#Unearthed: Skating Gossip


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 'buried treasure' is an essay by T. Maxwell Witham called "Skating Gossip" which originally appeared in the August to December 1895 issue of "The Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastimes". From the viewpoint of a practitioner of the English Style, Witham describes the evolution of skating in Europe and the rise in popularity of hand-in-hand - or pairs - skating.

"SKATING GOSSIP" (T. MAXWELL WITHAM)




All methods of self-propulsion are fascinating, but when, in addition, progression is only possible by means of a correct balance, as in skating and bicycling, the fascination is doubled.

Figure-skating, as distinguished from skating as a means of progression, is comparatively modern, and, curiously enough, emanates from Great Britain and from English-speaking people. Before the year 1830 figure-skating was in its infancy, and such movements as were known were handed down from generation to generation by tradition, as the few books on the subject that did exist described only the most elementary movements, and frequently the directions given for acquiring these were entirely misleading.

From the year 1869 till now skaters have been gradually taught by good text-books, the leading men in the art have studied the various movements that go to make up figure skating, and have now practically demonstrated all the fundamental strokes that are possible to the figure-skater. We are not
from this to understand that nothing new in figure-skating is possible. Far from it.

Although every possible stroke is now known, the multitude of combinations by joining one stroke with another is perfectly endless; but whether the rising generation will derive as much pleasure in devising these combinations as the pioneers of the art did in working out the simple initial strokes
is doubtful. In the dawn of figure-skating, undoubtedly the inside edge was the first which demonstrated the possibility of leaning over on an edge and so describing a curve, seeing that this inside edge was the easiest to execute by reason of the unemployed leg being always ready and available to act as a prop to the nervous or falling performer. This inside edge no doubt suggested the outside, and when this was demonstrated as possible, it was practised to the entire exclusion of the inside, because in the early days the position of the skater's body when executing the inside edge made it an ungainly and ungraceful movement.

In practising the outside edge, our ancestors, no doubt, in 'holding on' to the edge as long as possible occasionally found that at the end of the curve they made an involuntary half-turn, placing them
on the inside back, and this involuntary turn being by practice reduced to a certain turn gives us the common figure 3. It has, no doubt, struck many people, as it has struck me, as curious and almost incredible, that, given the dandy-horse, which demonstrated the possibility of riding on a machine having two wheels in the same plane, it was some forty years after the advent of the dandy horse before it occurred to some one to put cranks on the front wheel and so continue the motion, thus virtually creating the modern bicycle. And it is hardly more curious that, with the forward 3 commencing with an outside edge and turning to an inside edge backwards to guide them, it was years before the other turns were discovered.

Skaters continued to practise only the figures that had been handed down to them by tradition, gradually and slowly increasing the number of possible figures - such, for example, as a second and third turn in the 3. Who it was who had the boldness first to try the dangerous second turn is unknown, but the 3 having three turns and known as the ' double 3 ' was undoubtedly skated by the members of the Skating Club as early as 1830, but as a single turn, from inside back to inside forward, a means of propulsion ; and when this was recognised, any number of movements on one leg could be joined together and skated without any assistance from the other leg other than swing. It
is only within the last few years that the skating fraternity has from time to time been startled by the publication of descriptions and diagrams of new figures, some of them, perhaps, being put forward as theoretically possible, but practically impossible; yet now one sees boys of fourteen executing these supposed impossible figures with the greatest facility. How is this?

First, the modern figure-skater has a better constructed skate than his ancestors possessed; and, secondly, skating being an imitative art, he has only to copy what he sees others doing, or follow the careful instruction given in the text-books, and he is thus enabled to acquire facility in executing difficult movements much more rapidly than did the pioneers of the art; but he does not attain what was to the early figure-skaters the supreme pleasure of thinking out and demonstrating as possible some movement which at that period was a new departure.

The facility of communication all over the world has affected figure-skating as it has other arts, and itinerant professional skaters, mostly American, established themselves in Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Norway, and schools of skating were established, where the practice of the art is carried out by the natives in accordance with the early teaching of their professors, coupled with the desire for display peculiar to foreigners. The Englishman tries to, and does in fact skate the most difficult movements, and at the same time his whole desire is to conceal the difficulty.

The foreigners, on the other hand, exaggerate the motion or balance which emphasises the difficulty, and go for speed and dash, which they attain mostly at the cost of elegance. There is another school, that of St. Moritz, which is essentially British, and which has carried out the early teaching of the Skating Club of upright carriage and straightened knee to its logical conclusion, and it is quite wonderful to see the skill of the habitues of the St. Moritz rink in executing the most difficult
movements with the arms quiescent and the knee and body perfectly rigid. They carry this rigidity to an extent that some good judges consider exaggerated, but their style has one good quality, and one that will be more and more of use as an object lesson if our skating is to be done in the future principally in covered rinks, as it proves that by practice the most difficult movements may be skated with certainty and at a great pace without the stooping body, bent knee, and swinging arms which are the essential characteristics of difficult figures when skated in the acrobatic fashion common to foreigners.

