The 1957 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


The 1957 Canadian Figure Skating Championships were held at the Winnipeg Winter Club and the brand spanking new, two million dollar Winnipeg Arena from February 14 to 16, 1957. The decision to host the event in the dead of winter in the prairies was announced at the CFSA's Annual General Meeting in Vancouver in late October 1956, to the shigrin of some. Jack Abra, a doctor who was a member of the Winnipeg Winter Club, served as the Chairman of the Competitions Committee.

Many of the top competitors had competed at the North American Championships only a week earlier in Rochester, New York and were exhausted when they arrived with little time to practice, but the show went on, sans a fours competition which was cancelled when only one team from Vancouver entered and decided not to make the trip with no one to compete against.

Out-of-town skaters, judges and officials stayed at the Fort Garry Hotel, which was only six blocks away from the Winnipeg Winter Club. John Stewart McDiarmid, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, acted as a patron for the event. He had good reason. His granddaughter Margaret was one of the judges' caddies who held up marks after each skater's performance! The caddies were dressed in gold lamé leotards, emulating the historic Golden Boy which sat atop Manitoba's Legislative building. They earned their jobs as winners of a ticket-selling contest. Speaking of historic, Arthur F. Preusch of St. Paul made history in Winnipeg as the first American to judge at the Canadian Championships.

With two thousand, five hundred spectators, the event received excellent coverage in the local print media and it is from a treasure trove of clippings from "The Winnipeg Tribune" and its evening and weekend versions that I was able to discern a great deal about how this forgotten event all played out. Grab yourself a nice cup of coffee and hop in the time machine as we explore the skaters and stories from this fascinating competition from days past!

THE JUNIOR COMPETITIONS

Joan McLeod and Carl Harrison

The first gold medals to be awarded in Winnipeg were in the junior pairs competition, which consisted of a single free skate performance. With first place marks from three of the five judges, Joan McLeod and Carl Harrison of the Granite Club in Toronto took top honours ahead of Jane Sinclair and Larry Rost of the Winnipeg Winter Club, Patricia Scott and Ian Knight of the Lachine Figure Skating Club, Sandra Mooney and Dennis McFarlane of Saskatoon and Dona Kulai and Frank Clark of the Connaught Skating Club. McLeod was a graduate of Northern Technical School and worked as a secretary. Her sister Eleanor competed in the junior women's event. Six foot tall Harrison worked in a pharmacy and excelled at baseball, track and field and swimming.

Hugh Ernest Smith and Doreen Lister

Hugh Ernest Smith of the Toronto Skating Club trounced the competition in the junior men's event, taking a twenty four point lead over his closest competitor, junior pairs champion Carl Harrison in the school figures and only expanding upon it in the free skate. Harry Nevard of the Connaught Skating Club placed third ahead of entries from Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver. Smith was also an ice dancer and had won the Canadian junior title in 1956 with Beverley Orr. He was a seventeen year old student at Oshawa Collegiate.

Fourteen young women contested the junior women's title in Winnipeg and it was a fourteen year old, Doreen Lister of the Porcupine Skating Club, who took an early lead and maintained it through all five school figures, placing twelve points ahead of her closest rival, Sandra Tewkesbury of the Chatham Figure Skating Club. Skating to Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance Of The Hours", Lister unanimously won the free skate and gold medal in graceful fashion ahead of Eleanor McLeod of the Granite Club and Tewkesbury. Diane Frith-Smith of the Galt Skating Club placed second in the free skate to vault from eleventh after figures to fourth overall. Lister was an honour student who took ballet, sang in her school's glee club and played badminton.

Elaine Protheroe and Bill Trimble

The Winnipeg crowd was elated when two of their own, Elaine Protheroe and Bill Trimble, took gold in the junior ice dance event.  They edged siblings Svata and Mirek Staroba by 2.8 points. Two teams from Kerrisdale, Florence and Jack Morgan and Vivian and John Mitchell, claimed the bottom two spots. Two time Canadian Medallist Sheila Quinton (Smith) remarked, "The Protheroe-Trimble dance pair was the smoothest. They were in closer unison that their opponents and displayed cleaner turns. The Starobas, however, were not quite as stiff and very rhythmic."

THE PAIRS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS


Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul

As expected, Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul of the Toronto Skating Club defended the Canadian title they had won the year before in Galt, in a four-one decision over runners-up Maria and Otto Jelinek, students of Marg and Bruce Hyland. Wagner and Paul's training mates, Barbara Bourne and Thomas Monypenny, claimed the bronze medal.

Maria and Otto Jelinek. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Prior to the ice dance competition, defending champions Lindis and Jeffery Johnston delivered a shock to CFSA officials when they headed straight home to London, Ontario after the North American Championships and announced they had no plans to defend their title because of "the reaction of the judges to our style of skating". They had been placed fourth at the North American Championships and believed Canadian judges were unsupportive of their shift to a more American style of ice dancing. Separate Waltz, Tenstep and Championship Dance competitions were held and the same three teams placed in the same order in all three.

Geraldine Fenton and Bill McLachlan

Geraldine Fenton and her bespectacled partner Bill McLachlan, coached by Jean Westwood, easily defeated junior men's champion Hugh Ernest Smith and his partner Beverley Orr and Winnipeg's Elaine Protheroe and William Trimble, junior ice dance champions 'skating up' in the senior event. Smith caused quite a stir, going against convention by matching his partner's shadow blue costume. Lindsay Crysler wrote, "The youthful eastern couple left the Winnipeg Arena Saturday night bearing two trophies and a rose bowl after accomplishing a clean sweep of top honours in the three major dance events."

THE MEN'S AND WOMEN'S COMPETITIONS

Charles Snelling and Carole Jane Pachl

Defending champion, nineteen year old Charles Snelling of Toronto's Granite Club, took a hefty lead over two Otto Gold students, Donald Jackson and Eddie Collins, in the school figures and coasted to victory in the free skate. Snelling wasn't perfect, however. He fell once, but it was two times less than runner-up Jackson, who tumbled no less than three times, once less than he did at the North American Championships in Rochester. Collins claimed the bronze, besting Dick Rimmer of Toronto.

Left: Margaret Crosland and Hans Gerschwiler. Right: Karen Dixon. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Nineteen year old Carole Jane Pachl was a heavy favourite, having won the Canadian senior women's title the two previous years and finishing a strong second at the North American Championships only a week prior to the Winnipeg event.  It was initially thought that her biggest competition would come from seventeen year old Hans Gerschwiler student Margaret Crosland of Winnipeg, the defending junior champion, but in the end it was Karen Dixon of the Glencoe Club in Calgary who took the silver. Pachl was in a class of her own and won unanimously by a wide margin, dressed to the nines in royal blue chiffon with silver sequins.

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