The 1922 European And World Figure Skating Championships

"Badinage Et Patinage" by Louis Houpin. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In 1922, Americans flocked to speakeasies to dance the Charleston and drink bootleg gin while in Europe, the drastic sweep of social, political and economic changes in the years following The Great War made prohibition look like a trivial inconvenience.


In May of 1921, the International Skating Union had held its first post-War Congress in Stockholm and shortly after, an announcement was made inviting all of its member nations - including the War's losing nations who had been excluded from participating in the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp - to participate in the first post-War official ISU international Championships. In the book "Skating Around The World 1892-1992: The One Hundredth Anniversary Of The International Skating Union", ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright hypothesised as to why it took so long for the ISU to resume competitions following the War: "There is nothing specific in the record to explain the long delay of three years, except the chaotic state of Europe itself, with the defeat and break up of the Central European empires and the formation of new nations resulting from the Treaty Of Versailles (signed at the end of June, 1919). In addition, a severe economic depression in Europe after the War had a direct effect on leisure type activities, such as sports."

Willy Böckl. Photo courtesy German Federal Archives.

On January 28 and 29 in Davos, Switzerland, the European Championships - which then only offered a men's competition - was held in conjunction with the World Championships in pairs skating and an ISU organized international speed skating race. The field of ten men representing six nations was the largest entry at the European Championships at that time. Austria's Willy Böckl defeated pre-War World Champion Fritz Kachler three judges to two in the school figures. The scoring of the men's free skate was all over the place. Böckl had two first place ordinals, but he also had a seventh place ordinal from Norwegian judge Yngvar Bryn. Dr. Ernst Oppacher and Germany's Werner Rittberger also received first place ordinals in the free skate. When the marks were tallied, Böckl placed ahead of Kachler, Oppacher and Rittberger overall with four first place ordinals. Martin Stixrud, the lone Norwegian competitor, received the overall first place vote of Yngvar Bryn. No other judge had him higher than fourth. A wire report that appeared in the January 30, 1922 issue of the "Wiener Sporttagblatt" expressed that an Austrian victory had been a "sure thing" but that there was surprise that it was Böckl instead of Kachler who ultimately won.

Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger in 1922. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

Though five teams participated, the pairs competition in Davos was really a two-way battle between the reigning Olympic Gold Medallists Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson and Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger.


Helene Engelmann and Alfred Berger won the event decisively, with first place ordinals from a bloc of four Austrian and Swiss judges, while the Jakobsson's finished second, receiving the first place mark from the lone Finnish judge. Berlin's Margaret and Paul Metzner defeated Munich's Grete Weise and Georg Velisch three judges to two for the bronze. Yngvar Bryn, who judged the European men's event, placed last with his wife Alexia. France's Yvonne Bourgeois and Francis Pigueron, who had been announced as competitors, ultimately did not participate.

Herma Szabo. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

The World Championships in men's and women's singles skating were held from February 4 to 6, 1922 at the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb in Stockholm, Sweden. The women's competition was perhaps the most clear-cut and least controversial event of the era. Receiving first place ordinals from every single judge in both school figures and free skating, Austria's Herma Szabo claimed her first World title. Sweden's Svea Norén, the Silver Medallist at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, took the silver in a four-one decision over Norway's Margot Moe, who received her sole second place ordinal from the only Norwegian judge on the panel. The fact that there wasn't an event a whiff of a complaint in the Swedish press about Norén's loss to Szabo at a time when the Swedish and Austrian press frequently sparred over   the results of international championships only confirms Szabo's superiority on this occasion.


The four entries in the men's event in Stockholm had all competed at the last pre-War World Championships in Helsinki in 1914. Fritz Kachler, who'd arrived from Davos just in the neck of time to compete, redeemed himself after his loss at the European Championships by defeating Gillis Grafström - the hometown favourite - four judges to one in the school figures. Even more impressively, Kachler managed to pull of his early lead with only one Austrian judge on the panel.
That lone judge, Josef Fellner, tied Grafström and Kachler in the free skate, but the other four judges - all Swedish - rated Grafström higher. When the overall marks were tabulated, Grafström defeated Kachler three judges to two overall. Though he too defeated Kachler in the free skate, Böckl was unanimously third overall. Martin Stixrud, without a Norwegian judge to support him as in Davos, was unanimously fourth.

What's interesting to note is how very little press attention both of these competitions received despite the fact they were held in countries with rich skating traditions. Even the victories of Böckl and Engelmann and Berger in Davos received almost no attention in the Austrian press, which was highly unusual considering the Viennese were pretty gaga over skating at that point in time. In Europe, there were likely more important issues to talk about than sport.