What will the figure-skating of the future improve or degenerate into? The improvement of the last few years has been most marked on the part of the men, and the ladies are running them very close. The causes of this decided improvement are the start given to figure-skating by the introduction of roller skates in 1875, the greater interest that is now taken in anything athletic, the long frosts which we have enjoyed during the last few years, and the continuous practice which many of our best skaters obtain every year in the Engadine. But now that we have Niagara, and are to have similar places at Knightsbridge and Argyll Place, although there will be the opportunity of continuous
practice, the space available is contracted and crowded, and the chances are that, from an English point of view, the skating will deteriorate. Individual acrobatic performances on skates will doubtless develop enormously, but the accuracy and correct pose which have hitherto distinguished English skating, as seen to perfection in the ' Club figures,' will be lost.


There is one form of skating which has made some little progress of late years, which the real-ice rinks may bring to great perfection, and that is hand-in-hand skating. It is fascinating of itself, and is practically possible in a crowded rink. For the 'side-by-side' figures there are two ways of holding hands - first, the old method, where the gentleman, being on the left of the lady, takes her right hand in his right hand, and her left in his left, the joined right hands being underneath the left hands ; secondly, the method known as the Austrian. In this the lady puts her hands behind her with
the palms upwards, and the gentleman takes them in his hands, which are turned palms downwards. He stands behind the lady to her left, the left hands are joined and brought forward, and the lady's right hand is passed behind and across her back, and is so held in the gentleman's right. When the gentleman is to the right of the lady the position is, of course, reversed. At first this position feels cramped, and it is especially the lady who is most affected. This is caused by the strangeness of skating with her hands held behind her back, but if the gentleman will be careful to always be at her side, either to the right or left, instead of behind her, this feeling will soon wear off, and when the lady is able, without effort, to swing her arms behind her from one side to the other, according to the position of her partner, it will be found that much freer skating can be done in the Austrian than
in the old-fashioned side-by-side method.

One thing must be remembered in hand-in-hand skating: if either of the partners should feel that a fall is inevitable, the hands must be disengaged instantly; and to do this, and to ensure ease and grace, the hands should be held but lightly, and by the ends of the fingers. In the confined space of a real-ice rink Club figures are not possible, as they occupy far too much room; but this hand-in-hand skating
can be indulged in to any extent, and as every movement that can be executed by an individual skating alone can be equally well skated by two persons holding hands in the Austrian method, it is probable that for the next few years any great improvement in figure-skating will be in this direction.

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 1935 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Maribel Vinson. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Used with permission.

In the second week of February, 1935, approximately seventy skaters from all over America flocked to the New Haven Arena ice pond in New Haven, Connecticut (the site of the very first U.S. Championships back in 1914) to show off their change loops and camel spins in hopes of being crowned U.S. Champions. 


One fascinating aspect of the 1935 U.S. Championships is that among the senior ranks, not a single winner or winning team from the previous year's Nationals retained their spot on the top of the podium. Two other interesting notes with regard to the 1935 event was its inclusion of 'carnival scenes' from members of the New Haven Skating Club between rounds of competition and the United States Figure Skating Association's decision to offer a generous portion of the proceeds from advance ticket sales to the Connecticut Society For Mental Hygiene.

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Members of the Skating Club of New York competing in New Haven in 1935. From left to right: Audrey Peppe, Marjorie Parker, Katherine Durbrow, Ardelle Kloss, Nettie Prantel and Marguerite Sherman. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

As for the nitty gritty, let's start by looking at some of the novice and junior events. The novice men's champion was M. Bernard Fox of Boston and the junior men's champion was Erle Reiter of Minneapolis. The junior pair's winners were Jean Schulte and Ollie Haupt Jr. of St. Louis. For a look at the novice and junior women's events, we'll turn to the February 11, 1935 issue of "The Day", which tells us that "probably the closest margin of points separating two contests for the single honor of champion of the womens novices came with the awarding of the crown in this class to Miss Mary E. Weigel of Buffalo, over Mrs. Mabel Thorne of the Los Angeles Skating Club. Mrs. Anson Beard of New York, was third... During the afternoon, petite 15-year old Polly Blodgett, of the Skating Club Of Boston, won the women's junior figure skating championship." One thing you may have noticed in this particular quote are the titles of 'Miss' and 'Mrs.' used in the novice category. Back in the thirties, what division you competed in had absolutely to do with your age and everything to do with what tests you had passed. It was absolutely plausible - and common - for pre-teens to be competing against people old enough to be their parents in novice, junior and senior competitions in North America at the time.

