Expos: Skating At The World's Fairs

Chorus of skaters at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Photo courtesy New York Public Library.

During the 1939 New York World's Fair, Norwegian skater Erna Andersen dazzled audiences on a specially constructed ice rink. Sadly, Erna was upstaged when Fair organizers decided to hold a 'Henie Day' when Andersen's compatriot Sonja Henie visited while honeymooning in New York after her marriage to Dan Topping.

Ice rink from the 1939 New York World's Fair. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

By 1946, sawhorses and wheelbarrows lined the area where the skating rink once stood as labourers began construction of the new home of the United Nations general assembly in Flushing Meadows. History was being erased and history was being made.

Maude Reynolds and Francis LeMaire performing their 'Shutlatter Dances' at the 1934 Chicago's World Fair. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Figure skating and these international expositions have had a long standing relationship through history. From Brussels to New York City to Osaka, skating has often taken center stage. The July 16, 1934 edition of "The Lodi Sentinel" recalled how The Black Forest ice show, staged during A Century Of Progress, the Chicago World's Fair of 1934 in the German village became the unlikely hit attraction of the exposition: "At the Black Forest is given one of the finest exhibitions of fancy skating. Men and women in pretty costumes do the most marvellous steps on the ice. The performance lasts about ten minutes, because the ice starts to melt after that time. When the skaters go off a huge dance platform is shot in over the ice, and dancing to fine old German tunes goes until the ice freezes again."


Promotional materials for the Black Forest Village at the Chicago World's Fair of 1934. Photos courtesy the Illinois Digital Archives.

Arthur R. Goodfellow's 1972 book "Wonderful world of skates; seventeen centuries of skating" noted, "An American ice production at a trade fair in [Jakarta] helped smooth relations between Indonesia and the United States at a time when such help was badly needed. Industrial expositions in Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam and many European cities have often found ice the hottest thing in their amusement midways. The two World Fairs in New York featured ice, as did the highly successful Canadian Expo and the massive Expo 70 in Japan. Fairground ice amusements sometimes have been touched by tragedy as well as joy. At the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, two forms of 'ice skating' were in evidence, but one was destroyed by fire before it could be used... The skating rink at the 1893 Columbian Expo was on top of the handsome building erected by the Hercules Iron Works. This building resembled Mohammedan architecture and the smoke stack near the front center was encased in a beautiful tower 191-feet high. The rink measured 54 by 208-feet, and from four to six inches of ice were to have been maintained by the brine pumps. Freezing of the ice had just begun when a fire broke out in the tower, the wooden parts of which had been insufficiently protected from the chimney. Sixteen firemen were trapped and perished before the eyes of thousands of spectators."


At the 1964 World's Fair in New York, Dick Button staged a lavish skating production called "Icetravaganza". Fashion met skating in this high production show. The April 1, 1964 issue of the "Free Lance-Star" noted, "Chinchila dresses, capes of black and white tiger skin pattern made from pieces of Russian broadtail; as well as white Persian lamb suits are among the 'don't-be-a-cheap-skate' numbers." Despite its flashy costumes and glitzy decor, the show wasn't perhaps the roaring success it could have been. Dan Dietz' "The Complete Book Of 1960's Broadway Musicals" explains why: "The show had sparse attendance, and at one point a twelve-foot hedge was deemed the culprit for the show's lack of business. Because of its location, the demon hedge obscured the New York City Pavilion and thus many fairgoers didn't know [it] existed. When the offending hedge was trimmed, the Times said it seemed 'that an additional building had been added to the fair,' and Button hoped 'a new era had dawned' for the ice show's fortunes. Unfortunately, hedge or no hedge, the customers still didn't come. It appears the ice show was more in the format of a book musical than a revue; the script was by Gerald Freedman, who co-wrote the lyrics with John Morris (who composed the score and conducted the orchestra). The direction and choreography were by Button, who coproduced with Paul Feigay. The cast included Sandy Culbertson, Jerry Howard, Guy Longpre, Barbara Martin, Don McPherson, Pat Pauley, Fred Randall, Ronnie Robertson and Eric Waite." The show had an unceremonious and short run but Dick, as always, had a healthy attitude about the whole project: "I've been lucky to have found something I'm interested in. Too many people never get excited about anything. It doesn't matter what you're keen about - even shovelling sand against the tide makes sense if you like it."


Though the Futurama ride at the 1964 World's Fair might not have accurately predicted everything about life in the world today, international expositions still draw in hoards of tourists around the world. The next two 'universal expositions' will be held in Dubai in 2020 and Buenos Aires in 2023, providing Trump doesn't get the whole world blown up by then. Will figure skating be among the entertainment? Only time will tell.

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.

Railroads And Rulebooks: The Hank Beatty Story


"Good judgment on any subject is not a gift. It is the power of logical reasoning, based on knowledge and observation. It is born only of long study and must be exercised with care and sportsmanship." - Hank Beatty

"It has been fun to look back, but it is much more productive to look ahead." - Hank Beatty

Born June 11, 1900 in Cleveland, Ohio, Henry 'Hank' McIntosh Beatty was the son of Robert and Alexandrine (McIntosh) Beatty. He grew up on Devonshire Drive in Cleveland Heights and his father was a railroad worker with the Cleveland and Eastern Traction Company.