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.

Science Meets Art: The Lorna Dyer And John Carrell Story


The daughter of Veda (Williams) and Merritt Gibson Dyer, Lorna Virginia Dyer was born July 3, 1945 in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the suburb of Magnolia. When her father was a junior honors student at the University Of Washington in the roaring twenties, his widowed mother lost everything in the stock market crash and he dropped out of school. He gave up his dream of being an engineer to become a court reporter. Lorna first took the ice when she was in the Brownies and received her first lessons from a skating enthusiast named Carol Mittun.

On January 25, 1947, John Carrell, the adopted son of James and Helen (Baldwin) Carrell, was born. Like Lorna, he grew up in Seattle. His parents had moved to the state of Washington from Oregon, having grown up in Nebraska and Wisconsin. As a teenager, John attended Roosevelt High School. John's brother Jim recalled, "My father was a professor of speech and hearing at the University of Washington, and my mother was a speech therapist for the Seattle Public School system. From an early age, he showed a talent and interest in dancing, and before he started skating, I remember he took dance lessons at the Cornish. He began skating probably at nine or ten."

Marsha Deen, Buddy Zack, Joyce Butchart, Ed Tarling, Lorna Dyer, King Cole, Sharon Ayres, Joe Surace, Suzanne Vieux and Steve Kraemer posing at a Seattle Skating Club carnival. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Lorna got her big break in 1962, when she finished third with partner King Cole in the Gold (senior) Dance event at the U.S. Championships. It was her very first trip to Nationals, and she and King actually tied with the second place team (Dorothyann Nelson and Pieter Kollen) in the free dance and missed a spot on World team by one point. One judge had them first. The absence of the skaters, coaches and officials who perished in the Sabena Crash one year prior was palpable at those U.S. Championships in Boston. Lorna had dated Bill Hickox, who was one of the unfortunate victims in the tragedy. The two met in Sun Valley, where Lorna went in the summers to train with her first coach. "The plane crash enabled you to move up the ladder faster - so instead of coming in fifth, you came in second or something," Lorna recalled. "I'd say the plane crash gave me - sadly - the opportunity to fill the void, so to speak."


Lorna Dyer and King Cole in 1962 (left) and Lorna Dyer and John Carrell in 1962 (right). Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In the summer of 1962, Lorna and King won their final competition together, the Gold Free Dance at the B.C. Summer Invitational Championships. Thayer and Yvonne Sherman Tutt had offered to sponsor Lorna and King to skate at the Broadmoor, but Lorna didn't want to leave her coach Jean Westwood. King went to the Broadmoor and teamed up with Mary Ann Cavanaugh and later, Ardith Paul and Lorna was paired up with John, who had finished third in the Silver Dance event at the 1962 Northwest Pacific Championships with Allana Mittun. Lorna recalled, "It was a better relationship. John was a funny, wonderful guy. He kept me laughing constantly. He used to sit down on is skates
and raise his hands as 'claws' and sneak up behind me and scare me or when 'lurking' (which was a phenomenon in the sixties) he would hide behind a wall or post and lean his hands and head around and wait for me to see him. Just a dislocated head and hands."

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

In their first two seasons skating together, Lorna and John won a pair of bronze medals at the U.S. Championships and finished eighth and fifth in their first two trips to the World Championships. A pattern that would be all too familiar throughout their career together began at the 1964 World Championships in Dortmund. Though only third in their own country, they were the top ranked U.S. couple in the eyes of the international judges.

Left: Lorna and John on the cover of "Skating" magazine. Photo courtesy Lorna Dyer. Right: Lorna Dyer and John Carrell.

In 1965, Lorna and John finished second at the U.S. Championships but won the North American Championships and the bronze medal at the World Championships. It was America's first medal in ice dance at Worlds since 1959 and came only four years after the Sabena Crash which had decimated the ranks of American ice dancing.

Left: Peggy Fleming and Lorna Dyer at the 1965 World Championships. Right: Lorna and John posing at ages eighteen and sixteen. Photo courtesy Lorna Dyer.

