#Unearthed: A Skating Romance


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month's #Unearthed is a story called "A Skating Romance", which appeared in the Chicago daily newspaper "The Day Book" on December 11, 1912. Its author, Augustus Goodrich Sherwin, was a cloth salesman who moonlighted as a writer for extra money. F. Scott Fitzgerald he was not, but he certainly penned a charming tale I think you'll enjoy reading!

A SKATING ROMANCE (AUGUSTUS GOODRICH SHERWIN)



The ice on the river was burnished by the bright sunlight till it shone like a sheet of gold. Half a hundred happy persons hovered about, and Nelly Blair was the center of her own little group of select friends.

There was a pout upon her lips and a discontented, almost angry expression in her eyes. She stamped her little foot until the skate blade rang.

"I will never speak to Lisle Jordan again!" she declared. "I have a good mind to send him back the engagement ring."

"Don't be foolish, Nelly," advised her sister. "You are making a great big mountain out of a very small mole hill."

"Big? Little?" gasped Nelly, her eyes full of tears. "I saw him skating away from everybody with one of the new academy girls. His arm was around her, and I am sure I saw him kiss her.

"Did he see you, Nellie?" enquired her sister.

"He acted as if he didn't want to see me," cried the vexed girl. "He was to be here to skate with me two hours ago and-"

"Why, there he is now, Nelly; there is some mistake. He must have just come from home."

But Nelly was not in hearing now and soon she was out of sight. She had glanced just once at an approaching figure. It was her lover, with his skates over his shoulder.

Nelly was soon far from the general throng. Every moment she felt more absurd and perverse. When she came to where the river divided, she took the far western branch.

Here the ice was a clear, brilliant sheet, scarcely marked. Nelly rested for a moment. Then she casually noticed a man coming her way. He wore a very fancy skating costume and his progress was the rarest poetry of motion.

Nelly drew back timidly. The stranger was a foreigner, with jet black eyes and a waxed moustache. He lightly kissed the tips of his fingers, he smiled and bowed with an excess of courtesy.

"Beautiful, very beautiful," he said, and Nelly was more astonished than ever. He described a wonderful circle on one foot, and then with a flourish, made a series of quick whirls.

Nelly gasped and flushed at the audacity of the man. Plainly he had written on the ice with wonderful skill a name.

It was: "Nelly."

"How dare you?" flashed forth the little lady, but, with a delighted laugh, the expert skater was off on a long glide, and farther away Nelly him once more write that name on the glassy surface of the ice.

"Oh, dear! I am the most friendless and forlorn bing the world!" burst forth Nelly. "Everybody is cruel to me."

The expert skater was manoeuvring between the spot where Nelly was and the junction of the rivers. Nelly was really frightened at the impertinent, airy fellow, as she judged him. She got out of his way by skating on. Finally she espied a cut-off leading to the other river branch. It had steep clay sides, and Nelly started along it.

Crack-swish-crack, crack! Nelly uttered a sharp, sudden cry of dismay. The frail rubber ice was bending under her weight. Then one foot went through it to the ankle. She darted for shore, but though at every step her feet broke through, she gained the bank.

A driftwood log was there, and Nelly sat down on it, breathless and with wet feet. All her sudden temper was subdued. How lonesome it was! How foolish she had been! In regaining the main river she might incur no actual danger, but her feet might sink in deeper.

"There is no Lisle to find me," mourned the dejected maid. "I suppose all men flirt. I wish - I wish I hadn't run away. Oh, dear!" and Nelly burst out crying.

She looked up at the sound of clanging skate blades and crackling ice. Her lover was coming towards her. She could read the anxiety and solicitude in his pale, earnest face. In his expertness he evaded breaking through the ice.

"Why, Nelly," he cried in a glad, relieved tone. "I feared I should not find you. If it were not for a skater I met who had seen you come this way, I might have searched for hours. And in trouble, too, poor little girl!"

"Yes, I am in dreadful trouble," sobbed Nelly. "Was it a man in a fancy costume you met?"

"Yes - a stranger - looked like a foreigner."

"He is a bold, bad man," blazed out Nelly. "He smiled at me - and deliberately wrote my name on the ice. I was never so affronted in my life."

"He did, eh?" flared up Lisle, in his turn. "Well, we'll see about that. Now, little girl, I'll carry you over the rubber ice here, and we'll just go and bring that impertinent fellow to time."

Nelly nestled in his arms so gladly that he forgot all her pet grievances.

"Now you must skate to keep from freezing," advised the thoughtful lover. "I must get you home just as quickly as possible."

"Oh - I am not the least bit cold, and I don't mind the wet one bit," declared Nelly, with a joyous thrill at being under such lovable protection again.

"Ah, there is that insolent fellow!" exclaimed Lisle, as they came to a bend in the river and the man who had so frightened Nelly was in view. "You wait here while I attend to the gentleman."

"How strong, how brave is Lisle," enthused Nelly, as she watched her lover approach the object of her complaint. Then, to her astonishment, instead of a stormy collision there was a perfectly friendly meeting. The stranger bowed and showed the most extravagant courtesy. Lisle skated back to Nelly, his face in a broad smile.

"Why," he observed, "there is, of course, only one Nelly in the world for me, but there are two Nelly's mixed up in this skating experience."

"What do you mean, Lisle?" asked Nelly bewilderingly.

"That gentleman yonder and his wife are a roller skating team who are here with a vaudeville company. He was simply practicing on ice skates. His wife's name is the same as yours, and he was delighted to find he was able to write it on the ice."

"Oh, dear! What a foolish girl I have been," said Nelly.

"Your sister told me of your mistake about myself," pursued Lisle.

"Mistake?" repeated Nelly.

"Yes, dear. The person you mistook for me was a college friend, Jack Delmar. I loaned him my outfit this morning."

"Oh, Lisle! Can you ever forgive me for doubting you?" almost sobbed Nelly. "That Jack Delmar, though, is a bold fellow - I saw him kiss the girl with him."

"Why not? She is one of the seminary girls, and Jack is engaged to her. I tell you, Nelly, Jack is a fine fellow."

Nelly nestled closer to her lover, subdued, contrite, but immensely happy. Then she glanced up archly, and said: "And you are a fine fellow, too, Lisle!"

He was not adverse to the delicate hint, and their kiss of reconciliation was as well the kiss of peace and perfect understanding."

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.

Bravery In Budapest: The Dénes Pataky Story

Photo courtesy Sean Pataky

The son of Dénes and Margit (Vigh) Pataky, Dénes Dezso 'Dinko' Pataky was born on June 30, 1916 in Budapest, Hungary. His parents were Roman Catholics and his father had a doctorate and worked for the government. The month he was born, the Brusilov Offensive of Soviet forces against Central Powers on the Eastern Front started. When it ended later that year, over two hundred thousand of Austria-Hungary's soldiers had perished. The aftermath of the Great War led to a Communist revolution, counterrevolution, monarchy and depression in Hungary. In this less than idyllic backdrop, he began his own fight on the ice of the Városligeti Műjégpálya when he was around four years old.

