#Unearthed: A Christmas House-Party


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 excerpt from an account of a holiday skating party at the turn of the twentieth century. It originally appeared in the December 1904 issue of "Country Life In America" magazine and was penned by New Jersey journalist Arthur Huntington Gleason.

EXCERPT FROM "A CHRISTMAS HOUSE-PARTY" (ARTHUR HUNTINGTON GLEASON)

Party-goer gathering greens for a Christmas 'maypole'

In the shadow of the trees, where the snow was firm and level, we set up ten pine cones, at a distance of fifty feet, and then with frozen snowballs, of a size that suited the maker, we bowled for score. The adjutant's companion, who had helped him to victory on the day before, took all honours with a pine-cone score of sixteen on five rounds. We ended the affair by a combination of cake-walk and promenade dance around the full circle of the clearing, and returned home our several ways, both parties arriving on the veranda within a few minutes of each other, at about four of the afternoon. "Ice carnival at eight to-night," said our host; "no one must miss it."

Promptly at eight we headed for the lake, where we were greeted by a scene that my room-mate described as "considerably thrilling." At the four corners of the lake, which approached the rectangular in shape, four headlights had been placed, which were blazing out across the ice. These headlights had the refracting power of engine lights, and were beyond the reach of wind. The bonfire was again blazing, but this time it served for warmth, and not for light. The east end of the lake was
plainly destined to see the center of the festivities, and here, at opposite corners, were stationed our faithful brass-band of the May-pole party, and a far-carrying hurdy-gurdy - one that clapped its hands on the high notes of Trovatore, and pounded brass with an automatic stick for the Intermezzo.
It had been brought for a price from the county seat, with its Italian operator, who was letting his instrument hibernate, while he sold Spanish chestnuts till tune-time came again. He and the band took turns on the music, and the antiphonal effect was excellent. Or, again, both played together.

Our young ladies, immediately on arrival, were supplied with hockey sticks, which they carried over the right shoulder, and at the crook of the hickory was swung a Japanese lantern with lit candle. It took quiet and clean-cut skating to keep the lanterns alight, and more than one went up in a blaze of glory before the steady, swinging skate-stroke was acquired. For the men who were trick skaters, and
wished to indulge in figure eights and reverse complications, Roman candles were provided. And the nine violet balls, climbing to the tree-tops, made a rich accompaniment for a skater, skating backward, in the famous triple curve. Along the lakeside, at 100-yard intervals, burned coloured
fire - red and green. White sweaters were the popular costume, but the adjutant appeared in full-dress uniform. Altogether, the colour scheme was unusual. From the center of the lake, Santa Claus sent up an endless chain of sky-rockets. The band began to freeze up, and were sent to the bonfire to take their turn on the hot coffee that was being served in birch-bark buckets. The Italian grinder also began to feel a-cold. He was supplanted by Rex F., who supplied the music for the remainder of the evening. Rex accompanied himself with a series of clog dances and jigs, which drew all the children from the fire and the fire-works.

He varied the tempo of his rendering each minute, so that "Mr. Dooley" came with an unexpected pathos, and "The Holy City" was disguised into rag-time. Then, as the lights burned low and the fireworks became charred ends and sticks, a Virginia reel on skates was selected to round off the evening. End to end bowed gravely, then circled back to back, and so through their evolutions, which
were more graceful than any hardwood floor ever saw, because performed in curves instead of steps. And the grand finale came when the adjutant and his lady shot down the line at an automobile clip, under twenty arches of Christmas greens, extending from partner to partner, while Rex ended his Strauss waltz in a burst of hurdy-gurdy speed and melody. Then, being not a little chilly, we all trooped in from the ice to a vigorous and ample open fire in the dining-room. We sat before it for an hour or so, then all other lights were put out and, as the fire died down, we crowned the evening
with a Ghost Party, wherein each member of the circle told a tale of true happening that contained a shudder.

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.

Serpentines And Scales: The Dorothy Jenkins McCurry Story

Photo courtesy City Of Ottawa Archives

The daughter of Frank Maurice Stinson 'F.M.S.' Jenkins and Margaret 'Annie' (Lampman) Jenkins, Dorothy Jenkins was born November 6, 1899 in Ottawa, Ontario. Her father was a post office clerk by day and a talented organist and conductor by night. Her mother was a concert pianist who taught at the Martin Krause School of Pianoforte Playing and Singing and the Canadian Conservatory of Music and founded and conducted Ottawa's Palestrina Choir. Her uncle was renowned Confederate poet Archibald Lampman, described as "the Canadian Keats" and her great grandfather was John Counter, who served as the mayor of Kingston, Ontario five times. Together, Dorothy's parents founded Ottawa's first full-size orchestra, the Ottawa Amateur Orchestral Society. To say she came from a family of high achievers would be an understatement.