THE SENIOR EVENTS

Members of the Skating Club of New York competing in New Haven in 1935. From left to right: George Boltres, Roy Hunt, Robin Lee, Wilfred MacDonald, Howard Meredith and Joseph K. Savage. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Sherwin Badger was disappointed as the Original Dance, an event that was basically an early forerunner of the OSP, which he worked so hard to promote was cancelled in 1935 after only one ice dance team entered. The only ice dancing event contested in New Haven in 1935 was the Waltz, which was won by Nettie Prantel and Roy Hunt. In second were Ilse Twaroschk and Frederick Fleishmann, third Maribel Vinson and Joseph Savage and in fourth were Eva Schwerdt and William Bruns.

Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill

Siblings Jimmie and Grace Madden, the defending senior pairs champions, were not able to fend off Maribel Vinson and her partner Geddy Hill, who had defeated them previously in 1933 at the U.S. Championships. Third were Eva Schwerdt and William Bruns. Performing a special exhibition as guests were Canadian Champions in pairs, Louise Bertram and Stewart Reburn.


In the senior men's competition, a fifteen year old Eramus Hall High School student from New York City, Robin Lee, pulled off the upset of the decade in defeating seven time and defending thirty five year old U.S. Champion and Boston lawyer Roger Turner in front of an audience of four thousand. The February 11, 1935 edition of The New York Post recalled, "performing almost faultlessly in the free skating as he had done through the school figures, the young western protege outskated one of the largest fields ever to compete for the title."

Robin Lee. Photo courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society. Used with permission.

Robin Lee, a modest, young blond skater who also excelled at swimming and golfing was actually in his third year in the senior ranks and in finishing third and second the previous two years at Nationals had certainly made his presence known but defeating Turner was a very big deal at that time considering his resume and reputation. In third with a tumble in the free skate was James Lester Madden, the silver medallist in the senior pairs event, of the Boston Skating Club. The fifth place finisher that year, 1933 U.S. Junior Men's Champion Bill Swallender, later became an esteemed coach and was among those who perished in the 1961 Sabena Crash.


Maribel Vinson had skipped the 1934 U.S. Championships and taken up a job with "The New York Times" as its first female sportswriter, allowing Suzanne Davis of Massachusetts the opportunity to win her first and only U.S. senior ladies title. In 1935, Maribel returned with a vengeance, winning her seventh U.S. ladies title with a program that featured a half-Lutz jump and inside spread eagle into an Axel.


"The Day" noted that "this year's loser [Suzanne Davis] went into second place followed by the Weigel sisters of Buffalo, Louise in third place and Estelle in fourth" which would mean that with the exception of Maribel on top, the positions of the previous season's top three Nationals had been repeated. Like I always say whenever I'm writing about skating history, "it's all just a little bit of history repeating." Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads were right.

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.

Brackets On The Way To Brazil: The Kristóf Kállay Story

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

The son of Miklós and Borbala-Roza (Dudosich) Kállay, Kristóf Ervin Kállay was born November 9, 1920 in Budapest, Hungary. His father was a highly respected and prolific journalist, novelist and playwright who served as co-editor of the Nemzeti Szalon. Through the noble blood of the Kállay family of Nagykálló, he was also related to Hungarian Prime Minister Dr. Miklós Kállay.

Kristóf's father Miklós Kállay

Kristóf started skating at the Városligeti Műjégpályá while he was a young student at the Benedictine Grammar School. At the age of eleven, he entered the junior men's event at the Hungarian Championships and placed second to István Hostyánszky. Three years later, when the World Championships came to Budapest he placed third in an international junior men's event held in conjunction with the competition. Many observers believed that he not have taken a fall in his free skating performance, he would have won.


As a teenager, Kristóf spent time training in London, England and routinely upstaged Hungary's top two senior men - Dénes Pataky and Elemér Terták - in domestic competitions. What precision he lacked in the school figures he more than made up for in free skating. His one-foot Axels and series of three jumps in a row were truly crowd pleasers.

Piroska and Attila Szekrényessy and Kristóf Kállay

In 1939, he made his first - and last - appearance in the senior men's event at the World Championships. Though he placed seventh of the eleven men entered, one judge had him as high as third in free skating. In 1940, Kristof won his first of three Hungarian senior men's titles at the age of nineteen. Hampered by illness, he placed dead last in an international competition between skaters from Germany, Austria and Hungary in January of 1941. However, he continued to practice and perform regularly in Budapest during the first few years of the War and was a skater who could have easily found himself in contention for a medal at the European and World Championships, had the War not have necessitated the cancellation of ISU Championships.


Kristóf graduated with a university degree in science in Budapest in 1942 and hung up his skates a year later. He served as an Officer in Foreign Affairs from 1942 to 1946, and after the War emigrated to Stockholm where he took up a position as a diplomat at the Hungarian Embassy. He later settled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he coupled diplomatic work with journalism. He married twice - to Adelaide Bebiano Vaccani and Tererina Ferreira dos Santos - and for several decades, he served as a Foreign Affairs correspondent for the "Jornal do Brasil". He also penned articles about history and politics for Hungarian journals. In the seventies, several of his works were translated and published in "Los Angeles New World". He passed away at the age of sixty nine on January 22, 1990 in
Teresópolis, Brazil, his wartime contributions to figure skating in Hungary all but forgotten.