Largely self-taught as a figure skater, Dénes first gained recognition in 1931, when he won the junior men's title at the Hungarian Championships at the age of fourteen. The following year, he won the free skating competition in the senior class, but finished only third overall because of a poor showing in the school figures. He was particularly known for his excellent spread eagle and sit spin and the skaters at the Városligeti Műjégpálya often had informal contests to see if they could go lower in the sit spin than him.

In 1933, Dénes figures improved significantly enough that he was able to claim his first of four senior national titles. His friendly rivalry with Elemér Terták, who would go on to become an ISU official in later years, was of great interest to Hungarian skating fans in the early thirties.


At five foot six with brown hair and blue eyes, Dénes was a compact skater with strong mastery of his edges. In 1934, he claimed the silver medal behind Karl Schäfer at the European Championships in Seefeld, Austria. At the World Championships that followed, he placed a creditable fifth. The Hungarian judge placed him first in the free skating; the Austrian judge seventh. The following year, he won the bronze medal at the World Championships, tying in ordinals with the runner-up Jackie Dunn, but losing the silver on points. In his only Olympic appearance in Nazi Germany in 1936, nineteen year old Dénes tumbled and finished a disastrous ninth. Despite this, he was called to Adolf Hitler's box. When his name had been announced, it was mentioned that he was in the military and the Führer, impressed by this, gave him a dagger engraved with a swastika as a gift. In Paris in his final appearance at the World Championships, he moved up to sixth.


In the height of Dénes' competitive career, he attended the Royal Hungarian Ludovica Defense Academy and served as a member of the Royal Hungarian Defense Forces. It was his military service that undoubtedly effected his results in his final season as a competitor. In a December 2019 interview, his daughter Anna Pataky recalled, "He was bitterly disappointed and in fact embarrassed by his result in the Olympics. By that time he was in the Army. He was apparently told he was going to go represent the country in the Olympics. He had virtually no time to practice and hadn't had his skates on a long time. He told me he fell and he was very embarrassed. He had never done that in competition before."

When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Hungarian Army. Rising from the ranks from officer to Captain of an armoured car unit, he earned an iron cross and the prestigious Order of Vitéz for his "bravery during the Resistance" in the Siege of Budapest. His combat unit also saw action in what is now Slovakia and Russia, where he was captured, escaped and was seriously wounded in the leg. Anna Pataky recalled, "Being a skater, it was really a tragic idea that he might lose his leg. They wanted to amputate but he was able to be returned to Budapest from Russia to be operated on. He had shrapnel in his leg. Some of it came out when I was a girl of about eight or nine and he showed it to us."

In the chaos near the end of World War II, Dénes married Anna Maria Terezia Csepreghy. The newlyweds, along with their two young young children and Anna Maria's parents and sister, became refugees in 1945. Anna Pataky remembered, "The Russians were coming into Budapest and if they found officers, they shot them immediately. They did that to someone who was a neighbour, just down the street from where my father's house was, so had he stayed there he would have been shot. They also burnt his house to the ground when they found he had been an officer, so we had to depart very hastily with almost nothing. He did wrap up a few of his skating trophies and took them with him."

Photo courtesy Sean Pataky

Dénes and his family ended up back in Garmisch-Partenkirchen - the site of his Olympic disappointment - where he found work entertaining American troops in the ice shows at the Casa Carioca nightclub. Having never skated a comedic number before, he teamed up with another man to skate a clown act on ice full of balance and seesaw moves that had audiences in stitches. He was literally skating for his supper. Had it not been for the Casa Carioca shows, his family would have starved.

Eventually, Dénes and his family ventured through war-torn Germany to Southampton and boarded the Cunard liner Scythia which transported refugees to Canada. Like so many other European families displaced after World War II, their decision to emigrate was both brave and difficult. Anna Pataky recalled, "My mother and her parents and her sister had been to Canada following the first World War because times were so difficult for them in Hungary at the time. They set out for the new world and headed west to Saskatchewan and they were on a farm there. The Depression was on and there was a drought and the crops failed. Because the crops failed, they couldn't pay their mortgage and they were deported to Hungary. When the time came for them to leave Hungary and Germany eventually, I guess Canada was the only place any of them knew anything about, so I think my mother and her parents decided 'Why don't we all go to Canada?' and that's what happened. They applied to go." Upon Dénes' arrival in Canada in October of 1949, he told a reporter from the "Winnipeg Free Press" that it "felt good to laugh again."

Photo courtesy Sean Pataky

Initially, Dénes taught at the Winnipeg Winter Club and performed his comedy skating act in several carnivals in the Prairies. He moved to Toronto in 1951 but quickly learned that in Ontario in the fifties, performing as a professional skater wasn't going to pay the bills. Anna Pataky remembered, "He did various jobs. He was a cab driver, a waiter in a restaurant, a night watchman at the Plaza Hotel and eventually he taught skating at the Weston Figure Skating Club. He later taught at the Lambton, Forest Hill and Cedarvale Clubs and Lakeshore Figure Skating Club in the summertime. His friend Mrs. [Ellen] Burka was teaching the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club and she also taught with him at Lakeshore. I skated with her daughter Petra, who became World Champion, several summers at the Lakeshore Club so got to know her a little bit."

Sadly, Dénes passed away on April 7, 1987 of lymphoma, just two months shy of his seventy first birthday. In the entrance way to the Városligeti Műjégpálya from the dressing rooms, there's a concrete archway facade that lists his name among Hungary's top figure skaters. Anna Pataky lovingly remembered her father thusly: "He was a very disciplined person because of his skating and the fact he was an officer in the Hungarian army. Having lost everything including his homeland in the War, you'd think he'd be totally defeated. Having a young family to look after and not speaking the language... He never let that discourage him. His goal always was, because he lost everything at one time, to leave something for his children. He was determined he was at least going to have a house that was paid for. He was a hero in his skating, military career and for his family."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' 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 1957 European Figure Skating Championships

Postcard of the Votivkirche on the Ringstraße in Vienna, Austria, 1957

The Toddlers' Truce, a controversial British television scheduling policy that stopped transmissions between six and seven at night so that children could be put to bed finally met its demise. The Soviet Union announced that Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who helped save the lives of tens of thousands of Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Hungary - and then gone missing himself - had died some ten years earlier in a Soviet prison of 'an apparent heart attack'. Decades later it would be revealed he had been executed in Lubyanka. Figure skater Tab Hunter's hit single "Young Love" topped the British music charts on Valentine's Day, 1957, when the three-day European Figure Skating Championships of 1957 kicked off at the Wiener Eislaufverein's rink in Vienna, Austria.