Though they were sponsored by the Broadmoor Skating Club throughout their career, Lorna and John did much of their training in Canada. Lorna recalled, "After spending so much time in Canada and knowing so many wonderful people there, I feel just as Canadian as American. I love Canada and Canadians. Back then, we commuted - first by driving, then by flying - to Canada to train with Jean every weekend. It was very, very expensive. We rented an ice arena up there [in Victoria] and lived with her in the summer. We followed her when she went to the Broadmoor in '64 and went to the University Of Colorado. Then, a tornado hit Colorado and she freaked out. Being English, of course, they don't have those sorts of things, so she moved back to Victoria - so we followed her back again. She was really the best coach in the world at the time, and you just don't give that up. It was just luck that she moved to the area and we met her, so we didn't want to lose her. We would have followed her anywhere."


About two years into Lorna and John's partnership, they had taken a break and decided to go skate in Sun Valley for the summer. When they returned, they found out Jean Westwood and Charles Phillips Jr. had taken on Kristin Fortune and Dennis Sveum as their pupils. Fortune and Sveum were also from the West Coast (hailing from California) and were around the same ages as Lorna and John, but that was about all they had in common. Kristin was a feisty drama student and bidding fashion designer; Dennis a tall, lanky salesman at Montgomery Ward. Lorna and John were both students at the University Of Washington. She studied biology; he political science. Sharing a coach with their closest competition proved to be challenging at times.




Photos courtesy University Of Washington



Lorna and John lost the U.S. title to Kristin and John for the second time in 1966. At the World Championships that followed in Davos, they tied with them in places and had more points than them, but narrowly lost the silver medal in a split of the judging panel. Though the loss was difficult, history was made at that competition. However, behind the scenes there was controversy. Jean Westwood recalled, "Davos 1966 I will never forget. I was approached by an ISU official to see if I could arrange either of the North American judges to place Carrell and Dyer in first as the Eastern bloc were behind them. I refused. I have never played politics and never will. I would not favor one of my couples over the other. I would never approach either of the two judges involved even though I knew one did favor Carrell and Dyer... By the time the free dance was over the judges battle was finished and the first [compulsory] dance result held up. Gladys Hogg congratulated me on my two teams and I replied that she had been the coach of the top five teams!"

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

It was the first time ever that two American teams were ever 'officially' on the podium at Worlds, as the international dance event held in conjunction with the 1950 World Championships in London where two American couples had medalled wasn't deemed an official World Championship by the ISU. Kristin and Dennis ended their partnership after the 1966 Worlds. Lorna recalled, "I decided to quit in 1966, and John started skating with Kristin then for a short while but he could not stand her, and he and Jean persuaded me to skate with John one last year... and I did and I am very happy I did." Ultimately, Kristin got married and moved to Denver. Dennis briefly paired up with Barbara McEvoy but was drafted to serve with the Special Services in the Vietnam War. Their departure from the U.S. dance scene paved the way for Lorna and John's most successful season ever.

Top: John Carrell, Lorna Dyer, Diane Towler, Bernard Ford, Kristin Fortune and Dennis Sveum at the 1966 World Championships in Davos. Bottom: John Carrell, Lorna Dyer and U.S. team manager Carl Cram at the 1967 World Championships in Vienna. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1967, Lorna and John were the unanimous winners of both the U.S. and North American Championships. The 1967 World Championships in Vienna were the last Worlds held on outdoor ice and it rained incessantly during much of the dance competition. Despite the weather, Lorna and John skated incredibly well, dancing up a storm in their free dance set to a medley that included Santo & Johnny's "Deep Purple" and Herb Alpert's "Bittersweet Samba".

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

The North American judges had Lorna and John first, but they finished second overall behind Diane Towler and Bernard Ford. Those Worlds were the first where lifts were permitted in the free dance. "It was very controversial," Lorna remembered. "We had a lot of rules when I was skating. You couldn't let go except to change position. You couldn't do much and it was very stiff. I look at [when I was skating] and now - even when Torvill and Dean were skating - so much changed. The rules and music changed - dance really loosened up and evolved for the better."



After the 1967 World Championships, the National Skating Union Of Japan asked the U.S. World Team to give a series of eight exhibitions and two clinics in Japan. Lorna recalled, "They flew Ron and Cindy Kauffman, Peggy Fleming, John and me and Gary Visconti to Japan and we toured. It was our world team and not some other country's that was invited as we had the most medals that year at Worlds. We received some beautiful gifts, including a specially created green vase with an ice skater on it. We had a blast, but odd at that age, we looked forward to [a stop in] Hawaii the most." Some of Lorna's favourite skating memories came from the post-Worlds ISU exhibition tours organized by the West Germans. John once got an eyeful of Sjoukje Dijkstra changing in a dressing room and in one hotel stop, Lorna was the only one with a bathroom. A few eyebrows were raised when the entire cast of the show - including, of course, the men - emerged from her room in towels and robes after showering there. In Davos in 1966, Doris Fleming absolutely forbade her daughter Peggy from doing anything that might injure her, as the Olympics were in less than two years. Lorna and Peggy stuck off with a group of skaters and went careening down a luge run. "We thought - 'Oh, what would Doris do to us!' We had fun, but she could have broken a leg or something." Competitions also made for some funny memories. Lorna recalled a hilarious incident from the 1965 World Championships in Colorado Springs thusly: "Emmerich Danzer was taught by this big Austrian woman and he was afraid of her because she'd hit him if he didn't do well. He had skated a poor figure and instead of getting off the ice at the closest entrance he skated all the way to the other side of the ice arena and got off. I looked up and it was because this big Austrian coach was after him."