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.

Skating With The Selfridge's

Postcard of Selfridge's decorated for Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation, 1937

Selfridge's on Oxford Street in London opened its doors on March 19, 1909. The department store was the brainchild of Wisconsin born Harry Gordon Selfridge, a self-made man who became known as 'the P.T. Barnum of the retail world'.

Selfridge's was a groundbreaking enterprise in its early years. It was the first such business in Great Britain to introduce in-store exhibitions and demonstrations, the bargain basement and eye-catching window displays. It was also the first department stores in Great Britain to display beauty products out in the open to encourage browsing and install a fragrance counter in the front of the store.

Mr. Selfridge treated his staff exceptionally well and personally walked the floor in every department every day. He introduced the term "shop assistant" and crusaded to curb the expression "shop girl", which he believed to be "an epitaph almost of disrespect." He changed the way people in Great Britain shopped.

Harry Gordon Selfridge

What many may not know is that Selfridge's also played a role in changing the way people in Great Britain thought about figure skating. In August of 1924, Mr. Selfridge had an ice rink that had previously been installed in Albert Hall moved to his department store's rooftop terrace.

On September 8 of that year, he brought in 'the world's greatest skating experts' - Howard Nicholson and Freda Whitaker - to give demonstrations of 'acrobatic' pairs skating and ice dancing at intervals through the day. It is believed that the rooftop rink at Selfridge's lasted at least a couple of months and was used multiple times, showcasing figure skating as a spectacle... to sell winter sports wear and ice skates. Volume 105 of "The Clothier And Furnisher" noted, "To mark the opening of the Alpine sports department a mannequin parade of Alpine sports equipment - the first of its kind ever to be held in London - was also given on the roof garden ice rink."


An exhibition of figure skating atop his store wasn't exactly an arbitrary choice for Harry Gordon Selfridge. Harry's daughters Rosalie and Violette regularly skated alongside the likes of Madge and Edgar Syers at Prince's Skating Club at Knightsbridge. The Selfridge family all took to the ice at the Hotel des Alpes in Murren, Switzerland in February of 1914.


At one point, Mr. Selfridge bought the Hotel Bellevue in Interlaken, Switzerland for his staff to have a chance to winter in Switzerland themselves, taking in the great skating and skiing. In his book "Ski Joy: The Story Of Winter Sports", Harry Stone noted, "Occasionally he even patronized it himself, not at that time being encumbered with his multiple girlfriends the Dolly Sisters."


In the modern day, Selfridge's has survived and thrived in Great Britain. The triumph of Lindy Woodhead's book "Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge" and the highly successful series "Mr. Selfridge" - with its iconic characters like the indomitable Lady Mae Loxley, faithful Arthur Crabbe  and charming Henri LeClair - have only heightened interest in the man behind the legendary store. Selfridge's connections to skating continue in recent times too... Its Trafford Centre, Manchester location has boasted an ice rink for customers. All things do come back in season eventually!

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 Thread Of Ariane


Born in Basel, Switzerland in 1924, Ariane LeVaillant was billed in the January 1939 issue of "LIFE" magazine as a teenage skating sensation from Switzerland whose "pretty face and pretty legs and natural grace may land her in the movies before many years".

Photo courtesy City Of Vancouver Archives

After competing in several junior competitions in Switzerland with little success, Ariane made a trip to the United States in 1937 in hopes of establishing a career skating in shows. She signed with an agent in New York named Harry Hirsch, who put out an advertisement in "Skating" magazine aiming to solicit work for her on the club carnival circuit. This first trip didn't solicit many takers, and so she returned to Switzerland... and for a time remained an amateur. Things didn't go well though. In her final competition in 1939, the St. Moritz Club, she placed dead last behind skaters from Switzerland, Great Britain and Czechoslovakia.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In late March of 1941, Ariane sailed from Newport, England to America with her fifty year old mother Martha aboard the cargo ship S.S. Lochmonar. The ship's manifest of 'alien passengers' offers two important clues about the motivation behind Ariane and Martha's trip. The eleven 'alien passengers' all shared two things in common: they were being admitted to the U.S. as 'quota immigrants for permanent residence' and their 'race or people' were all listed as Hebrew.


In January 1942, Ariane performed at a show in Boston, Massachusetts. Two months later, she was advocating for "the staging off a national open skating tournament" in America. In the March 5, 1942 edition of "The Herald Statesman", she stated her belief "that if the country's professionals and amateurs were to compete in one gigantic tournament, the event would be a huge success." The transplanted Swiss skating sensation's dream of competing in a pro-am competition didn't happen, nor did she land herself in the movies like Sonja Henie or Belita as "LIFE" Magazine had predicted or as Harry Hirsch had hoped. Instead, she joined the cast of Holiday On Ice for a time before starring in a short-lived ice show at Ye Olde Taverne in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.