Dorothy's famous uncle Archibald Lampman. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Dorothy's family had a cottage in the Gatineau Hills in Quebec and were frequently visited by future Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. In an interview with Douglas Leiterman on the CBC program "Close-Up" in March of 1960, she recalled, "I must have been about three or four. He used to come over to a great deal, especially on Sunday evenings to sing hymns. I, at the time, got a little bored at seeing him every Sunday night so I remember one time I hid the hymn books... He said 'Oh, it doesn't matter. I know them all by heart anyway.' So we went out on the veranda and sang them all. I remember the night he was made Liberal leader... We were all sitting on the veranda which was in the front and he came through the back... and said... 'I have just made Liberal leader and I have no one to share it with.' It seemed rather sad."

For most of the year, Dorothy, her brother Frank and sisters Ruth and Marjorie grew up with their parents and a live-in servant named Edith at the family's home on Gainsborough Avenue, over an hour's walk from Dey's Skating Rink on Waller Street, where the Minto Skating Club held court. In the winters, her passion for skating was almost as consuming as her love of music... and Dorothy made the long trek across town to go carve out three's and eights amongst a who's who of Ottawa figure skating. She perhaps inherited her love of the ice from her hockey playing father, who was no slouch as a figure skater either. He was the founder and first captain of Ottawa Hockey Club of 1883 and a one-time President of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada.

Under the direction of coaches Arthur Held and Henry Cartwright, Dorothy quickly proved to be one of the city's 'leading ladies' on the ice. In 1920, at the first Canadian Championships held after the Great War, she placed a close second to Jeanne Chevalier. In 1921, she finished second in both singles and pairs at the Canadian Championships, skating in the latter event with C.J. Allan. She claimed her first Canadian women's title in 1922, and returned the following year to defend it. At that 1923 event, she again placed second in the pairs event, this time with partner Andrew Gordon McLennan. The March 3, 1923 issue of the "Ottawa Evening Journal" recalled her win in the women's event thusly: "The youthful Minto Club skater gave a most finished performance... and fully deserved the honours... Miss Jenkins had to contend with some stout opposition, but she came through with flying colors. Though last to compete in the free skating event, Miss Jenkins seemed to combine all the best features of the individual programmes that had previously been skated... The crowd warmly applauded the winner." At the 1923 North American Championships, Dorothy won the pairs event with Andrew Gordon McLennan and finished third behind Americans Theresa Weld Blanchard and Beatrix Loughran in the women's event. That winter, she was also the winner of the Malynskih Cup, the Minto Skating Club's 'Ladies Prize For Skating'.

Dorothy Jenkins and Gordon McLennan. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club Archives.

The following winter, Dorothy was given the opportunity to compete at the Winter Olympic Games in France. However, her father issued her an ultimatum. She could either skate in the Olympics in Chamonix or go to Paris to study contralto singing. Following in the footsteps of her musical parents, she chose singing over skating, and so Melville Rogers - her intended pairs partner - was left to team up with Toronto's Cecil Smith at the eleventh hour. Not long after her return from France, she married artist Harry Orr McCurry. Her bridesmaid was fellow Minto skater Dorothea Aylen. In her book "Minto Skating Through Time: History Of The Minto Skating Club 1904-2004", Janet B. Uren noted, "That was the end of skating for Mrs. McCurry. She hung away her skating costumes in the attic - her daughter, Margot, remembers one of them, a Scottish kilt with a big pin - and packed up the skates that the Duchess of Devonshire (wife of the Governor-General, 1916-21) had presented to her... In later years, Dorothy McCurry did not talk much about skating - except to say that she preferred the exuberant musicality of free skating to the strict discipline of figures. Still, there is no denying that the graceful Jenkins was also fiercely competitive. Once, she overheard two opponents discussing her, and one said, 'Don't worry about her: she's no good at figures.' Jenkins had been unwell during the previous year's competition, she told her daughter indignantly, and her school figures had suffered. As a rule, there was nothing wrong with them, and she had a glass-fronted cabinet in the dining room full of skating trophies and medals to prove it."

Program from one of Dorothy's recitals. Photos courtesy City Of Ottawa Archives.