Not all of Lorna and John's skating adventures were fun and games. Lorna recalled, "The KGB of the Soviet Union was very active when we skated. Aleksandr Gorelik (silver in the 1968 Olympics) and I kept trying to date but the KGB was fearful he would defect to the U.S. if he had a contact like me. They monitored him closely. In Vienna (1967) he bribed a U.S. male pair team skater with a bottle of vodka to find my hotel room. On entering the room - in about thirty seconds - the phone rang and it was the KGB telling Aleksandr to leave. Then we exhibited in Moscow after Vienna and Aleksandr snuck up the entryway to the ice and handed me flowers, but I looked back into the walkway and there was a woman KGB agent. They then cancelled the post ice show party due to this incident."


Top: Lorna Dyer and John Carrell at a party, circa 1974. Bottom Peggy Fleming, Ron Kauffman, Lorna Dyer, John Carrell and Cynthia Kauffman in Hawaii in 1967. Photos courtesy Lorna Dyer. 

After the 1967 season, Lorna and John turned down an offer to skate with the Ice Capades. Lorna and John both finished their educations at the University of Washington and then Lorna got married and shipped off to Florida, where her husband was training to be a flight surgeon in the Vietnam War. John headed east and took up a job coaching skating, but was soon soured on teaching because of a very difficult parent. He left the sport behind and reinvented himself as a ballet dancer, going by the stage name John Aubrey. He danced with a ballet troupe in New York before joining the National Ballet Of Canada, where he performed for seven years alongside a who's who of Canadian dance throughout the seventies. He left the ballet in 1980 and returned to coaching for a time and sadly passed away on September 20, 1989 at the age of forty two from complications of HIV/AIDS - one of dozens upon dozens of amazing skaters who lost their lives during that painful era. Lorna recalled, "People were in the closet in those days. You know skating - maybe a third of men might be gay. It was never an issue with me. I kind of knew but we never talked about it. It was just very quiet in those days. Everybody knew but nobody cared. He was just John. He was like a brother and I loved him very much."

John Carrell. Photo courtesy Jim Carrell.

After retiring from competitive skating, Lorna worked as a biology teacher, sharing her passion for science with high school students for twenty years. In 1985, she won the prestigious Outstanding Biology Teacher Award for Washington state, awarded by the National Association of Biology Teachers. In her last eight years of public education employment she was a grant writer for the Northshore School District. She spent four years as a science trainer for the state of Washington, running a co-operative that served thirty three school districts and provided continuing training for teachers before becoming a full-time grant writer. For over two decades, she spent her summer breaks in Sun Valley, Idaho, teaching skating. In 1980, she penned an instructional book called "Ice Dancing Illustrated". It was a project that took seven years to complete. Lorna remarked, "I hope [the book] captures the technical information for dance compulsories that Jean Westwood imparted to me. Her information came largely from the legendary Gladys Hogg of Great Britain who trained many world champions including Towler and Ford of England. I did not make money off this book but I wanted to capture what I thought was the best information on ice dance for posterity. I was greatly aided by a pupil of mine, Dr. Harry Brandt, who knew just enough about ice dance to ask the right questions when he did not understand what I had written. He was an invaluable editor." Lorna is now retired, living with her husband in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lorna and John were nominated for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Sports Star Of The Year Award in 1967 but despite the fact they were U.S and North American Champions and three time World Medallists, they have yet to be inducted to either the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame or Washington Sports Hall Of Fame. Ice dancing may have changed a lot since the sixties, but in their era they were without question one of the finest couples in the world - one that combined the science and art of skating.

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' 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? 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.

California Dreamin': The Marcella May Willis And Jimmy Lochead Jr. Story

Marcella May Willis and Jimmy Lochead Jr. Photo courtesy Don Willis.