The event, televised on Eurovision, marked only the second year that skaters from the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union participated, although the East German federation sent only sent one pair, as they had the year prior at the Europeans in Paris. As a trial, the results in Vienna were calculated using the 'Finnish system', except ice dance which used the ISU's normal system of calculating results based on ordinals and point totals.

The 'Finnish system' - the brainchild of Olympic Gold Medallist Walter Jakobsson - didn't factor in ordinal placings at all. Instead, the marks which deviated the most from the average score given to the first skater were thrown out and the remaining marks added up to give a point total that would determine their ranking in that phase of the competition. The system had first been tested at an international competition for junior skaters in Switzerland in 1955. At the 1957 ISU Congress in Salzburg, it was decided that this system didn't improve matters and that it would go the way of the dodo in amateur competition. Ironically, a simplified version of the system ultimately became the 'norm' in professional figure skating competitions. Who were the big winners in Vienna in 1957? The 'biggest losers'? Let's take a look back and find out!

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


June Markham and Courtney Jones

Defending European Champions Pamela Weight and Paul Thomas had retired from competition but based on the fact that British couples from Gladys Hogg's seemingly endless stable of champions had swept the European podium for the last three years, it was very much expected that another British couple would rise to the top in 1957. After thirteen couples weaved their way through the patterns of the Rocker Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Kilian and Argentine Tango, June Markham and Courtney Jones had amassed an impressive, unanimous lead. Jones was a twenty three year old dress designer on leave from the R.A.F. to compete. Markham was five years Jones' junior and came from a multi-generational 'show biz' family. She sometimes assisted her father, a magician, with his acts.

Markham and Jones, whom British and French announcers compared to actors Kim Novak and Roman Novarro, were placed first by all but one judge in the free dance and became the third British couple in history to win the World ice dance title. Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby and Catherine Morris and Michael Robinson made it another British sweep. Bona Giammona and Giancarlo Sioli, the Italian team who finished fourth, were placed first in the free dance by Hungarian judge László Szollás. West Germans Sigrid Knake and Günther Koch placed fifth, one spot ahead of France's Christiane Elien and Claude Lambert. Elien and Lambert's ordinals in the free dance ranged from fourth through dead last!

Photo courtesy "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice" by Lynn Copley-Graves

Reginald Wilkie, reviewing the event for "Skating World" magazine, was less than complimentary to the dancers, noting that Foxtrot and Blues rhythms were played to death in the free dance and that many of the Continental teams skated at the same level of the NSA Second Class Dance Tests.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal

Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt, the defending European Champions in pairs skating, had turned professional. It was generally expected that Hungarian siblings Marianna and László Nagy would again win the title they'd claimed in 1950 and 1955. The top three teams were extremely close but the surprise winners were Věra Suchánková and Zdeněk Doležal of Czechoslovakia. Though they had finished second at the 1955 Europeans, Suchánková and Doležal had only placed eighth at the 1956 Winter Olympic Games.

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

For the third straight year, West Germans Marika Kilius and Franz Ningel took the bronze medal. Kilius was quite weak at the time, suffering from side effects of a smallpox vaccination. British Champions Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles placed fifth, one spot ahead of Nina (Bakusheva) and Stanislav Zhuk.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION



After the first two figures, Alain Giletti held a tenuous lead over Karol Divín. By the conclusion of the school figures, Giletti expanded his lead to ten points and Divín dropped to third, just three tenths of a point behind Great Britain's Michael Booker. Giletti was only fourth in the free skate but held on to the overall lead. Divín, who won the free skate, was second overall. Dennis Bird recalled, "Divín's free skating was outstanding in its elegance, and he included a fine double Axel - still not a very common jump in Europe." Michael Booker claimed the bronze, ahead of Alain Calmat. Newly crowned West German Champion Manfred Schnelldorfers placed seventh but impressed the judges with his brand new free skate to Mendelsohhn's "Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt". The retirements of several elite level skaters in Munich had afforded him more ice time to practice his jumps.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Ingrid Wendl, Hanna Walter and Hanna Eigel. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

The 'main event' for the Viennese spectators was the women's event, framed by the Austrian press as a showdown between 1955 European Champion Hanna Eigel and 1956 European Champion Ingrid Wendl. The last two times the two young women had competed, Wendl had come out on top. When she took a narrow lead over Eigel in the figures, some thought the title was as good as hers.

Strangely enough, Eigel and Wendl and British contenders Erica Batchelor and Dianne Peach all floundered in the free skate. They didn't just flounder in a weak field - the quartet all placed in the fifth through tenth range in that phase of the competition! The top four in the free skate consisted of West Germany's Ina Bauer, followed by Austria's Hanna Walter and Czechoslovakia's Jindřiška Kramperová and Jana Dočekalová. When the high and low marks were thrown out and the marks tallied, it was Hanna Eigel who came out on top and Ingrid Wendl who came in second, based on Eigel's fifth to Wendl's sixth in the free skate. Hanna Walter took the bronze ahead of Peach and Batchelor. Ina Bauer, fifteenth in figures, was only able to move up to tenth. Kramperová was eighth and Dočekalová thirteenth.

Interestingly, the women's event in Vienna marked the first and only time to date that a trio of Austrian women swept the podium at the European Championships. Three Austrian men had swept the European podium back in 1922. The only other previous medal sweep by one country in the women's event at Europeans was back in 1939, when the British women took the honours. In the years that followed, Bauer's result in Vienna - which confused spectators and Eurovision viewers - was used as a "prime example why the judging system had to be changed" to devalue figures.


An interesting footnote regarding these Championship was the ISU's decision to transport a large group of European skaters, judges and the ISU president on the same flight after a post-Championship exhibition in Switzerland to the World Championships in Colorado Springs. In light of the Sabena Crash just four years later, seeing the passenger manifest is just plain spooky!

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 1942 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Al Richards and Edith Whetstone, Walter Noffke and Doris Schubach, Jane Vaughn Sullivan, Walter Sahlin, Bobby Specht, Dorothy Goos, Dick More and Mabel MacPherson at the 1942 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, endorsing the internment of Japanese Americans. Only five days prior, the British Air Industry issued a directive ordering RAF bombers to bomb German cities and their civilian inhabitants. It had only been just over two months since the attack on Pearl Harbor, which forced the United States to enter World War II and though the effects of the War impacted every skater who participated, on the opening day of the 1942 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Chicago, Illinois, everyone chose to put their fears on the back burner for three days and worry only about skating.

Racist clipping promoting the event from the February 20, 1942 issue of "The Decaturian"

Considering the safety of skaters and officials, the USFSA had decided to move the event, initially slated for the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club in California, inland to Chicago. Despite this, many parents refused to allow their children to travel west due to wartime conditions. Large gatherings such as sporting events were seen as potential targets for bombing, and the organizers weren't taking any risks. To contribute to the War effort, clubs were organizing blood drives and sending in old medals and trophies to be melted down.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Event chairman Harry E. Radix and members of The Chicago Figure Skating Club, which had hosted the Midwestern Championships only five weeks prior, worked around the clock to ensure the competition ran smoothly. Committees organized everything from decorations and schedules to serving the judges hot coffee.