Ariane's one big claim to fame as a skater in North America was a starring role in a very obscure skating tour that took the province of Quebec by storm in the autumn of 1945. It was produced by one Monsieur Chalfont of Grand-Mère and called "New York Ice Fantasy". The tour opened in Shawinigan on October 27, 1945. In addition to solo performances, Ariane skated duets with Bruce Clark of Omaha, Nebraska, who had toured with Sonja Henie's show for five years. Another of the show's headliners was a sixteen year old named Karen Knaak. The show had a little of everything. In one number called "Musical Moments On Ice", Phil Bennett and Robert Mitchell played the piano on a sled pulled by members of the chorus. Phil Hiser skated pairs with Knaak and did double duty in a drag skating number as a washerwoman named Queenie. A New York youngster named Tony Le Mac, a stilt skater from Zürich named George von Birgelen and American speed skating champion Bobby McLean rounded out the cast. Many of the skaters in the show were direct from Sonja Henie's show, which had ended its run in New York City right before Chalfont's tour started.

Ariane Levaillant and Bruce Clark. Photo courtesy of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

Ariane was quite popular with Quebec audiences, however a Sonja or Belita she was not. Little is known about her life after skating aside from the fact she settled in New York City.  She may not have starred in pictures but by coming to America, she found something far more important than any film role: safety and freedom.

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 Family That Skates Together Stays Together


In an opulent Victorian estate on Pond Street in Boston lived William Rotch, his wife Mary (Eliot) Rotch, their four children William Jr., Charlie, Edith and Clara and their servants Lese. Henrietta and Jessie. William was a graduate of the École Imperiale Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He served as the chief engineer and superintendent of the Fall River Water Works system, a director of the Walker Company which installed electricity in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, the engineer of the commission which established the boundary line between Massachusetts and Rhode Island and the first president of the New Bedford Union for Good Works. The extremely busy Mr. Rotch also wrote various reports on railways and water works, had ties to the local whaling industry and even started his own scholarship for architects.

However, even Mr. Rotch's incredibly impressive life's work would arguably pale in comparison to the accomplishments of three of his children in the world of figure skating. Charlie, Clara and Edith Rotch were among the most successful members of the Skating Club Of Boston and Cambridge Skating Club of their era. Let's meet those skating siblings!

EDITH ELIOT ROTCH

Mr. and Mrs. John W. Horton, Edward W. Atkinson, Edith Eliot Rotch and Eleanora R. Sears skating at the Cambridge Skating Club

Born August 11, 1874, Edith Eliot Rotch shared the distinction with her brother Charlie of being one of the first fourteen skaters in America to pass a formalized figure skating test on February 2, 1900. In 1914 at the age of forty, she placed second in the senior women's event to Theresa Weld Blanchard at the international competition held in New Haven, Connecticut now recognized as the first U.S. Championships.

Iceland Rink. Photo courtesy New York Historical Society.

Six years later at the age of forty six, Edith placed second in the junior pairs event at the U.S. Championships at the Iceland Rink in New York City with Sherwin Badger, twenty seven years her junior. In 1922 and 1926 she won the women's free skating competition at the Cambridge Skating Club. Throughout the twenties, she amassed dozens of medals in pairs and Waltzing competitions. Among her partners were brother Charlie, Arthur M. Goodridge, George Von L. Meyer and Jimmie Madden.

Edith Eliot Rotch and F.F. Munroe

When she wasn't skating, Edith was busy sitting with Paul Armitage, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles on the USFSA's Publications Committee that led to the publication of "Skating" magazine. Her partner Arthur M. Goodridge fondly recalled, "Miss Edith was the outstanding lady skater at the [Cambridge Skating] Club during the nineteen hundreds. It was she who taught Edward M. Howland and Nat W. Niles most of what they learned about figure skating until Mr. [George H.] Browne took them over." She never married and passed away at the age of ninety five in December 1969.

CLARA ROTCH FROTHINGHAM

Clara and Charlie Rotch

Clara Morgan Rotch was born February 17, 1881. At the age of twenty five on March 2, 1907, she married Channing Frothingham, Jr., an eminent physician at the Boston City Hospital. Clara gave birth to no less than seven children between 1907 and 1926. Sadly, her son Timothy Gerrish Frothingham passed away when he was only five, the year after she made her competitive debut as a skater at the 1918 U.S. Championships in New York City, where she won the junior women's event and finished second in senior pairs with Sherwin Badger.