In her post-skating days, Dorothy became an iconic figure in Ottawa's burgeoning music scene. A talented teacher, she established the Ottawa Junior Music Club in 1928 to give young music students the opportunity to gain performance experience. She became affiliated with the Morning Music Club of Ottawa, Pro Musica Society, Concert Society of Ottawa, Ottawa Music Festival and the National Festival of Music and the Arts.

Dorothy also served as the choir director of Studio Singers and gave recitals of her own for many years, singing while her mother accompanied her on the piano. Her husband Harry served as Assistant Director of National Gallery of Canada for twenty years before becoming Director from 1939 to 1955. Both Dorothy and Harry were devout followers of Christian Science. Surviving her husband by nine years, Dorothy passed away on August 29, 1973 in Ottawa, Ontario at the age of seventy three. Following her death, the Dorothy Lampman McCurry Scholarship was established and awarded at the Kiwanis Music Festival.

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.

Sapporo's Shining Star: The Ryusuke Arisaka Story

Photo courtesy Hachinoheshi Public Library

Born September 15, 1917 in Hokkaido, Japan, Ryusuke Arisaka moved three hours east to Sapporo when he was just an infant. He began skating at the age of four while attending elementary school and played hockey until he attended the private Hokkai Gakuen Sapporo High School. When he began studying Meiji University in Tokyo in 1935, he began focusing seriously on figure skating and won the Japanese junior men's title that same winter. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle not long after and finished only fourth in the senior men's event when he returned to competition in 1938. The following year, he moved up to second. Finally, in 1940 and 1941, he claimed his first two Japanese titles. Unfortunately, the cancellation of the Japanese and World Championships due to World War II put his skating career on hold for several years.

Access to Japan's ice rinks was quite limited during World War II, but Ryusuke's talent and determination led him back to the top of the pack in Japanese men's skating pack in 1947, 1948 and 1951. His prize for winning each of his Japanese titles was a silver trophy, a medal and a scroll. It was in the year that he won his fifth and final Japanese title that Ryusuke participated in first and only World Championships in Milan, Italy. Though he placed dead last, he was grateful for the experience. Along with Etsuko Inada, the darling of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, he was of Japan's first skaters at the World Championships in fifteen years.

Photo courtesy Hachinoheshi Public Library

Ryusuke announced his decision to turn professional in 1953 and starred in one of his country's first ice shows alongside Toshikazu Katayama and Reiko Kato for a time, before taking a job coaching in Tokyo. His students included Japanese Champions Hideo Sugita and Miwa Fukuhara. When one of Ryusuke's competitors at the 1951 World Championships in Milan, Don Laws, was serving in the Korean War, he had a week off and travelled to Tokyo to check out Japan's biggest indoor rink with a group of Army buddies, two of them fellow skaters. They didn't know a word of Japanese, so they just kept saying 'Ryusuke Arisaka'. Laws later joked, "Perhaps my pronunciation was off, because at first one, then two, then five people gathered around me, trying to make out what I was saying. Suddenly, with a burst of inspiration and in chorus, they all said, 'Ryusuke Arisaka!' and someone ran to fetch him. He was there, in the back somewhere, and within minutes he was standing before me, bowing and welcoming us. Large bottles of beer were brought without question and thrust into our hands and we were invited to sit. It was all happening so fast, it was a bit overwhelming. Ryusuke Arisaka and we three American skaters sat along with other Japanese skaters at the rink and watched a hockey game. My friends in the meantime jostled me with deference and revelled in the fact that they were there with me... Soon plans were made exclusively for me to stay as a guest for as long as possible and conduct, with Japanese skaters, a skating seminar. It was what I wanted; I had a desire to become involved and help improve their skating program in any way possible."

Etsuko Inada and Ryusuke Arisaka. Photo courtesy "Fukui Shimbun".

Ryusuke coached in Tokyo for several years and penned a Japanese language instructional book on figure skating which proved a valuable tool for many of his country's skaters who were reliant on works by English or German authors, which often got 'lost in translation'. He also served on the board of the National Skating Union of Japan for many years. Sadly, he passed away on November 27, 1986 at the age of sixty nine, missing the opportunity to see Midori Ito make history as Japan's first World Champion by only three years.

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

The 1982 World Junior Figure Skating Championships


Thirty thousand women had just joined hands and formed a human chain around a nine mile perimeter face at the RAF Greenham Common in a women's peace protest. Trenchcoats and knee-high boots with kitten heels were the latest fashion fads. "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", the first installment in the Indiana Jones series, was the highest grossing film at the box office and "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John topped the music charts.