The daughter of Mavis (Scribner) and Henry 'Hank' May Jr., Marcella May was born May 13, 1922 in Oakland, California. Her grandfather died when he was quite young in a farming accident, so her father Hank - a mechanic turned automobile salesman - took over the management of his mother's farm in Niles, twenty miles south of Oakland, tending to twenty three acres of apricots and vegetables. As a young man, Hank had studied engineering at the University Of California at Berkeley, played baseball and raced Stutz bearcats up the hill behind the University's campus.

Marcella was an only child and as a teenager, she took up tap and ballet dancing. When she was fourteen, the mother of one of her tap dancing students invited her to try figure skating. She was instantly hooked and within a couple years on the ice with coaches Hubert Sprott and Peggy Holden, she was a featured soloist at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club's annual carnival.

Marcella May Willis. Photo courtesy Don Willis.

The year Marcella skated that solo at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club carnival, James Kenneth 'Jimmy' Lochead Jr. laced up a pair of figure skates for the very first time. He was fourteen years old. Jimmy was born on Christmas Eve, 1924 in San Francisco, the only child of Lillian and James Lochead, Sr. His father was the president of the American Trust Company, which later merged with Wells Fargo and the family was decidedly comfortable, employing two Chinese 'houseboys' named Kim and Ching to cook, clean and cater to their every whim.

Jimmy Lochead Jr.

Marcella and Jimmy started skating together in 1940, training at the Berkeley Iceland rink and the Skate and Ski Club of San Francisco's Winterland rink. They were an excellent match, as both were talented singles skaters. Both had passed the Seventh Figure test and he was the Pacific Coast junior men's champion, while she was runner-up in senior women's. At that year's U.S. Championships in Chicago, he took the bronze in the junior men's category and they finished fourth in dance and sixth in junior pairs... after only skating together for a couple months. Harry Doose taught them dance; Maribel Vinson Owen pairs.

Marcella May Willis and Jimmy Lochead Jr. Photo courtesy Don Willis.

In New York City in 1943, Marcella and Jimmy made history as the first ice dancers from the Pacific Coast to win the U.S. title. It was an incredibly big deal at the time, as skaters from California had only been competing at the national level for less than a decade. All previous winners in dance at Nationals had been from prestigious East Coast clubs like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. In a 1991 oral history interview, Marcella recalled, "Travelling [on the train] for the competitions was a thrill. I especially remember going to the New York Skating Club and thinking I'd really arrived. The dancers were so formal in their white gloves and black and white attire. I was the first to show up with glitter and sequins in a competition – more of my mother’s wonderful creativity... My mother had made my first skating skirt. She used a circular pattern because that’s what she thought the fashion should look like. It didn't catch on, but it was the first of many costumes my mother made for me."

At the time they won their first U.S. title, Jimmy was an A student at the University Of California at Berkeley. By that autumn, he had joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps. The threat loomed that he could be sent overseas to fight in World War II at any time. By this point in time, Marcella had married H. Roger Willis, an army staff sergeant stationed state side at Camp Roberts. She had also enrolled at the Oakland School For Arts And Crafts, studying costume design. Her choice was a great fit for a skater, as she could design her own costumes. It didn't hurt that she was a talented sketch artist as well.



Despite military and school obligations, Marcella and Jimmy still found opportunities to train. Marcella's son Don Willis recalled, "Mom had a key to the back door at Berkeley Iceland, about six blocks from Bolt Hall, UCB's Law school. They often skated all night - eleven PM after hockey to six AM Patch. They just needed to do the patch flood before they left."

At the 1944 U.S. Championships in Minneapolis, Marcella and Jimmy defended their national dance title, took bronze in senior pairs and he won the junior men's. The following year in New York City, they again took bronze in pairs but lost their dance title to Kathe Mehl Williams and Robert Swenning. Jimmy received an honourable discharge that year and their skating partnership ended.

At the 1946 U.S. Championships in Chicago, Marcella finished off the podium in dance with her new partner Frank Davenport. Jimmy won the figures in the senior men's event but lost the national title to Dick Button. In 1947, Marcella and Frank Davenport won the bronze medals at both the U.S. and North American Championships. The following year, the now 'broken up'  Marcella and Jimmy appeared in a USFSA film called "Study In Contrast", where they demonstrated the Silver Dances. It was one of the first instructional ice dance videos in North America and was rented out to clubs for the not inconsiderable sum of five dollars plus shipping. By this time, they had both decided to take very different paths in life.