Clara's private loss only fuelled her public ambitions and in 1921, she returned to competition with her brother Charlie and won the bronze medal in the senior pairs competition. From 1922 to 1936, she amassed medal after medal in Waltzing and ice dancing at the U.S. Championships, including two gold medals with Geddy Hill (Maribel Vinson's pairs partner) in 1920 and 1922. Among her many partners were Roger Turner, Jimmie Madden, Teddy Goodridge, Robert S. Coit and Ashton Parmeter. Clara and her brother Charlie were also one of the first three pairs teams in history to medal at the North American Championships in 1923.

After retiring from competition, Clara became one of the first Gold Dance test judges in America. However, her reputation as a judge wasn't exactly glowing. Her paintings of marine scenes were held in higher regard. Sadly, she passed away on September 5, 1976, also at the age of ninety five. 

CHARLIE MORGAN ROTCH


Charlie Morgan Rotch. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Born May 19, 1878, Charles 'Charlie' Morgan Rotch married his first wife Helen (Bradley) in 1925. Together, they had five children. When Helen passed away in 1939, he remarried a Mrs. Louise Sprague from Milton.

As a skater, Charlie's accomplishments were every bit as impressive as his both of his sisters. In addition to the aforementioned medal wins at the U.S. and North American Championships, he won the Cambridge Skating Club's men's free skating competition in 1922, the silver medal in the Waltzing competition at the 1923 U.S. Championships in New Haven with Theresa Weld Blanchard and countless other medals in ice dancing competitions during the early twenties.

Charlie later turned his attention to judging and refereeing, acting as an American official at the 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games and countless other national and international events of the period. In 1924, he was elected as the President of the Skating Club Of Boston and from 1932 to 1937, he served two terms as the President of the USFSA. The year he was first elected, his former competitor and dear friend Nathaniel Niles passed away. Determined to better the sport in his friend's memory, he supervised the first judging school in America in 1936. During his reign as the USFSA's President, summer skating in America began to thrive, the first Midwestern Championships were held, the first club from the Pacific Coast joined the USFSA and open marking was introduced at the U.S. Championships. He later chaired the USFSA's Judges Committee and passed away in February 1964 at the age of eighty six. Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "He was pretty much the mentor of Sherwin Badger and many other Boston skaters who competed before the War... Actually, there's a whaling ship at Mystic Seaport named Morgan and that's the family."

THE PHILADELPHIA CONNECTION

Incredibly, Edith, Clara and Charlie weren't even the only skaters in their family! In 1938, yet another descendant of the Rotch clan, William Penn-Gaskell Hall Jr., won the silver medal in pairs with his wife Annah Colket McKaig at the Eastern Championships in Lake Placid, New York and the gold medal in junior pairs at the U.S. Championships in Philadelphia. Annah McKaig's father Edgar S. McKaig was once President of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, tying together two of the two of the most historic skating clubs in American skating history by marriage... and giving a new meaning to the skating family. 

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 1950 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Dick Button and Yvonne Sherman at the 1950 U.S. Championships

The 1950 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held from March 22 to 26 in Washington, D.C. at the opulent Uline Arena, which was renamed the Washington Coliseum in the sixties. Less than a decade before the 1950 U.S. Championships when the Uline Arena was built, it was only one of two arenas in the country with a concrete dome. The intimate venue seated only fifty four hundred spectators, who got to take in a five day skating event while reclining in leather opera chairs, instead of old cold rink bleachers. As far as skating competitions in the fifties went, it was pretty swanky stuff.

Walter Muehlbronner, Irene Maguire, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, Sonya Klopfer and Hayes Alan Jenkins signing the guestbook at City Hall in Hamilton, Ontario at a carnival just prior to the 1950 World and U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy Hamilton Public Library.

The event was well two weeks after the World Championships in London, England, where Dick Button had won the men's event, Karol and Peter Kennedy had won America's first World pairs title and Lois Waring and Michael McGean had won the first 'unofficial' international ice dance competition held in conjunction with the World Championships. Patriotism was high and Dallas Dort, the President of the Washington Figure Skating Club beamed as the host club won the coveted Harned Trophy for the highest number of points earned by one club for the first time in history. Let's take a look back at how things all played out at this fascinating competition in what is very much a 'before they were stars' edition of the blog!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

It wasn't even really that close in the novice men's event when thirteen year old Ronnie Robertson of Los Angeles defeated Akron, Ohio's David Jenkins 675.54 to 644.49 for the novice men's title. Though St. Paul's Richard Branvold earned more points, the judges placements saw William T. Lemmon Jr. of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society earn the bronze. In an extremely close competition, Pat Quick of Berkeley, California moved up from second after figures to defeat Akron, Ohio's Nancy Mineard in the novice women's event. Catherine Machado of Los Angeles edged New York's Carol Heiss for the bronze by 4.8 points. Enough names already? Those were just the novice events!

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Dan Ryan and Carol Ann Peters. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

With Maribel Vinson Owen looking on from the boards, Tenley Albright of the Skating Club Of Boston took home the gold in the junior women's event. The March 26, 1950 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer boasted, "The 14-year old miss drew the plaudits of the crowd with her smooth grace in the free skating event."