The year was 1981 and from from December 15 to 20, one hundred and sixteen skaters from twenty two nations convened in Oberstdorf, West Germany for the 1982 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Yes, you read that right... the 1982 World Junior Championships were actually held in 1981.

For some, the event was an early Christmas present, for others a cruel visit from Krampus. However the results of the event shaped their holidays, the training facilities were ideal. Three ice surfaces under one renovated roof and a restaurant with English speaking wait staff was an ideal home away from home for many of the North American participants.

The Canadian contingent had an amusing trip to West Germany, being mistakenly announced to fellow passengers on their flight by the pilot as the Canadian Ski Team. When they arrived, the weather was warm and rainy, but soon the sun broke through the clouds and the audiences started packing into the arenas in surprisingly high numbers for a junior competition. Today, we will take a look back on how it all played out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Babette Preußler and Torsten Ohlow

Before the pairs event even started, it was evident to everyone that a team from the Soviet Union would end up on top in Oberstdorf. The question was which one! The short program was won by Inna Bekker and Sergei Likhansky, who were tailed by Marina Nikitiuk and Rashid Kadyrkaev and Marina Avstriyskaya and Jury Kvashnin. With a free skate packed full of challenging technical content, Avstriyskaya and Kvashnin moved up to take the gold. Bekker and Likhansky placed second and the East German pair of Babette Preußler and Torsten Ohlow placed third in free skate, stopping any hopes of a Soviet sweep of the podium dead in their tracks. Sixth in both rounds of the competition and overall were Vancouver siblings Linda and John Ivanich, particularly impressive since at the 1981 Canadian Championships in Halifax they had only been tenth in the junior pairs event. They were followed in seventh by another pair of siblings, Americans Natalie and Wayne Seybold. Interestingly, of the fifteen teams competing in Oberstdorf, seven of them were family affairs.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Janina Wirth

Twenty three women competed in the women's event. The school figures were won by West Germany's Cornelia Tesch, who was followed by Austria's Parthena Sarafidis, America's Kelly Webster and East Germany's Janina Wirth. When Wirth landed a solid double flip/triple toe-loop combination in her short program, she gave Tesch cause to worry. In the free skate, she overtook her for the gold. The previous year's silver medallist, Marina Serova of the Soviet Union, dropped to ninth place.


Seventh in the figures, Canada's Elizabeth Manley (the oldest skater in the women's event at sixteen) finished second in the short program with three clean jumping passes but an unlucky fall on a spin. She performed a confident, dynamic free skate with no major mistakes that included a clean triple toe-loop and triple Salchow to snatch the bronze from Americans Jill Frost and Kelly Webster. However, the real talk of Oberstdorf was Japan's Midori Ito. Everyone's eyes were on her in the practice sessions but despite winning both the short program and free skate, a nineteenth place finish in the school figures kept her down in sixth place overall. Even more impressive about Ito's performance was the fact that she landed a triple flip and triple toe-loop/triple toe-loop combination... at twelve years of age! Manley said of Ito, "All I can say is that she is an incredible free skater and she's one in a million. Not only was she enjoyable to watch, but she is fun to be with and talk to."

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Scott Williams. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Twenty two men competed in Oberstdorf and American Scott Williams dominated from start to finish, winning the school figures, short program and free skate with ease ahead of his teammate Paul Guerrero of Skokie Valley, Illinois. It was his third time entering the event and his first time winning. East Germany's Alexander Koenig was third after figures, had a disastrous eleventh place short program and rebounded to take the bronze medal. Japan's Makoto Kano was fifth in the short program and third in the free skate, but an unlucky thirteenth place in the figures kept him behind the Soviet Union's Yuri Bureiko and American James Cygan. 1981 Canadian Novice Champion Lauren Patterson of Scarborough finished fifth in the figures and skated a clean short program. However, the fifteen year old dropped to ninth with a free skate that didn't have the technical content of his peers. Just behind him in tenth and eleventh were two brothers from the Soviet Union... Victor and Vladimir Petrenko.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