Hank's father got him a job with as a timekeeper when he was a teenager. At the age of eighteen, he graduated from Asheville School in North Carolina and was drafted for the first World War but luckily wasn't sent overseas to Europe. Instead, he studied at Cornell University, where he got a degree in electrical engineering. He became the Vice-President of a limestone and building materials company and enjoyed photography, game fishing and playing 'archery' golf until his marriage to Elizabeth Coates in October 1923. It wasn't until 1937 - at the age of thirty seven - that he first laced up a pair of skates and fell in love with figure skating when his children signed up for lessons at the Cleveland Skating Club.

Though Hank's own skating prowess was questionable, he became a trustee of the Cleveland Skating Club and served as its Vice-President. He stepped up to the plate as an organizer when Cleveland hosted the U.S. Championships for the first time in 1940. Quickly catching the attention of the powers that be in U.S. figure skating at the time for his organizational skills, he became a member of the USFSA executive later that year. In 1946, he was elected as the USFSA's ninth President, serving in that role for three years and playing an integral part in fostering growth in the organization during the post-War years. In 1949, he returned to his role as the chairperson of the USFSA's Competitions Committee and was appointed as an International Referee.


Hank also served as chair of the U.S. Olympic Games (Selection) Committee for every Olympic Games from 1948 to 1964 and as either the Chief or Assistant Referee at sixteen U.S. Championships, eight World Championships and three North American Championships, as well as the 1964 Winter Olympic Games. He played an important role in bringing the 1957 World Championships to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. This event marked the first time that the United States had hosted the Championships since 1930. He acted as General Chairman of the 1959, 1965, 1969 and 1975 World Championships... all held at The Broadmoor and all largely successful. Incidentally, in early 1960 Hank had moved to Colorado Springs and called the Broadmoor his home club. A skaters residence there was named Henry M. Beatty Hall in his honour.

In 1958, Hank organized an exhibition tour of American skaters in Japan, which fostered growth and education in that country and goodwill between the two skating associations. At the 1961 U.S. Championships, he held black tie cocktail parties for the judges every night before dinner in his hotel suite. When judge Walter Powell, his friend and peer, was killed in the Sabena Crash, he stepped in as an ISU Representative and served in that capacity until 1967. Arguably, Hank's most important contributions to American figure skating were his development and editorship of the USFSA's Competitions Manual and work in editing Heaton Ridgway Robertson's book "Evaluation Of Errors In Figures". Both texts, in their own ways, had a profound impact on education and development in his country.

Recalling his early days of judging and refereeing events in an article that appeared in "Skating" magazine in 1971, Hank emphasized, "Don't get the idea that the early skaters couldn't skate. Their figures were equal to or better than those skaters today. Their free skating was very good: good, that is, within the limitations of the then known moves. I once asked a skater who had competed with the famous Sonja [Henie], whether she could have free skated with the present crop. She replied, 'That is a difficult question to answer. In the first place. big jumps like the Axel were considered unladylike, and secondly, with the longer skirts and heavier clothing we wore, jumping was quite difficult. But I believe that were Sonja competing today, she could hold her own with anyone.'... There were many unusual happenings in those days. In one competition, the free skating was held in a curling rink where the roof was supported by columns that skaters had to dodge during their programs. Another time, the ice had been painted for decoration and some of the chemical came up through the next layer of ice making it virtually impossible to perform a paragraph figure. An embarrassing moment occurred when a champion showed up with orchestration for sixteen pieces, and the host club had planned on a piano and drums, or a record player... These and countless other problems were overcome somehow, and figure skating continued and developed into the great sport that it is today."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Sadly, Hank passed away in Cleveland on August 11, 1972 at the age of seventy two, just months after serving as the Assistant Referee of the pairs competition at that year's World Championships in Calgary, Alberta. He was elected posthumously to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1977 and is remembered fondly by a nickname which well describes the many contributions he made to American figure skating: 'Mr. USFSA'. After his death, H. Hendall Kelly recalled in "Skating" magazine, "Henry was gifted with keen intelligence, a forceful personality and great executive ability. He was deeply interested in figure skating and the Association and turned his talents wholeheartedly towards its activities and progress. His influence and contributions to the sport can never be surpassed in extent and value."

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.

A Minoru Blog? I Just Couldn't Sano!


On the island on Honshu to the south of Tokyo was a town located in Higashiyatsushiro District of the Yamanashi Prefecture called Isawa. It no longer exists, now amalgamated as part of city of Fuefuki. However, it was in that town on June 3, 1955 that Minoru Sano, a trailblazer in Japanese figure skating was born.