Marcella May Willis and Frank Davenport. Photo courtesy Don Willis.

After his honourable discharge from the military, Jimmy had returned to the University Of California
at Berkeley and finished his law degree. He went on to earn a masters in business administration at Harvard University and work for the Standard Oil Co. in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and London. He moved to Milan, Italy in the mid-fifties and started his own consulting business. Two decades later, he returned to England to work as a division manager for the Brent Chemical Co. He married Yseult Firs in August of 1962 and became a father of two.

Jimmy Lochead Jr.

Marcella once described herself as "a typical housewife" but she was anything but. A mother of three, she continued to skate once a week well into the fifties and enjoyed gardening, sewing and swimming in her spare time. She served as the competition chair of several Inter-Club, California State and Pacific Coast Championships in fifties, as well as on Board of Directors of St. Moritz Skating Club, where she acted as carnival chair. In 1955, she wrote, "My pet project in skating is trying to encourage young skaters who are on the verge of dropping from the competitive field to keep up their activity in the sport... If you love skating, you can find pleasure from almost any phase of it."

Marcella May Willis and her son Don. Photo courtesy Don Willis.

The 'phase' Marcella most excelled at was judging. She was already a test judge in 1941 - two years before she won her first national title - and one of only four women in California eligible to judge above the fourth test at that point in time. She judged at numerous national and international competitions, including events in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. At those Games, she made some bold calls - such as placing Karen Magnussen off the podium in fourth and JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelley in the bronze medal position.

Marcella divorced in 2000 and remarried four years later to Scott Walker, the "love of her life". Incredibly sadly, she suffered from dementia in her later years and passed away on February 17, 2014 in Walnut Creek, California at the age of ninety one. Jimmy passed away over a decade earlier, on July 25, 1999 in a London hospital at the age of seventy five after a short illness. Despite their important wartime contributions to American skating, neither has yet been inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame.

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' 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? 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.

Camel Spins In The Caribbean


Piña coladas on sunny beaches, five star all-inclusive resorts, snorkeling, shopping and Scotch bonnet peppers... these are just some of the images conjured to mind when we think about the beautiful Caribbean islands. Owing to the climate, the impoverished conditions that many residents in these tourism hot-spots live and the culture, figure skating just isn't a sport that has flourished in the region. However, some fascinating skating history has played out in these paradises over the years... and we're going to take a look at some of it today.

Advertisement for the show "Ice Follies" in Havana, Cuba. Photo courtesy Daisy Mae

Though little is known about the affair, the first ice show believed to have been performed in the Caribbean was in the early twenties, when German skater Charlotte Oelschlägel brought her ice ballet to Havana, Cuba after giving a performance in a bullring in Mexico City in 1922. In 1940, a cast of thirty skaters from the All American Ice Revue headed to the city to perform in a show called the "Ice Follies", which had no affiliation to the famous touring production of the same name. They stayed at the Montserrat Hotel and performed their show three times a day on tank ice at the Teatro Nacional.

Performers from the All American Ice Revue in Havana in 1940. Photo courtesy Daisy Mae

Holiday On Ice first brought their touring production to Havana in 1947. Three years later, Bob Turk brought his Los Angeles production "Rhapsody On Ice" to the Teatro Blanquita. During an era when segregation was very much a reality in America, Turk included Mabel Fairbanks, a woman of colour, in the cast. The show's star was Belita Jepson-Turner. On the show's opening night, Belita's husband Joel, singing a dramatic song about temptation, was to shoot a blank from a pistol at his wife as part of the act. Things went terribly wrong when the wadding in the pistol was so heavy it knocked Belita down. The shot broke her skin and gave her two serious powder burns but incredibly she finished the show, patched up with cotton gauze. The show had a two week run and afterwards, two of the skaters in her show (Art Franklin and Patricia Wallace) remained in Havana for a couple of months to teach the Cubans skating, using the tank ice set-up from the production.

In the fifties, cabaret choreographer Roderico Neyra installed an ice rink at Havana's Arcos de Cristal for one of its productions. In a 2011 interview for "Vanity Fair" magazine, Rosa Lowinger recalled, "Everything in the shows was over the top. The choreographer, Roderico Neyra, who was known as Rodney, was crazy, and they let him get away with whatever he wanted because he was brilliant and he drew in such huge crowds. For one show, he filled Arcos de Cristal with ice and created an ice-skating rink. For another, 'Goddesses of the Flesh,' the dancer Clarita Castillo was in a giant goblet bathing in champagne. He'd bring lions and elephants onstage, and one time the showgirls came in on a zeppelin. The club first said no to the zeppelin, but Rodney threw a hissy fit and stormed out, so of course they begged him to come back. Rodney got his zeppelin. Rodney had contracted leprosy early in life, and by the time he arrived at Tropicana, he’d turned into a crotchety, foulmouthed, funny-as-hell guy who’d call his dancers guajiras, putas, all manner of insults, as a form of endearment. The showgirls understood and they loved him. This was a man who in his early days had to be rescued time and again after being carted off by the police to the local leprosarium."