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

Seventeen teams were supposed to have competed in Oberstdorf but the Polish team of Beata Kawełczyk and Tomasz Politański withdrew when martial law was declared in their home country just one day before their departure. From the first compulsory to the free dance, the Soviet Union's Natalia Annenko and Vadim Karkatchev led the pack. Their winning free dance, of a Russian folk flavour, was well received by the West German audience. Lynn Copley-Graves, in her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice" wrote, "Typical of Soviet training, [Annenko and Karkatchev] spent less time warming up on the ice but exercised almost continuously off the ice. A team psychologist accompanied them to Oberstdorf, and a masseuse massaged their scalps before they competed." Their teammates Tatiana Gladkova and Igor Shpilband, students of Lyudmila Pakhomova in Moscow, finished second. Despite two slips in their free dance, Americans Lydia Malek and Alexander Millier III fended off a challenge from the French team of Sophie Mergiot and Philippe Berthe to take the bronze medal. Young Canadians Deanna Poirier and Brett Schrader and Christine Horton and Michael Farrington placed ninth and thirteenth. Barbara Graham, who acted as Team Leader for the CFSA, said, "This was a good learning experience for these young skaters who were competing against dancers well experienced in performing original set pattern and free dance programs."

Following the competition, all the competitors attended a banquet and were given gifts by the host federation. The skaters who placed in the top six were even given gold bars! In "The Globe And Mail", Barbara Graham waxed poetic about Elizabeth Manley, Canada's only medallist at the event: "She used to lack finesse in spins, and didn't have the detail and concern over femininity that really matters. But she's improved greatly in that matter and realizes that you can't be just a jumper.'' In her autobiography, Manley claimed she was admonished for not winning an event she could have "easily won" and told by Graham after the event, "It's not enough to have a high on one day and a low on the other."

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.

Canada's First Olympic Judge: The J. Cecil McDougall Story

Photo courtesy Archives de l’Ordre des architectes du Québec

The son of George and Dinah (Kinghorn) McDougall, (James) Cecil McDougall was born July 4, 1886 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He and his older brother George grew up in a home on Osborne Street in Montreal's St. Antoine Ward in a well-to-do Scotch Presbyterian household with two live-in servants. His father was a successful pulp and paper manufacturer.

Cecil graduated from Montreal High School in 1904 and later earned a dual degree from McGill University in architecture and engineering. He went on to establish his own agency of architects and engineers, specializing in hospital architecture. He was involved in the design of the Montreal General Hospital, Protestant Hospital For The Insane and Jewish General Hospital, among dozens of other projects. He served as a municipal alderman for seventeen years and was responsible for a complete overhaul of the Montreal Winter Club on Drummond Street in 1929... the rink that played host to a who's who of Canadian figure skating.

Aerial view of Montreal's Jewish General Hospital. Photo courtesy McGill University.

To say that Cecil's involvement in the skating world extended beyond his involvement in the re-design of the Montreal Winter Club is really a huge understatement. He was a Canadian Champion in fours skating with Jeanne Chevalier, Norman Mackie Scott and Winnifred Tait in 1920 and finished second in the men's event at the Canadian Championships in 1911. In 1913, the newly formed Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada appointed him as one of the first nine accredited judges in Canada. Three years later, he was appointed a second-class test judge - the highest appointment available at the time. In 1917, he was responsible for the preparation of the Figure Skating Department's first technical handbook covering competitions, tests and school figures. When the Department began naming first-class test judges in 1922, he was named as one of them. He also served as the Department's auditor from 1913 to 1921, as well as chair of several committees including the Competitions Committee which oversaw the Canadian Championships. He worked closely with Louis Rubenstein, a fellow Montreal alderman who served as the Department's President.

Competitors and judges at the 1927 Canadian Championships. Back: Miss Morrissey, Dorothy Benson, Margot Barclay, John Machado, Elizabeth (Blair) Machado, Cecil MacDougall, Mr. Sharp, Norman Mackie Scott, Evelyn Darling, Constance Wilson, Jack Eastwood, Maude Smith, Bud Wilson. Front: Kathleen Lopdell, Paul Belcourt, Frances Claudet, Jack Hose, Henry Cartwright, Isobel Blyth, Melville Rogers, Marion McDougall, Chauncey Bangs. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Perhaps most interesting of Cecil's contributions to figure skating was the fact that he was the first Canadian judge at the World Championships in 1930. Two years later in Lake Placid, he was Canada's first Olympic figure skating judge. Shortly after Louis Rubenstein's death in 1931, he was named President of the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. He held the position for three years and during his term Montreal played host to the World Figure Skating Championships, the first ISU Championship held in Canada.

Cecil passed away on April 20, 1959 in Montreal at the age of seventy two and was honoured by the city of Montreal for his contributions to local architecture with an Avenue in his name. He has yet to be inducted into Skate Canada's 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.

The Empire City Skating Rink

Photo courtesy Major & Knapp Engraving, Manufacturing & Lithographic Co. / Museum of the City of New York. 29.100.1544. Used with permission.