Janet Gerhauser and John Nightingale. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The junior pairs title was won by Janet Gerhauser and John Nightingale of the St. Paul Figure Skating Club. Fourteen couples entered the Silver (junior) dance event, with ten eliminated before the finals. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "The stately couple of Carol Ann Peters and Daniel Ryan won with their unison and delightful lilt. Carol was about to enter college and Danny attended college. They had been skating together for just over a year. Danny had roller danced for six years and placed second in the 1949 Roller Nationals in Senior Men's. Asked whether he liked roller or ice better, he responded 'both best.'" The silver went to Caryl Johns and Jack Jost, the bronze to Vera Halliday and Edward Picken and fourth place to Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby. In seventh place was Bill Kipp of the Penguin Figure Skating Club, skating with partner Theda Beck.

Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In front of a hometown crowd, Don Laws rallied from behind with an amazing skate to claim the junior men's title. The silver medal went to Barry Gorman of Berkeley; the bronze to Lake Placid's Evy Scotvold. Sixth was future USFSA President Hugh C. Graham. The leader after the junior men's figures was actually Dudley Richards of The Skating Club Of Boston but a poor free skate dropped him down to fourth. Richards, along with Bill Kipp, Danny Ryan and Maribel Vinson Owen, would all perish in the 1961 Sabena Crash.

THE PAIRS AND FOURS COMPETITIONS


Karol and Peter Kennedy

Seattle's Karol and Peter Kennedy arrived back on U.S. soil after winning the World Championships aboard a Scandinavian airliner, with less than two weeks before they had to compete in Washington. It didn't really matter. The Kennedy Kids' win in Washington was a cakewalk. With what papers from New York to Seattle termed only as "another dazzling performance", they were first on every judge's scorecard. Irene Maguire and Walter Muehlbronner of New York finished second, Anne Davies and Carleton Hoffner of Washington third and Patsy Hamm and Jack Boyle of Tacoma, Washington fourth.

Irene Maguire and Walter Muehlbronner. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

Defending their national title were the fours team from St. Paul, consisting of Janet Gerhauser, John Nightingale, Marilyn Thomsen and Marlyn Thomsen. No, not a typo... Marilyn and Marlyn were fraternal twins. When someone backed out at the last minute from the Washington fours team, Danny Ryan volunteered to fill their spot... and won the silver medal with Dorothy Dort, Richard Juten and Mary Lou King. Finishing third was the fours team representing the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, which consisted of Barbara Davis, Elizabeth Jones, William T. Lemmon and James Coote.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Yvonne Sherman (left) and Andra McLaughlin (right)

After the school figures, nineteen year old Yvonne Sherman of New York, the 1950 World Bronze Medallist, led fifteen year old Sonya Klopfer (Dunfield) of Long Island by a mere four points. With a dazzling free skate, she only expanded upon her figures lead and took the gold medal with 1724.38 points out of a possible 1910 and first place ordinals from every judge. Klopfer was second with 1707.46, Ginny Baxter of Detroit third with 1686.06, Andra McLaughlin of Colorado Springs fourth with 1639.46 and Helen Geekie of St. Louis fifth with 1628.18. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", Dick Button described Yvonne as "tall and beautiful and very artistic in her skating" and Sonya as "the most dynamic free skater of the era among the ladies" and a skater "who had speed, power and strength in skating which few men could display."

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Left: Irene Maguire and Walter Muehlbronner. Right: Lois Waring and Michael McGean. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

A record five thousand spectators attended the finals of the gold (senior) dance competition. The event initially started with six teams, with Vera Ruth Elliott and Rex Cook and Jean Coulter and Don Laws eliminated before the final round of competition. Lynn Copley-Graves described how it all played out thusly: "Lois Waring and her new partner, Michael McGean, confirmed their superiority. Runners-up Irene Maguire and Walter Muehlbronner realized this young couple could not be beaten. Irene announced her retirement from competition and prepared for her first teaching assignment in Lake Placid during the summer. Lois planned to design more skating dresses during the summer and to enter college in the fall. Michael, a Dartmouth class of '49 graduate, balanced skating with studies toward a masters degree in economics. In 1945, he had a grand slam in Midwestern Senior Men's, Pairs and Dance. Lois played tennis, and Michael played on the Dartmouth squash team." Anne Davies and Carleton Hoffner added a second medal to the won they had won in the pairs event, edging Carmel and Edward Bodel for the bronze.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Dick Button

Exams at Harvard University ended the day before Dick Button had to compete in Washington. He took a red eye train, arriving from Boston forty minutes before he took the ice to skate his first of six school figures. A sleep-deprived Button earned 942.1 points out of 1,050 in the figures - not his best showing - but still had a healthy lead over Hayes Alan Jenkins of Akron, Ohio with 881.7 and C. Austin Holt and Richard Dwyer (both of Berkeley, California) with 871.4 and 864.5. The March 24, 1950 issue of "The Times Record" noted, "The five judges varied widely in rating the champ's performance... One judge gave Button nine points or better on each figure. One gave his four nines or better and two scores above 8.4. Another gave him five nines or better and one 8.6. But the other two gave him much lower scores across the board. One rated him with two nines or better and and four 8.5's or better. And the other gave him but one nine and five eights." In case you are wondering, yes, the scores were out of 10.0 and not 6.0 at the U.S. Championships during this era. Button rallied in the free skate to win his fifth U.S. title ahead of Jenkins, Dwyer and Holt.