The event's program, recalled Lynn Copley-Graves in her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", featured "a message from the Division of Physical Fitness of the Office of Civilian Defense reminding spectators that skating furnishes the opportunity for physical conditioning and recreation at their best, 'so Skate and Get Fit to Win' for the tremendous war task which lies before us.'"


The competition was judged using a new Modified Open System, with marks on a scale from zero to 10.0. As a band was unable to be arranged, skaters were accompanied by records or Al Melgard's massive unit organ. Entries dropped from one hundred in 1941 to eighty six. This was due to several reasons - the fact Californians opted not to travel east, women engaging in War work and men starting to enlist. In contrast, ticket sales skyrocketed. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales was donated to the Margaret Etter Crèche Day Nursery and the crowd of three thousand, seven hundred was a new record at the U.S. Championships. Many spectators likely just wanted something to cheer about those gloomy times. What happened on the ice that February in Chicago, you ask? Let's find out!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

In a four-one split, the judges award first place in the novice men's event to Dick More of Buffalo. Oakland, California's Marcus Nelson took the silver; St. Paul, Minnesota's Jimmy Lawrence the bronze. More was a seventeen year old who had just been accepted to Harvard. The previous year, he had won the Eastern junior men's title on his first try. He had only been skating for four years. Like More, eighteen year old Mabel MacPherson took up skating 'late', at the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. On the strength of her fine school figures, she unanimously won the novice women's title, besting thirteen other young women. Margaret Field, who would go on to star in the Ice Cycles with Jimmy Lawrence, was fourth.

Nineteen year old Wally Sahlin of Minneapolis had won the U.S. novice men's title the year prior in Cleveland. In Chicago, he dazzled with an athletic free skate that included a double loop and double Salchow. He was the only junior or novice man to succeed in landing both jumps. His technical prowess allowed him to move up from his dismal showing in figures and claim the junior men's title and Irving Brokaw Trophy. Three judges had him first, while silver and bronze medallists Eddie LeMaire and Robert Premer both received support from one judge each. Arthur Preusch Jr., the winner of the figures, placed fourth.

Arthur Preusch Jr. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Two nine-year olds - the youngest competitors of the U.S. Championships - succeeded in winning medals in Chicago. Donna Jeanne Pospisil and Karol Kennedy took the silver and bronze in junior pairs. Pospisil skated with Andrée and Pierre Brunet's eleven year old son Jean-Pierre, while Karol skated with her fourteen year old brother Peter.


Dorothy Goos made quite the impression on the Chicago crowd, perhaps even moreso than any of the senior champions. The thirteen year old was the daughter of an apartment building superintendent from the Bronx and was coached by Willy Böckl in New York City in the winters and Gustave Lussi in Lake Placid in the summers. She had been competing for several years already and had just completed her sweep of the Eastern novice, junior and senior titles in successive years. Goos won both the junior women's and pairs events, skating in the latter with Eddie LeMaire, the son of two famous show skaters. Her winning free skate in the junior women's event earned her the highest marks in any class in Chicago - a pair of 9.8's. She tackled risky elements few of the senior women dared to attempt - a double flip, double loop, double Salchow and flying sit spin.

THE PAIRS, FOURS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS

None of the medal-winning pairs from the 1941 U.S. Championships returned. Donna Atwood and Eugene Turner had turned professional, Jack Might had formed a new partnership with Margaret Field and Bobby Specht was focusing on singles. A situation like this had never happened previously in senior pairs at Nationals, making the emergence of a delightful pair like Doris Schubach and Walter Noffke of Holyoke, Massachusetts an even more pleasant surprise. They were unanimous winners over Janette Ahrens and Robert Uppgren and Margaret Field and Jack Might. Off the ice, Walter worked at the Holyoke Savings Bank and enjoyed swimming and tennis. Doris was fond of golf.

Skating unopposed, the St. Paul Four of Lyman Wakefield Jr., Robert Uppgren, Mary Louise Premer and Janette Ahrens reclaimed the title they first won in 1940. Wakefield, the 'leader' of the four, was shortly after called to active duty in the Navy. Uppgren was a freshman at Macalaster College in St. Paul. Ahrens, who was Uppgren's partner, was a sophomore in High School. Premer, who of course went on to a decorated international judging career, was then studying medical technology at the University Of Minnesota.

Edith Whetstone and Al Richards of the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society were victorious in the dance event, pulling off the only upset of the entire competition. Coached by Nancy Follett, they defeated Sandy Macdonald and Harold Hartshorne, who had won the title the previous three years. Hartshorne had actually won five in a row. His partner in 1937 and 1938 was Nettie Prantell. Whetstone and Richards had only been skating together for two years and shortly after their victory, Richards was ordered to active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Much had changed in the life of the defending U.S. Champion in women's figure skating in the year since Jane Vaugn won her first title in 1941. She was now Jane Vaughn Sullivan, the wife of a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, living at West Point where her husband was an instructor. Her training time had been so reduced since she'd got married that Benjamin T. Wright remarked that she was "living proof that one can be a champion with what might be called 'week-end skating'." She told an Associated Press reporter, "West Point cadets have an excellent ice hockey rink. I was able to use it regularly and because I could continue my practice, I decided to defend my title in Chicago rather than give up the sport." She received some last minute instruction from coach Gustave Lussi while visiting her parents prior to the competition.


In the school figures, New York's Phebe Tucker bested Gretchen Van Zandt Merrill, Ramona Allen and Jane Vaughn Sullivan, but the results were so incredibly close that any one of the four could have easily won the title had they won the free skate. First to skate in the free, Vaughn Sullivan skated elegantly to earn the highest marks in free skating and first place ordinals overall from four of the five judges. Merrill took the silver; Tucker the bronze.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION 

Eugene Turner was beginning his professional career and Robin Lee and Ollie Haupt Jr. - familiar faces from the not-so-distant past of U.S. men's skating - had already joined the military. Twenty year old Bobby Specht, who hailed from Wisconsin but trained in Chicago, surprised many by taking the lead, winning eight of the eleven senior men's figures. He received a remarkably high score of 9.2 from one judge for the bracket-change-bracket.


Specht's strength was free skating, so his win in the first phase of the competition made his bid to be U.S. Champion a tad easier. Though his free skating program wasn't as difficult as his competitors - William Grimditch and Arthur Vaughn Jr. - the judges preferred his style and gave him a unanimous and well-deserved victory. Less than a year later, while appearing with the Ice Capades, Specht was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

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 1990 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


From February 6 to 11, 1990, Canada's best amateur figure skaters converged on the Walden and Sudbury Arenas in Sudbury, Ontario for what would prove to be one of the most fascinating Canadian Figure Skating Championships in some years.