On December 12, 1868, the Empire City Skating Rink - the first covered ice rink in New York City - officially opened its doors, catering to the upper echelon of New York society wishing to escape the elements... and the 'riffraff' who deluded the city's most popular skating ponds. The rink - heralded as "a magnificent structure" by "The New York Times" - was a three hundred and fifty foot long by one hundred and seventy foot wide wooden building with a seventy foot high arched ceiling, brick flooring over which eight inches of ice was laid and a front resembling a Chinese pagoda. The Hervey Brothers and John C. Babcock, the men who had a hand in its construction and early management, thought of every convenience and detail. There were raised platforms for spectators, a gallery for a military band and a lavish refreshment room where suppers were occasionally held for the rink's upper crust patrons. Hundreds of gas lanterns illuminated the natural ice at night, allowing patrons to enjoy skating in the evening... a novelty that would have been near impossible outdoors on ponds because of the risk of collisions and the perils of falling through the ice. W.W. Wallace and Harry Taxter acted as the rink's proprietors and managers.

Trade card courtesy Richard D. Sheaff. Used with permission.

Though members of the New York Skating Club still skated outdoors on Mitchell's Pond on Fifty Eighth Street near Fifth Avenue at the time the Empire Skating Rink opened, many defected and joined the hastily developed and short-lived Empire City Skating Club. One of the club's founders was James B. Story, who went on to win the Championships Of America in 1879 in Manhattan, judge various 'fancy' skating competitions and to act as one of the seven founders of the National Amateur Skating Association in 1886.

Engraving of James B. Story. Photo courtesy New York Public Library.

Beginning in 1869, the Empire City Skating Rink hosted an endless series of lavish ice carnivals and masquerades, among them the Fancy Dress and Civic Skating Carnival and the Grand Masquerade Carnival. Seaver of Union Square supplied the female skaters with their dresses and games of curling and lacrosse on ice were enjoyed. In 1870, the Brooklyn, New York and Empire City Skating Clubs worked in cooperation to "furnish champion skaters" for two hour matinee and evening exhibitions. The stars who performed included Eugene Beauharnais Cook, John Kelly - known as 'Smiling John E. Miller - and John Martin, who according to George Henry Browne "used to rise from an outside edge forward to a pirouette, making one complete revolution and then suddenly dropping his heel, shoot off deftly on the outside edge of the pirouetting foot."


Engravings of skating sessions at the Empire Rink show throngs of skaters - both men and women - circling the perimeter of the ice as better 'fancy' skaters performed figures in the middle of the rink. Christmas was even celebrated on the ice at the Empire Rink. Frank Swift wrote of one such festive gathering in the "New York Clipper" of January 7, 1871 thusly: "The Empire Rink had a fine sheet of ice provided for Christmas, and consequently there was a steady stream of visitors from the overcrowded ponds of the Park to the Rink, where the sport could be engaged in with comfort. At night, when the Park skating ceased, the Rink was resorted to by many, and, with illuminations and music, an animated scene was presented."

Engraving by George Vallée

In the summer months and in fact, prior to the rink's official opening, the rink played host to a wide variety of special events. The New York Athletic Club held its first semi-annual Games there in 1868 and spectators flocked to the rink to enjoy various amusements, including concerts with full military bands, French velocipedes and distance walkers. A man named Edward Payson Weston, billed as 'The Great American Walker', entertained crowds in 1870 by endeavouring to walk "one hundred miles inside twenty-two consecutive hours, for a purse of fifteen hundred dollars."

In October 1869, the Empire Rink played host to the American Institute National Exhibition, which "The Nation" described as "the most comprehensive and important ever seen on this continent, consisting of machinery in motion, magnificent display of novel and ingenius inventions by American hands and brains, implements of husbandry, products of the soil, the workshop of the soil, fabrics of every description manufactured from cotton, flax and silk. Thousands of other attractive novelties." They even served soda water. Imagine!

Engraving of the Empire Roller Skating Rink

That same year, the American Institute leased the Empire City Skating Rink. Two years later, they purchased the venue. By 1875, the Empire Skating Rink Co. - the original owner - was listed on the Bureau Of Arrears list of defaulters. Conventions, dog shows and fairs drew patrons to the space until May 1877, when the rink briefly reopened as the Empire Roller Skating Rink. On January 7, 1878, the Empire Rink briefly reopened for ice skating and on February 4 and 5 of that year, the rink played host to the Amateur Championship of America in speed skating. Through the 1880's, the venue fell into disrepair and in 1893, it was demolished and replaced by a Flemish Revival exhibition hall.