Minoru first took to the ice at the age of four with his brother and sister on Lake Shōji near Mount Fuji and after his first visit to an indoor skating rink while attending elementary school, he attended a specialized training camp for promising young skaters at Nihon University in Tokyo. It was there he started working with Tsuzuki Shoichiro, who would remain his coach for his entire amateur career. Moving his way up the ranks, Minoru won his first senior medal - a bronze - when he was a fifteen at the 1971 Japanese Championships. By the following year in Osaka, he'd moved up a rung on the podium to claim the silver. It was gold in 1973 in Takano, Kyoto. His first senior men's title earned him a trip to the 1973 World Championships in Bratislava, where he finished a forgettable fourteenth.

That fall, Minoru travelled to Calgary, Alberta where he made history (for the first time in his career) by winning Japan's first medal at Skate Canada International, a bronze behind Toller Cranston and Ron Shaver. After repeating as Japan's senior men's champion in Hiroshima in early 1974, he returned to the World Championships, this time in Munich, West Germany. A disappointing eleventh place finish in the school figures left him in a position where he needed to make up ground in the short program and free skate and he did just that, moving up to eighth place from eleventh. That 'coming from behind after figures' scenario would be one that repeated itself time and time again throughout much of the rest of his competitive career, as was the case that fall at Skate Canada in Kitchener, where he climbed all the way from fifth place to take the silver medal behind Ron Shaver, ahead of American Charlie Tickner. Another medal at the Moscow Skate competition in the Soviet Union later in the fall of 1974 established Minoru as a skater to watch.


After winning a third Japanese men's title in Shiganawa in early 1975, Minoru headed to the World Championships in Colorado Springs ready to make a move on the top echelon of skaters. Disaster struck when he sprained his foot just days prior to the competition. Although he dropped two places down to tenth place, his gutsy performances earned Japan two men's spots for the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. However, after the competition what he thought was a sprain turned out to be a fracture. The prospects of Minoru's Olympic dream appeared bleak.


Minoru rallied to win a fourth consecutive Japanese title in Tokyo, earning (alongside Mitsuru Matsumura) one of two men's spots on the Japanese Olympic team heading to Innsbruck. The judges didn't quite know what to do with him, offering scores in the figures that ranged from sixth to eleventh and in the short program that ranged from fourth to tenth. At the end of the day, he finished ninth overall. It was Japan's best result in the figure skating events of those Olympics. In Sweden at the World Championships that followed, he finished seventh overall. However, the March 4, 1976 issue of The Ottawa Citizen noted, "His spectacular high-speed performance [in the short program] included the only successful triple lutz/double toe-loop of [the] competition."


Minoru's final season in the amateur ranks was his most successful. In 1977, he won his fifth consecutive Japanese men's title in Kyoto then headed to the World Championships in Tokyo. Despite the pressures of performing in front of a massive hometown crowd, Minoru actually won the free skate ahead of a who's who of top men's skaters of that era - Jan Hoffmann, Vladimir Kovalev, David Santee and Charlie Tickner among them - with his daringly athletic performance. A sixth place finish in the figures almost kept him off the podium but he managed to win the bronze medal, a historic first medal at the World Championships for Japan.

Vlasimir Kovalev, Jan Hoffmann and Minoru Sano on the podium at the 1977 World Championships

Leaving the amateur ranks on a high note, Minoru turned professional and married an Olympic gymnast. He dabbled in music, releasing songs with Toshiba EMI and helped found Japan's first homegrown ice show, Viva! Ice World. In the show, he skated both singles (showing off a newly acquired backflip) and pairs with Emi Watanabi.


In 1980, he moderated a weekly sports news show on Nippon Television called Exclusive! Sports Information and took a stab at competing in the World Professional Championships in Jaca, Spain. He tied in the judge's scores with American Scott Cramer and lost the title on the audience score by literally one point. Unphased, Minoru continued his skating with Viva! Ice World and work in television on FNN News Report as a sportscaster throughout the eighties. Confusingly - believe me - another Minoru Sano was also an extremely popular Japanese personality during this period. The other Minoru Sano was a celebrity ramen noodle chef.


Minoru continued performing professionally in Japanese skating shows until the early nineties before beginning work as a television commentator for Fuji TV and coach. Among his former students? Shizuka Arakawa, Yamato Tamura and his own daughter Midori, who became a successful professional skater in her own right. He also appeared in the 2009 Japanese skating film "Coach" starring Miwa Nishida, Noburo Kaneko, Yuna Komatsuzaki and Sayaka Yoshino. Other skating greats including Midori Ito, Shizuka Arakawa and Miki Ando made cameos in the film.


Currently, Minoru coaches alongside Yutaka Higuchi and Miwa Fukuhara at the Meiji Jingu Outer Gardens Skating Rink in Tokyo's Sendagaya district and serves as the President of the Japan Figure Skating Instructor Association. He has also served on the council of the Japan Skating Association. The dedication that Minoru has shown to the sport of figure skating - wearing pretty much every hat there is at one point or another - is remarkable and his skate of a lifetime back in 1977 can't help but make you smile, even to this day. To Minoru Sano, the skating world owes a big "domo arigatou"!

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