Photo courtesy Vintage Vigo

Two hundred and forty six skaters skaters competed in Sudbury, including a record sixty five from the province of Quebec. The competition was sponsored by the Royal Bank and media coverage was more than ample. Debbi Wilkes, Johnny Esaw and Dan Matheson commentated for CTV, newspapers from Vancouver to Halifax covered the action on their sports pages and even TSN, a fledgling network who didn't know a Lutz from a layback spin, recapped the competition as best as they could on their evening sports recap programs.

Otto Jelinek and Johnny Esaw at a fundraiser for the CFSA. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

The event marked the last time that school figures were included in the singles competitions at the Canadian Championships and with the World Championships being held shortly thereafter in Halifax, the pressure was considerable on all of the athletes vying for opportunities to compete on the World stage in their home country. Throw a little Bailey's into your Tim Horton's double double and join me for a look back on how things played out in the Nickel Capital of Canada in 1990!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Hometown favourite Jennifer Prowse defeated Saskatoon's Jay Chatterson and Laval's Sherry Ball to take top honours in the novice women's event. In novice dance, Masha Soucy and Louis-Philippe Poirier of St. Léonard and Boucherville took the gold, outskating Cynthia Harper and Dean Phillips of the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club and a very young Victor Kraatz, then skating with Taryn O'Neill.

Skaters from the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club grabbed the top two spots in the novice men's event. The silver went to Ravi Walia and the gold to Matthew Knight, who landed two triple toe-loops in his crowd-pleasing free skate set to Charleston music from the roaring twenties. Seventeen year old bronze medallist Andrew Smith trained in Oakville, Ontario and had placed fourth in the novice event at Nationals in 1989.

Photo courtesy "Georgetown Herald" Archives

Without a doubt, the most interesting novice event in 1990 was the pairs competition! Twelve year old Penny Papaioannou of the Tillsonburg Figure Skating Club and her nineteen year old partner Raoul LeBlanc of Memramcook, New Brunswick were a study in contrasts. On top of the fact they had a seven year old age gap and lived in different provinces, Penny was four foot nine and Raoul five foot eight. The crowds went gaga over the young team and predicted they were going places. They won the gold medal, ahead of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Andrew Bertleff and Jamie Salé and Jason Turner. Yes, you read that correctly. Once upon a time, Shae-Lynn Bourne did beat Jamie Salé at the Canadian Championships in pairs skating, not ice dance. However, the big talk of the novice pairs event was a serious accident that occurred in one of the novice pairs practices. Two Ontario teams, Krista Coady and Allan Proos and Janice Morgan and Johnathan Allen, collided. Though Morgan and Allen were relatively uninjured, both Proos and Coady struck their heads on the ice. Coady was examined and released, but Proos remained in the ICU of the Sudbury General Hospital with a serious concussion and a bad gash on his head. A CAT scan revealed internal bleeding. After receiving stitches, Proos remained in the hospital for over the week and missed the competition.

To the delight of the crowd, Jacquie Taylor of the Sudbury Figure Skating Club took home the gold medal in the junior women's competition, ahead of Mary Angela Larmer-Wilson and Sherry Ball's sister Stacey. Seventeen year old Helena Horsky of the Glencoe Club had the lead after figures but ultimately failed to translate her early victory into a medal.

Skating to music from the soundtracks of "Perry Mason" and "The Untouchables", Isabelle Laboissiere and Mitchell Gould of Boucherville edged a young Marie-France Dubreuil and Bruno Yvars of Boucherville and Brigette Richer and Michel Brunet of the Minto Skating Club for the junior ice dance title. Taking an early lead in the school figures and only improving upon in it with a free skate that featured five clean triple jumps, Sébastien Britten took home the gold medal in the junior men's event ahead of Ian Connolly and Jean-François Hébert. It was the first time in history that a trio of skaters from Quebec swept the junior men's podium at the Canadian Championships.

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

A young Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet received marks as high as 5.5 in winning the free skate and gold medal in the junior pairs competition ahead of Kristy Sargeant and Colin Epp and Allison Gaylor and John Robinson. Annik Douaire and Martin Gaudreault, second after the original program, dropped off the podium with a disappointing free skate. In the February 10, 1990 issue of "The Montreal Gazette", Marie-Claude and Luc's coach Josee Picard praised the young team's effort thusly: "The best part of their skating is the technical, athletic side. We're working now on style, making them look good. Today, they did both. Their technique was good and the style was there, too."

THE PAIRS AND FOURS COMPETITIONS

Only two teams vied for the fours competition. The winners, coached by Kerry Leitch, were Christine Hough, Cindy Landry, Doug Ladret and Lyndon Johnston. The silver medal went to Patricia MacNeil, Michelle Menzies, Cory Watson and Kevin Wheeler. MacNeil, who hailed from Glace Bay, was the only skater from Nova Scotia to claim a medal at the 1990 Canadians.

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

In contrast, eight pairs battled it out in the senior pairs competition. Defending World Silver Medallists Cindy Landry and Lyndon Johnston won the original program in a five-two split with nineteen year old Isabelle Brasseur and twenty six year old Lloyd Eisler. In their "Darktown Strutters Ball" program, Brasseur and Eisler executed more difficult side-by-side jumps than Landry and Johnston - double Axels in fact - and Eisler expressed frustration that they were ranked below the more decorated leaders."When we get to Halifax and we do double Axels and everybody else does double Lutzes, we'll see where we are," a huffy Eisler announced in an interview in the February 8, 1990 issue of "The Edmonton Journal". From huffy to Tuffy, Christine Hough and her partner Doug Ladret sat in third after the pairs original program, also turning in a clean free skate. The competition was shaping up to be a potential three way race.


That's not exactly how it played out. Hough fell once; Brasseur twice. Five judges placed Brasseur and Eisler third; the other four placed them fourth. In an interview in the Friday, February 9, 1990 issue of "The Globe And Mail", Brasseur didn't mince words: "I skated like crap."

Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

With a clean performance, 5.8's across the board for technical merit and three 5.9's and four 5.8's for artistic impression, Cindy Landry celebrated her eighteenth birthday with a Canadian title win with partner Lyndon Johnston. It would prove to be the first and only Canadian title either Landry or Johnston would ever win. Interviewed while waiting to receive his medal for the February 9, 1990 issue of "The Globe And Mail", Johnston said, "I don't think it has sunk in yet. The old saying, 'Good things come true for those who wait,' is true. I've waited a long time and worked hard for it. It couldn't feel better right now." It was his ninth try with his sixth partner. Because of Landry and Johnston's success at the previous year's World Championships, the top three teams were all sent to Halifax, where Eisler (who had made only made the World team by one ordinal and one point) learned his prediction about the side-by-side double Axels in the short program was absolutely correct.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Jo-Anne Borlase and Martin Smith

The retirements of Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall in 1988 and the Garossino's in 1989 left the dance field wide open. The nine teams competing in Sudbury were pulling out all of the stops to establish themselves as the next 'it' team. Nineteen year old Jacqueline Petr and twenty year old Mark Janoschak took the unorthodox step of working with Ellen Burka and Toller Cranston on their free dance. Twenty three year old Jo-Anne Borlase and twenty one year old Martin Smith worked with no less a who's who than Bernard Ford, Marijane Stong, Rob McCall, Sandra Bezic, Tatiana Tarasova and Vanessa Harwood. Twenty five year old Michelle McDonald and twenty six year old Mark Mitchell tinkered with their lightning fast footwork constantly to try to gain an edge.

After the compulsory dances, Borlase and Smith lead perennial 'bridesmaids' Penny Mann and Richard Perkins, 'double M's' McDonald and Mitchell and Petr and Janoschak. McDonald and Mitchell won the OSP and moved up to second overall behind Borlase and Smith with marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.6 for technical merit and 5.5 to 5.8 for artistic impression for their Samba OSP. Mann and Perkins dropped to third; Petr and Janoschak remained fourth. Throwing a little shade towards the competition, Sackville, New Brunswick's Mark Mitchell announced in "The Montreal Gazette" on February 10, 1990: "Ninety percent of ice dancers interpret the samba as a Caribbean dance, but it's not. It's Brazilian; sultry."


Ultimately, Borlase and Smith won the free dance and gold medal with their much-praised program to "Bacchanale" from "Samson and Delilah". Skating to music from "The Last Emperor", Petr and Janoschak were second in the free dance and third overall behind McDonald and Mitchell. Mann and Perkins dropped to fourth, ahead of Pamela Watson and Michael Farrington and Jennifer Nocito and Brad Hopkins.


"We're disappointed with the second-place finish but not with our performance. We made changes in the program this season with some different choreography and we feel we're moving well with it," said Mark Mitchell. Martin Smith said, "We're very excited about going to our first World Championship because that's the big goal in our sport. But we can't start to think about where we might fit in the standings because curiosity can take away from the most important thing for us - skating as well as we can." Borlase added, "We don't so much compete with others as with ourselves to skate well and improve. From now to the Worlds, we'll be stepping up our training schedule, working as hard as we can to be as good as we can in Halifax."



Although they placed eighth, nineteen year old Allison McLean and twenty year old Konrad Schaub turned in one of the most talked about free dances of the event. Coached by Lynn Koper at the Ice Palace Figure Skating Club, they made their senior debut with an edgy, post-apocalyptic program set to music from "Back To The Future", "Antarctica" and "Golden Child". The judges didn't warm up to the survivalist theme or the fact they were skating in tattered and torn rags. By dishing out less than favourable marks to McLean and Schaub, the Canadian judges sent a clear message: what the Duchesnay's were doing and what the Canadian judges wanted to see were two different things altogether.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Lisa Sargeant

On top of coming into the Sudbury Nationals covered in bruises from repeated falls on triple loop and Axel attempts, Lisa Sargeant of The Royal Glenora Club had a bruised ego. At the Western Divisional Championships in Fort McMurray, she'd lost the figures to Shannon Allison and struggled in both her original program and free skate, placing third overall behind Tanya Bingert of Richmond, British Columbia and Margot Bion of Calgary's Glencoe Club. It was hardly the position the much-hyped 1989 Canadian Bronze Medallist wanted to be in. The story at the Eastern Divisionals in Woodbridge, Ontario had been quite different. Eighteen year old Karen Preston of Mississauga had rebounded to beat twenty year old figures leader Josée Chouinard and Leslie-Anne White of Toronto. It hadn't been an easy road for Preston, a grade thirteen student at the Erindale Secondary School who trained under Osborne Colson. She'd torn apart her left ankle in practice the previous September and the pressure of retaining a National title she'd won unexpectedly in 1989 was considerable. Charlene Wong, another heavy favourite, had a bye to Nationals. How things would play out in Sudbury was anyone's guess, really.

Karen Preston. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Margot Bion won the final senior women's figures, defeating Lisa Sargeant, Charlene Wong, Susan MacKay, Diane Takeuchi and Josée Chouinard. Karen Preston sat in a disappointing eighth. Asked about the significance of being the last woman to win the figures at the Canadian Championships in an interview in "The Calgary Herald" on February 8, 1990, Bion responded, "It was quite exciting, because it was the last time figures are going to be skated. I've always liked figures, so it's a nice thing to go out doing my best. On the last tracing of my rocker I thought 'last time'. It was kind of sad, actually." Discussing the impact of the demise of figures in a February 8, 1990 interview in "The Globe And Mail", Preston said, "Figures give a skater the chance to develop discipline. They develop balance. In a way, I'm sort of sad to see them go. I think there will be more injuries because free skating will be the only thing skaters will be doing and people will be spending more time on jumps."

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

Karen Preston's struggles continued in the original program, when she fell on her triple flip combination and touched a hand down on another jump attempt. When she placed sixth in that segment of the event and remained eighth overall, any chance of reclaiming her National title was over. In a four-three split, Chouinard defeated Sargeant and Diane Takeuchi of Thornhill in the short program and heading into the free skate, Sargeant sat in first overall, followed by Chouinard and Wong.


Lisa Sargeant, who was coached by Michael Jiranek and trained alongside Kurt Browning and Michael Slipchuk, planned an ambitious free skate, with a triple/triple combination, a triple loop and two triple Salchow's. Ultimately, she managed three triples and two double Axels in a gutsy effort to a Gershwin piano medley, her only mistake a missed double Salchow. Her marks ranged from 5.4 to 5.7 for both technical merit and artistic impression.


The rest of the field unravelled. Wong fell on one triple, overrotated another and popped a third into a single. Chouinard imploded, falling three times and leaving the ice in tears. Try as she might, Karen Preston wasn't able to move up to the podium. Sargeant took the gold, Wong the silver and Chouinard the bronze.


In an interview in the February 10, 1990 issue of "The Edmonton Journal", Lisa Sargeant said, "I've worked so hard for this. I've had a few confidence problems but I put it all together here. After the first few jumps I got the feeling everything would be fine. I wasn't as nervous as last year. I felt very strong and very positive." She credited her younger sister Kristy for helping instill her with the confidence she needed to achieve her Sudbury victory.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Kurt Browning. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Fourteen men competed in Sudbury for three 'golden tickets' to the 1990 World Championships in Halifax and the drama leading up to the competition was almost as exciting as the event itself. Langley, British Columbia's Norm Proft got a bye through Divisionals while nursing a blood infection in his foot. Twenty three year old Kurt Browning had peaked at the Western Divisionals in Fort McMurray, throwing in a clean quad late in his program after tripling his first attempt. Then he started breaking in new boots and blades. At the Royal Glenora Club, Michael Slipchuk landed his first quad in practice, witnessed by Kevin Cottam and Mark Schmitke. At the Eastern Divisionals in Woodbridge, Ontario, seventeen year old Elvis Stojko of Richmond trounced the competition with a daring free skating program chock full of triples. No one, including David Dore, knew quite what to expect. In an interview in the February 3, 1990 issue of "The Globe And Mail, Dore advised, "Nothing's automatic. I'd say there are six men chasing the three spots."