Jamaica was the birthplace of British skating 'dandy' Anthony Morris Storer and French Champion and ice hockey pioneer Louis Magnus. It was also the place where two time World Champion Megan Taylor passed away on July 23, 1993.

Haiti got its introduction to figure skating in 1967. That year, "Skating" magazine reported, "Donkeys ambling sleepily along the road in Kenscoff, Haiti, raise sagging eyebrows at a modern Swedish-style building, set among the mountains of the sub-tropical Negro republic, which houses a skating rink built in July by Ernst Casseus. Skating has become 'the thing to do' for wealthy Haitians. It costs 55 cents to rent skates - a small fortune in a country where the per capita income is 50 dollars. Unfortunately there are no instructors and Haitians are hardly naturals."

Performers in "Broadway On Ice" in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo courtesy The National Library and Information System of Trinidad and Tobago.

Fast forward to April of 2003, when a group of professional skaters headlined the "Broadway On Ice" show in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. After facing challenges freezing filtered sea water to make the show's portable rink in the Virgin Islands, they brought in a truck of distilled water and found success. The show's headliners were Christian Hendricks, Kova Sharp, Laurie Welch and Robb Ness and juggler Tommy Curtin.

One of Bermuda's first tastes of figure skating was in January of 1991, when a Rotarian named David Sullivan arranged for a portable rink to be set up at White Hill Field in Hog Bay. Sullivan's three day skating 'extravaganza' drew over six thousand curious locals who'd never seen an ice rink before let alone skated on one. The event featured both a public skating session with rental skates and a performance of "Holiday On Ice" starring backflipping U.S. Open Champion Lori Benton.  Though Sullivan admitted that he was "surprised at the agility of Bermudian skaters", the 'extravaganza' barely broke even and had to be delayed due to refrigeration issues. He explained, "Because of the salt in the air and the particularly high humidity... the second layer of ice did not freeze."

Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn performing at St. George's Rink in 2016. Photo courtesy Bermuda National Library.

In November in 2016, an ice rink opened in Somers Garden in St. George's, Bermuda. The partially enclosed, seasonal outdoor rink used synthetic ice and was set up by an event management company called Planning Factory Bermuda. Through sponsorship from the Bank of Butterfield, 2003 U.S. Champions Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn were brought in for the grand opening.


Though no Caribbean countries are currently members of the ISU, figure skating continues to become a worldwide sport, with ice rinks popping up in some of the most unexpected places imaginable. Who knows? The next time you visit a sunny beach in the Dominican Republic, you may want to pack your skates.

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 1970 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Program from the 1970 Canadian Championships. Courtesy Sandra Bezic.

B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" topped the music charts, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and a head of lettuce cost a dime. The year was 1970, and from January 26 to February 1, Canada's best figure skaters flocked to the Royal Glenora Club and Edmonton Gardens in Edmonton, Alberta to compete in that year's Canadian Figure Skating Championships.


The last time the city had played host to the Championships in 1963, Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell had won their first Canadian title and Wendy Griner her last. The man largely behind the organization of the 1970 event was Edmonton's John Flint. The competition was broadcast on CTV with commentary by Johnny Esaw and Otto Jelinek, and featured a scores of skaters hailing from everywhere from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia. Let's take a look back at all of the stories and skaters that made this event so memorable!


The 1970 Canadian World team. Photos courtesy Mary Petrie McGillvray.

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Patrick McKilligan, Barbara Berezowski and Stan Bohonek. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.