By 1896, when the Ice Palace Skating Rink,at Lexington Avenue and One Hundred and Seventh Street and the St. Nicholas Rink on West Sixty Sixth Street near Columbus Ave opened, the Empire Rink was 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.

History Makers From Hungary: The Olga Orgonista and Sándor Szalay Story

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Born June 6, 1893 and February 22, 1901 in Budapest, Hungary, Olga Orgonista and Sándor Szalay practically grew up on the ice at the Városligeti Műjégpálya. In February of 1914, when she was only twelve Olga and her first partner (a speed skater named Ernő Komássy) competed against World Champions Helene Engelmann and Karl Mejstrik at an event in Budapest. They didn't win, but the Hungarian press remarked that they had a bright "future, especially if their style becomes more polished." It turned out that Olga's bright future was with Sándor, whom she teamed up with in the roaring twenties.

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Olga and Sándor were both members of the BKE (Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet) and trained daily on outdoor ice. In their first international competition together at the Wiener Eislaufverein, they finished fourth behind Lilly Scholz and Otto Kaiser, Melitta Brunner and Ludwig Wrede and their training mates Emília Rotter and László Szollás.


From 1928 to 1932, Olga and Sándor amassed an impressive list of honours. They won two medals at the World Championships (their first in 1929 being Hungary's first medal at an ISU Championship in pairs skating) and the first two European pairs titles ever contested. They also claimed the Hungarian title in pairs skating three times.

 

Disappointingly, Olga and Sándor finished fourth at both the 1932 Winter Olympic Games and World Championships. There was some controversy in Hungary about them even being sent to the Lake Placid Games, as they had skipped the Hungarian Championships in both 1931 and 1932. A  newspaper account of their skating recalled that they had "an excellent program with a beautiful design."

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Olga and Sándor retired from competitive skating at the ages of thirty and thirty eight following the 1932 World Championships in Montreal and went their separate ways. She married and 'embraced domestic life'; he worked as a construction inspector in a rubber factory. After World War II, he played an important role in restoring the Városligeti Műjégpálya, which was damaged so badly by Allied bombings it was for a time unusable. He also served as President of the Hungarian Skating Federation from 1945 to 1950. Sándor passed away on April 5, 1965 at the age of seventy one; Olga died on November 20, 1978 at the age of seventy seven.

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.

The 1939 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Judges evaluating the senior women's school figures in St. Paul

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had just met with Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini seeking assurances that Adolf Hitler wouldn't make any warlike moves. In what now seems obviously petty by comparison, the U.S. press was absorbed in a debate over the decision to cast a British actress as the lead in the new film "Gone With The Wind". While tensions mounted overseas, Americans oblivious to the War that loomed on the horizon cut a rug to Benny Goodman's "Don't Be That Way".


The year was 1939 and from January 19 to 21, a charming crew of American figure skaters gathered at the Municipal Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota for the second U.S. Championships in history to be held in the Midwest. The first U.S. Championships in the Midwest in 1937 marked the final time Maribel Vinson Owen had won a national title. Incidentally, she was coaching at the six hundred member St. Paul Figure Skating Club in 1939 and played an important role in convincing the USFSA - then governed by a New Yorker - to host the Nationals in the Saintly City.

Joan Tozzer with former U.S. Champions Suzanne Davis King, Maribel Vinson Owen and Theresa Weld Blanchard in St. Paul. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Though at the time school figures counted for sixty percent of a skater's overall score, the free skating competitions were of course what drew in audiences. Music for free skating was played on records, which was a novelty to visiting skaters from the Skating Club of New York, who were accustomed to being accompanied by a live orchestra.

M. Bernard Fox, Joan Tozzer and Robin Lee with their trophies

Though the Skating Club of New York won the Bedell H. Harned Trophy that year for accumulating the most points through all disciplines, skaters from coast to coast excelled in their respective categories. Let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that shaped the final U.S. Championships held before World War II began.