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

"This is a first for me. It's a real surprise," said twenty year old Jeffrey Partrick of Brandon, Manitoba when he defeated Browning, Matthew Hall, Slipchuk and Proft in the final senior men's school figures competition at the Canadian Championships. Interviewed in the February 9, 1990 issue of "The Calgary Herald", Browning said, "During the first loop, my balance went right back to the heel. If it had been on the second or third tracing, it wouldn't have mattered as much. But the first tracing is the one you follow for the rest of the figure. I left my good figures in the warmup. But we're here for the long run, not just for today." Although his coach expressed great regret at the abolition of figures, in an interview with TSN Browning intimated that he couldn't have been happier to see them go. He did, however, express his intent on continuing to practice them as a training tool.

Before a crowd of five thousand, six hundred, Norm Proft stole the show in the original program, skating cleanly to music from "Cabaret". He won this phase of the competition with marks of 5.4 to 5.6 for technical merit and 5.5 to 5.7 for artistic impression, ahead of Stojko, Slipchuk, Browning and Partrick. Browning, who struggled on both parts of his combination and singled the required double Axel, earned marks ranging from 4.6 to 5.3 for technical merit and four 5.8's and two 5.9's for artistic impression. He held on to the overall lead, but Proft's come from behind win only added to the suspense of the final. Interviewed in the February 10, 1990 issue of "The Toronto Star", a frustrated Browning admitted, "I'm just plain discouraged because I was having a good time after a really good week. But maybe it's a signal that competition never is easy, no matter if it's national, divisional or the Worlds. I didn't attack the combination hard enough, then for some reason I can't explain, I didn't do a double Axel, a warmup jump. I really wanted to skate well here and I haven't but there's still the long to rescue the week. It's the old numbers' game, that's all, that has me in first."


Without mincing words, the fact that Kurt Browning won the 1990 Canadian men's title was a gift... a controversial one at that. Stojko landed eight triples in his free skate, earned five 5.8's, a 5.9 and a 5.7 for technical merit and a standing ovation from the boisterous Sudbury crowd. Then, Kurt came out, fell on his opening quad attempt, executed a double Axel/half loop/double Salchow, triple Axel/double loop, triple Axel/double toe, botched a triple toe, stepped out of the first triple toe in a triple toe/triple toe combination and finished off with a single flip and a double Axel. It was hardly his best effort, one he later referred to as "an absolute horror show". The judges were generous, giving him a 5.5, two 5.7's and a 5.8 for technical merit and four 5.8's, two 5.7's and a 5.6 for artistic impression. In a five-two split, Browning retained his national title on the strength on his second mark. In a post-skate interview on television with Debbi Wilkes, Browning said, "I suppose the championship is important but I was really looking forward to using this as a really positive influence going into Halifax. I know we wanted to leave some room for improvement, but I didn't want to leave that much room... If anything's going to make me skate good in Halifax or make me hungry to train at home, it will be today."


Reflecting on the event in a 1991 feature on CTV during Skate Canada International, Stojko recalled, "1990 was an incredible year for me. Coming in second in skating [which was] the best I could at the time was an incredible moment but... the people at the rink were going crazy. That's something that will always stay in the back of my mind: that that was the first step in getting to the top." Slipchuk edged Matthew Hall for the bronze despite falling on a triple Axel less than thirty seconds into his program. In an interview in the February 11, 1990 edition of "The Edmonton Journal", he mused, "It's kind of funny when you say you did seven triples (two Salchows, two toe- loops, a Lutz, flip and a loop) and came third. The long was twice as good as I did last year at Canadians, but it was a harder event. It was a tough last flight to be in. I came ready to skate and I wasn't going to leave until I was on that World team."

Kurt Browning and Lisa Sargeant's wins marked the first time since 1966 in Peterborough - when Ellen Burka coached champions Donald Knight and Petra Burka - that one coach's students won both the senior men's and women's singles at the Canadian Championships.

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 Mail Bag Overfloweth


Happy New Year! After a brief and much needed post-holiday break, Skate Guard is 'back in business' for its seventh year. In 2020, I'll once again be digging deep in the archives and piecing together puzzle pieces to share untold stories from figure skating's colourful past. Before we start talking Walleys and winners, it's high time that I unpacked the mail bag, answered some of your questions and shared some of the interesting e-mails and social media messages that have come my way over the last six months. I'm going to try to do this quarterly from now on so things don't pile up. As always, if you have a question you'd like me to tackle or feedback over a blog please reach out via e-mail.

READER QUESTIONS



Q: From Jenny (via Facebook): "I have a homework assignment for you... Roy Blakey got this and doesn't know anything about it. I said, I know just the guy. Can you figure this out? Thanks!"

A: This one was new to me too, but I think I was able to figure it out. Sanger's Royal Circus was a Victorian era British travelling circus and menagerie run by George Sanger and (for a time) his older brother John. His shows would have been touring during the 'Glaciarium' era of early artificial ice rinks in England, when John Gamgee and others concocted 'ice' out of all manner of noxious substances.


I was able to find an advertisement for this very "Carnival On the Ice", no doubt a temporary affair designed to be a novelty during the holiday season in the December 12, 1885 issue of the "Cheltenham Looker-On". As a sad aside, Sanger was murdered by one of his former employees in 1911, just six years after he retired. I suspect that this coloured lithograph is not only old, but quite rare.

Q: From Linda (via Facebook): "Are there any websites where we can view some of the earlier figure skating movies like Sonja Henie? or Barbara Ann Scott?"

A: There are some amazing people who are going above and beyond in terms of digitizing vintage figure skating videos. First and foremost, Frazer Ormondroyd has uploaded all kinds of fascinating footage on his Floskate YouTube channel. If you just search Sonja Henie and Barbara Ann Scott on the British Pathé and BBC Movietone YouTube channels, you'll come up with all kinds of interesting stuff as well. Quite a few of Sonja Henie's films are also on there.

 

The National Film Board of Canada has a gorgeous film of Barbara Ann Scott called "An Introduction To The Art Of Figure Skating" that may want to check out as well.

DICK BUTTON, PAIRS SKATER

Gretchen Merrill, Nancy Lemmon, Governor Tom Dewey, Eileen Seigh, Dick Button and Barbara Jones in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

From Dick Button (via Facebook): "On the far right is Barbara Jones, national novice champion and my pair partner in the Eastern Pair Championship in Baltimore where we skated my single program as a pair substituting a Lutz lift for a Lutz. Things were simpler then."