In his book "Dick Button On Skates", Dick Button recalled, "Jenkins, with [Jimmy] Grogan absent due to injury, was held to 12 placings, against my five firsts. The marks given me for free skating were very generous, and no doubt reflected to some measure the judges' reaction to the three double loops in succession on one foot which I did for the first time. For contents of performance, out of a possible 10, I received 9.9, 9.8, 9.7, 9.5 and 9.3 from the five judges. For performance I got 9.9, 9.9, 9.8, 9.7, and 9.6." In a 2003 interview, Hayes Alan Jenkins spoke about his perspective when he was competing against Dick thusly: "It was not uncomfortable to follow in Dick's shadow... I was certainly doing my best to try and win, but also being realistic." Richard Dwyer - yes, Mr. Debonair himself - actually beat Hayes in the free skate that year but ultimately bowed out of competing at the World Championships the following year. In his June 2015 Skate Guard interview, he reflected, "You know, I am at peace with what happened. I made the World team when I won junior Nationals and then I qualified again in 1950 but in that era you had to pay your own way to Worlds and my Dad just couldn't afford to send me. I was fourteen and a half and I got to skate in Ice Chips with Dick and Jacqueline du Bief instead and that was an incredible opportunity in itself."

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.

Full Circle In Vienna: Franz Gräffer, The Music And The Rink



"Walking, dancing, driving, riding and swimming, all these movements are far surpassed by skating... the moderate exertion and strengthening of the muscles, the feeling of power and well-being, the comfortable and exhilirating influence on the mental mood... are the peculiar advantages of skating." - Franz Gräffer, "Das Schlittschuhfahren", 1827

In researching history, there always seems to be one recurring theme... the fact that whatever innovation one may think of, whatever invention... someone we may never have heard of may have thought of it first. In the case of skating to music, one man conceived the idea a good thirty years before Jackson Haines' birth... and when he tried to make it happen, it didn't go so well for the poor lad.

Franz Arnold Gräffer was born in Vienna, Austria on January 7, 1785. He was the son of bookseller August Gräffer. After spending some time as a young man studying art, he abandoned his studies and acted as the librarian to Prince Maurice of Liechtenstein and the Count Karl Philip Harrach, the brother of Auguste von Harrach, the second wife of King Frederick William III of Prussia. He decided to focus his time on following in his father's footsteps and working in the family business. Fortunately, as the bookselling business floundered and he lost much of his money, he found great success as a writer. He also fell in love with skating.


Mary Louise Adams' book "Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity, and the Limits Of Sport" (an invaluable resource on more than one occasion, trust me) offered the most detailed account of what happened next I could find: "In 1810 a Viennese bookseller named Franz Gräffer - a 'fanatical skater' who, decades before Haines, had wanted to combine skating with music - tried to open an ice rink. He was refused permission by the police and for another fifty years Viennese skaters had to make do with the uncertain ice on the narrow River Wien and on ponds in city parks." Skate Austria's website echoes that "the Police Chief Directorate" shot down Gräffer's big notion. The reason provided was that his skating rink "could never benefit in political nor military educational views." 

You'd think that a firm and flat no from a police chief might deter someone's passion for skating, but in Franz's case, to the contrary. In 1827, he penned the book "Das Schlittschuhfahren", an instructional manual of sorts for those wishing to take up "the noble art" of figure skating, under a pseudonym.

Plates from Franz Gräffer's 1827 book

Franz wrote over fifty books on everything from skating to Viennese daily life to freemasonry and founded the first Austrian lexicon, but he died in poverty in October of 1852 without seeing his dream of skating to music take off. It seems only fitting that after Jackson Haines' much acclaimed exhibition of free skating to waltz music in Vienna in 1868, Eduard Engelmann Sr. would go home and have an ice rink built in his large garden. His son Eduard Engelmann Jr. would carry on his father's tradition, building Vienna's first artificial ice rink in 1909 and winning the European skating titles for three consecutive years in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Fittingly, Eduard Jr.'s daughter Christine would marry two time Olympic Gold Medallist Karl Schäfer, who would skate at this rink himself and become one of history's great masters of interpreting music on ice. Through Jackson Haines and Vienna's rich skating tradition, Franz's dreams were posthumously realized in the grandest of ways. 

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.k