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Betsy Nichols, Joan Tozzer and Gretchen Merrill in St. Paul. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Only expanding upon her lead in the figures with a superb free skating performance, Betsy Nichols of the Skating Club of Boston glided to victory in the novice women's competition, besting her Boston training mate Roberta Jenks, Britta Lundequist of Seattle, Caroline Brandt of Cleveland, Joan Mitchell of Chicago and Ramona Allen of Oakland. In the novice men's event, the Galbraith brothers (Sheldon and Murray) from the San Francisco Skating and Ski Club were separated by only half a point after the school figures, with St. Paul's Robert Uppgren third. Rallying from behind with an outstanding free skate, Bobby Specht of the Superior Figure Skating Club made an unprecedented leap from outside the top three to first overall. Murray and Sheldon Galbraith, separated by only 0.3 overall, finished second and third overall, ahead of William Grimditch, Jr. and Uppgren. PJ Kwong and Mel Matthews' article "Sheldon Galbraith: The Early Years" recalled, "When competing 'back East' in the 1939 US Novice class held in St. Paul, Minnesota [Sheldon and Murray] wore Eton jackets and a cravat secured with a special pin resembling a figure eight crafted for them by a jeweller in San Francisco. They also wore heavy wool tights, used in stage performances, but useless against the temperatures they were being exposed to. Sheldon remembers trying to decide between cutting the foot out of the tights, and securing them by a strap under the arch of the boot, or leaving them as is, with the big seam at the back of them, which caused cramping in his feet. Never getting used to performing in their costumes was just another obstacle to be overcome in their rise in the competitive ranks."

Dorothy Snell in 1939. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Archives.

In the junior women's event, thirteen year old Gretchen Merrill of Boston defeated Baltimore's Dorothy Snell by a single point. St. Paul's Shirley Bowman finished third. After the junior men's school figures, Bud Brennan of Minneapolis and Arthur Vaughn, Jr. of Philadelphia were almost in a deadlock. However, the fourteen year old from the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society emerged the victor in the free skate, with Brennan dropping to third overall behind St. Paul's Arthur Preusch. Vaughn and Merrill became the first man and woman to claim novice and junior titles in successive years at the same time. Besting Chicago's Ruth English and L.D. Pitts in junior pairs, Betty Lee Bennett and John Kinney of the Seattle Skating Club became the first pair - junior or senior - from the West Coast ever to claim a U.S. pairs title.

THE FOURS, PAIRS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS



In the fours competition, Nettie Prantel, Marjorie Parker, Joseph K. Savage and George Boltres of the Skating Club of New York emerged victorious over a four from Philadelphia. In the pairs event it was Boston's Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox who took home top honours, repeating their success from a year prior at the Nationals in Philadelphia. The silver and bronze medals went to married couples from the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society and Bear Mountain Figure Skating Club, the Penn-Gaskell Hall's and the Bruns'.

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

The ice dancers in St. Paul performed Silver Dances, which in 1939 were the Continental Waltz, Reverse Waltz, Three-Lobed-Eight Waltz, Fourteenstep, Foxtrot and Tango. After an elimination round that whittled the number of teams down to four, Sandy MacDonald and Harold Hartshorne emerged victorious, ahead of Nettie Prantel and Joseph K. Savage, Marjorie Parker and George Boltres and Edith and Arthur Preusch. For the second year in a row, the top three teams all hailed from the Skating Club of New York. In fact, Joseph K. Savage was the USFSA's President at the time. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "The top two couples were close, but Sandy and Harold added a lovely lilting quality for the win. Tee Blanchard had noticed their improved technique at Easterns."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Joan Tozzer. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Interestingly, there were fewer competitors in the senior singles competitions than the Silver Dance event. After the senior women skated their figures, eighteen year old Joan Tozzer of the Skating Club of Boston had a sixteen point lead over Charlotte Walther, the 1938 U.S. Junior Champion who was making her debut in the senior ranks. Audrey Peppe (the niece of Olympic Medallist Beatrix Loughran), Boston's Polly Blodgett and Philadelphia's Jane Vaughn occupied the final three places in the standings. Expanding on her lead in the figures by over ten points, Tozzer successfully defended the women's crown she'd won the year prior in Philadelphia. Walther dropped to third behind Peppe and Vaughn moved ahead of Blodgett to finish fourth.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

At the Midwestern Championships in Cleveland just prior, four time U.S. Champion Robin Lee had only managed to defeat Ollie Haupt, Jr. of St. Louis by a fraction of a point. The battle for supremacy between the two talented young Minnesota skaters in their home state was expected to be every bit as riveting at Nationals, but when nineteen year old Lee scored a commanding sixty five point lead in the figures, the competition was all but over before the free skate.


Lee won his fifth and final U.S. title in his home city by over ninety two points, with Haupt second and California's Eugene Turner (making his senior debut) third. As was the case in practically every event he entered, William Nagle of the Manhattan Figure Skating Club finished a distant last.

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.