HAWAIIAN SKATING HISTORY

Photo courtesy Jim Hurst

From Jim (via e-mail): "Loved the piece on skating in Hawaii! I performed with Ice Capades West Co for 6 years in the 1970's and Honolulu was our last city of the tour! We all LOVED Hawaii. We kept our own tank equipment there! We played the HIC building featured in your piece, now I think it is called Blaisdell Arena. Before and after the show and at intermission we'd see people reaching over the dash to actually FEEL the ice; they had never seen such a big ice cube, LOL. Attached is a photo from back stage....best back stage area ever.  I am the taller guy. Back stage Honolulu was legendary for us Ice Capades skaters! West Co would play Vancouver in Jan and then go to Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, ending up in Halifax and Moncton! We couldn't wait to get to warm weather after our long winter."

MINERVA BURKE

Jim Sladky, Minerva Burke and Judy Schwomeyer in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

From Kathie (via Facebook): "Tough judge... 'Burke's Law'!"

From Gerry (via Facebook): "Minerva Burke from Baltimore. She was a National judge who was hard of hearing. There are many colorful stories surrounding her."

From Linda (via Facebook): "Min Burke, she judged many of my dance tests. Yes we wondered how she knew we were on time because her hearing was failing."

ROCKERS AND RISKS: THE TIM BROWN STORY

From Barbara (via Facebook): "He was Charlie Tickner’s coach for awhile in Berkeley and at Squaw. He was a creative choreographer."

From Laurie (via Facebook): "Tim was always an enigma... I never saw that clean cut view, rather the man with the flowing beard and amazing calm kindness."

From David (via Facebook): " I had seen Balanchine's fabulous pas de deux 'Tarantella' to music by Gottschalk on television and fell in love with the music, Grande Tarantelle, a tour de force for piano and orchestra. I headed to the record store to find a recording and I was successful. I took it to Iceland to play on the freestyle. Knowing Tim was an accomplished pianist I asked him if he was familiar with it. He said yes and asked how I discovered it. A few weeks later one of his students was using the music for her competitive program."

From Moira (via email): "Great article on Tim Brown! In 1989 I met Tim and Frank Nowosad (a close friend of mine) in Sun Valley during the summer. Frank wanted Tim to teach Gary Beacom (Co Artistic Director of the Sun Valley ice show at the time) the antique figures. It was a fascinating week!"

From Ellen (via email): "You made my day with your post on Tim Brown. I was a recreational skater in Philly and then went out to Denver with a friend for summer skating before starting college. I remember Tim when he was in Baltimore. He spent that summer of 1952 in Denver being coached by Eugene Turner who had spent the previous winter at the Philadelphia SC&HS in Ardmore, my home town. The delightful and classy Tenley Albright was there also. Tim was a very earnest young man and enjoyed a friendship that summer with Charles Snelling whom he teased re the Canadian eh!
Even then he would seem to forget his rehearsed program when performing in the summer show and just fill in. I so wanted him to win a medal in Squaw Valley and was crying in front of the TV whenever he faltered. When they announced the Belgian plane crash, the first thing I did was look for his name and was so happy to not find it. Obviously I was unaware of the team's names then.
Over the years since the internet, I have typed in Tim's name and did finally read of his death. The video you shared is so delightful to watch for the beautiful line and edge changes. Now we see ugly spins, multitudes of high rotation jumps, footwork with flailing arms and lots of stroking as the norm with some notable exceptions Then there's the music you wish would stop. The result is empty sections in the arenas where once they were packed. While Richard Dwyer still glides gracefully, young skaters develop serious injuries that derail their careers. Thank you so much for your work of sharing the history of the figure skating world with those of us who relish it."

From Wanda (via Facebook): "I took from Tim in about 1975 in Berkeley - his long hair and beard period. I had no idea he was an MD!! He lived a couple blocks from Berkeley Iceland and if he forgot my 7 AM lesson, I’d walk to his house and find him playing the piano..."

SILVER EDGE FIGURE SKATING CLUB MEMORIES


Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

From Alice (via e-mail): "1972 Silver Edge FSC show had Linda Leaver as one of the choreographers and her student Brian Boitano performed in his first ice show as a Sesame Street kid, with Oscar, kneeling far left.

Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

Dorothy Hamill also skated in the club's 1972 show.  My Dad, Roger Mansell, negotiated with her Father, for her to come out to California for the show. The club parents bought her an air ticket, found her a homestay with a club member, arranged for her to be fitted for a brand new pair of Harlick skating boots, and said her coming west would allow every West Coast judge to see her skate  - and they almost all came.  The club members loved rooting for her as "one of our own" in her later competitions.

As best I know, Silver Edge did not have another ice show during its existence. Silver Edge FSC was active between from the mid-1960's to the mid 1980's when the Sunnyvale Ice Palace rink closed and the club merged with the Peninsula Skating Club.

Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

While researching the history of the old Sunnyvale Ice Palace rink this past year, I stumbled on a write-up about a Los Altos, California Rotary talk by Linda Leaver and a 1988 Chicago Tribune item about her.  (She was also my first skating coach.)  I had no idea she had so many close friends killed on the 1961 Sabena airliner crash. Her coach Linda Hadley and many of her fellow Seattle/Spokane skaters were killed.  I suspect the 1972 Slver Edge show program of her is from her competitive days.  I recall she skated a solo number called "Meditations" during a segment celebrating the NASA Apollo Moon landings with skater/astronauts and skater/"Moon Creepers" at the 1971 club show.  That was the first ice show Brian Boitano ever saw I learned later. We had a tradition at the club that every club member child who wanted to be in the show could be, even if his or her hand needed to be held.  And, every new club member could get a short free group lesson on club ice time."

SONJA HENIE MONUMENT



From Mae (via snail mail): "I found this picture one day and thought you may like to have it. This statue is in Oslo. I took it about 15 years ago."

HERBERT S. EVANS


From Zoie (via Facebook): I just read your article on Herbert S. Evans. I have a pair of Barney and Berry silver plated skates with his name on it. I am sure my grandfather knew that he was a skating champion but I had no idea. I think these may have been his skates. What a great article.

SEARCHING FOR CORINNE ALTMANN

From Angela (via e-mail): "I wonder if you might be able to help me? Corinne Altmann was a French figure skater born in Paris, around the same time as Alain Calmat and she appeared in photographs and competitions around the same time as Alain in the 1950’s. She was/is my husband’s cousin and I would love to know what happened to her after 1959. Do you have any knowledge? I would be very grateful if you have any information or advice as to where I can search for her."


Corinne represented France at the 1958 World Championships and 1959 European Championships. Anyone with any information on her story can reach out and I'll pass on the information to Angela.

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