The Granite Club's Stan Bohonek bested future well-known names in Canadian skating like Ted Barton and Frank Nowosad to take top honours in the novice men's event. Nowosad also finished off the podium in the novice pairs event with his partner Susie Zonda. The winners of that event were Daria Prychun and Roger Uuemae. Both Daria and Roger medalled in their respective junior singles events, won by the Granite Club's Julie Hall and the Cricket Club's Robert Rubens. A young Lynn Nightingale finished off the podium. Marian and Glen Moore of the North Shore Winter Club claimed the junior pairs title; Linda Roe and Kevin Cottam of the Victoria Figure Skating Club the junior dance. Shauna McCann and Robert Weiss delighted 'the home team' by besting thirteen other teams on their way to winning the novice dance title. The novice women's champion, young Rea Kraisosky, also represented the Royal Glenora Club.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Sonia Burling, Ron Shaver, Robert Rubens, Judy Williams, Debbi Jones and Michael Bradley and Mary Petrie

In contrast to the novice and junior pairs events which featured at least five entries each, the senior pairs event was a two-way battle between the previous year's silver and bronze medallists Mary Petrie and Bob McAvoy and Sandra and Val Bezic. 1969 Canadian Champions Anna Forder and Richard Stephens had announced their retirement the October prior. In a close contest, Sandra and Val claimed their first national title. After their win, their mother sat them down and said, "You've fulfilled every dream I ever had. If you do nothing more I'd still be happy." As we all know, it was just the beginning for the talented Bezic's.

The Bezic's enroute to the 1970 World Championships in YugoslaviaPhoto courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Cathy Lee Irwin, Paul Fisher, Sandra and Val Bezic, Diane Hall, Toller Cranston and Karen (Grobba) Cahill

The retirement of two time Canadian Champion Jay Humphry really opened the door for the Cricket Club's David McGillvray. Despite delivering strong free skating performances the previous two years at the Canadian Championships, David had consistently played second fiddle to Jay. He finally managed to climb to the top of the podium in 1970, besting Toller Cranston (who had just started training with Mrs. Ellen Burka the autumn prior), Hamilton's Ron Shaver and seven others.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION 


John MacWilliams, Alana Wilson, Hazel Pike and Phillip Boskill, David McGillvray, Barbara Walls and Bill Marchyshyn

In the months after the 1969 Canadian Championships, both Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie and Mary Church and Tom Falls had announced their retirements. Reigning Canadian bronze medallists Hazel Pike and Phillip Boskill appeared the logical heirs to the throne... that was, until Mary Church decided she hadn't had enough of competition and returned with a new partner, David Sutton of the Guelph Figure Skating Club. Despite only sixth months of training with U.S. coach Ron Ludington, Mary and David took a narrow lead in the compulsories. Their free dance, a medley of jazz and ballet music, was enough to cinch them the title over Hazel and Phillip and Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper. Brenda Sandys and James Holden of the Granite Club and Patricia and Derry Allen of the Hollyburn Country Club rounded out the five team field.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Kenneth Polk, Karen Magnussen, Mary McCaffrey, Heather Fraser, Ruth Hutchinson and Brenda Sandys and James Holden

The close contest between Karen Magnussen and Linda Carbonetto at the previous year's Canadian Championships in Toronto had garnered strong television ratings. Though Linda had since turned professional, Karen still had a strong competitor in Cathy Lee Irwin, now skating out of the Cricket Club. The media played up the rivalry between the two young women, hoping to recreate the drama of the year prior and drive up television ratings and newspaper readership. The previous year, Cathy had actually led Karen after the first several figures. This time, Karen unanimously won the first figure on her way to an almost twenty one point lead. Her North Shore teammate Mary McCaffrey finished second and Cathy was fourth.

Urs Steinbrecher, Patricia and Derry Allen, Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper, Lynda Catrano, Paul Bonenfant and Mary Church and David Sutton.

In the warm-up for the free skate, Karen fell twice while attempting her most difficult jump, the double Axel. She went for it a third time and missed again. Unnerved, she then spotted an errant bobby pin on the ice and brought it to the judges attention. Last to skate and with enough time after the warm-up to shake off her warm-up jitters, she went out and skated a flawless free skate, replete with a textbook double Axel. Karen unanimously won the free skate and regained the national title she'd lost the year prior in stunning fashion. Cathy Lee Irwin moved up to second with an equally impressive effort, and the bronze went to Karen (Grobba) Cahill, a Canadian born Californian who trained at the Granite Club.

Toller Cranston and Sandra Bezic. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.

In his book "When Hell Freezes Over", Toller Cranston recalled Karen thusly: "Karen came out of nowhere to place third as a senior lady... In that era, a skater was required to pay her dues: develop a following gradually as the judges watched her climb the ladder. It was next to impossible to enter a competition unknown and leave with a medal. Karen managed to do so." Though Karen trained with Osborne Colson at the time of her 'come from nowhere' medal win in 1970, it was her prior coach Nancy Rush who introduced Toller to the magical world of strawberries... hence "Strawberry Ice".

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a 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.