#Unearthed: Life In The Big Show


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. Today's fascinating gem, entitled "Life In The Big Show", is an article penned by Toller Cranston discussing the pros and cons of turning professional and joining a touring ice show. It originally appeared in "Canadian Skater" magazine in 1980.

"LIFE IN THE BIG SHOW" (TOLLER CRANSTON)

My motive in writing this article is to try to help other skaters who may be contemplating the big jump from the amateur to the professional world. I spent three seasons performing professionally in three of the four corners of the world, and during this time learned a lot about life in the big show.

When I first joined Holiday on Ice, I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. In retrospect, this period was a time of adjustment and change. As fate would have it, one of my "cold spots" followed a barrel jumper and my final number preceded a chimp act. I later interpreted this misfortune as divine nemesis for all the nasty things I had said about the "big shows".

One thing I learned very early on though, was that it is not where or with whom you skate, but how you skate. In almost every world, quality surfaces: the professional ice show is no different.

Another important lesson I learned that helped change my opinion about the ice show was that a skater's talent doesn't naturally deteriorate the moment he or she joins the show. Rather, it is all in an individual's approach.

Some famous skaters have gone completely downhill after joining a show - but on examination it becomes clear that their training habits have also deteriorated. They no longer train with the same spirit and integrity they did as an amateur.

The fact is that if a skater is looking forward to a long-term career with a show, he or she must be prepared to learn a new kind of training and routine. One crucial element of this is recognizing one's own dispensibility. It may seem dehumanizing and even unfair, but the truth is, that anyone can be replaced at the drop of a hat. One of the key rules, then, is not to complain needlessly. Crying wolf too often can ruin one's career and reputation. Complainers seldom last long. They're the first people to be axed when a promising young amateur comes on the scene.

Another adjustment the new professional must make is to the increase in the frequency of performances. The very idea of skating three shows on Saturday and three more on Sunday presents an enormous psychological obstacle. Sometimes on the weekend I would find myself off in a dream - not knowing who I was, where I was, or what day it was. Monday would inevitably come, but not without many depressing hours. Hours that were often lonely and emotionally barren.

 Toller Cranston performing in 1976. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Many professional skaters are lack-luster people who fade out of the show as easily and inconspicously as they fade in. This happens all too regularly. Life in the big show is damn hard - long hours, extreme conditions that are either insufferably hot or unbearably cold, ice surfaces that are hardly of Olympic standards.

Many skaters experience a kind of culture shock when they join the ice show. I remember a young skater from the prairies who flew to Paris to join a show. Not only did she not speak French, but she had no hotel reservations or French francs. She arrived after a thirty-two hour trip and was expected to perform that night. Stories like this are retold again and again. The skaters who announce to their friends that they are off to tour Europe in a glamorous ice show often never recover from the initial shock and return home within a week, dazed and disillusioned. There are others, though, who do stay. These troupers often live lives that are in rich in experience and emotion. Because for all its negative aspects, the big show provides skaters with the opportunity unheard of in most professions.

There are some skaters I know and adore with the ice show. Marie North of Vancouver, for example, used the show to experience the world in a way few others have. Between each show, she read about the cities she was going to visit. There was little she ever missed and she left a million friends on every continent.

Gladys Barrios of Venezuela who has been Holiday on Ice for ten years is another great personality. Fluent in five languages and perhaps the best travelled person I have met, she is a credit to her profession.

Generally, the big shows are against the star system - this philosophy has a legitimate basis. Too often skaters have had entire shows built around them but for personal reasons (marriage, sickness, injury, weight, personal problems) they leave. Performers like Richard Dwyer (Ice Follies) and Janet Lynn are the exceptions. And, of course, there is Sonja Henie - the ultimate professional. A woman who loved being a star and who had the money to live the life to its fullest. Without question, she was  undoubtedly the richest professional skater of all time.

But the ice show is not the place where fortunes are made. The salaries of principal skaters are generally a well-kept secret, but, those in the thousand dollar a week category are in the minority. Many principals who are the 'stars' of the show make little more than five or six hundred a week. Even newly-crowned World or Olympic champions have little chance of receiving those few high salaries offered by the shows. Granted, these titles weild a certain amount of clout at the bargaining table, but if a skater is unknown or not considered good 'box-office material' the salary offered may be a fraction of what the skater expected. If money is your main concern for joining an ice show - you're in the wrong business.

Toller Cranston meeting SCTV's Catherine O'Hara, now the delightful Moira Rose on "Schitt's Creek". Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

So why join? Why put up with the long hours, the loneliness, the low pay and the hard work? For me, its the love of skating, the chance to travel and meet different and interesting people from all over the world. It's a unique opportunity to experience a quality of life that is difficult to obtain in other fields.

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.

Last Rites In Lower Lusatia


You may never have heard of the Sorbians. The Sorbians (or Wends as those living in nearby Germanic settlements often referred to them) were people of Western Slavic origins who settled primarily in Lower Lusatia, Prussia. As territorial boundaries slowly grew narrower and narrower during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they declined in numbers and became largely assimilated. By the late nineteenth century, there were only around forty thousand Sorbians left. Their language was quickly dying out but they fiercely clung to their medieval traditions. Preferring (or being forced) to live in isolated forest dwellings away from settlements isolated them largely from the general populous but they fiercely clung to their unique traditions and strong religious ideals.


For the Sorbians, skating was an important means of transportation. "The Seventy-Fourth Report Of The British And Foreign Bible Society" published in 1878 noted, "The River Spree - Berlin's river - and one of its tributaries, divide into about 300 arms, cutting up the flat country and intersecting it with a network of narrow, shallow, sluggish streams. The soil rises in summer about a foot above the level of the water; in winter it is flooded and generally covered with ice. The country is called the Spree Forest, for a part of it is covered with woods. It has no roads, often no footpaths, and but a few bridges. All communication is by punts in summer, by skates and sledges in winter. The [Sorbian] people go in punts or on skates to school, church and market, or if on foot they wade when necessary through the streams... On a Sunday from 1,500 to 2,000 may be seen in church, who have punted or skated, or walked or waded, from the many points of a parish almost as large as that covered by the houses of Berlin."


Although the Sorbians relied heavily on skating to get from point A to point B during long, harsh winters, their unique contribution to skating history was their funerary tradition... on ice. Volume 124 of "The Living Age" noted, "Some curious customs, we learned, are still extant in the Spreewald villages when the head of a family dies. For instance, if the deceased should have chanced to be a bee-keeper one of the family will go to the hive, and striking the comb, will exclaim, 'Bees, arise, your master is dead!' On the morning of the funeral, too, the men proceed to the cattle-sheds, and after causing the animals to get upon their legs, and placing cheese for them, will solemnly announce to them that the body is about to be taken away." Sorbian men would wear black and women donned a traditional Sorbian funerary costume and all put on their skates for a ritualistic final 'goodbye skate'. The March 1908 edition of "Popular Mechanics" magazine noted, "As in Holland, the thoroughfares are waterways. In the winter time, when these are frozen over, funeral processions pass along the ice on skates. The coffin is carried on a sledge, drawn by six mourners on skates. The immediate relatives of the dead, men and women alike, skate along behind the coffin, surrounded by their friends. The women carry a Bible in one hand and wear the ancient national costume."


As the Sorbians were a highly religious but isolated people, their funerary procession on ice was as much out of necessity as it was ritualistic. They needed to go that distance over the icy terrain to find a priest. It might seem odd to us today to think of a funeral procession on skates but to the ice-loving Sorbians, they were giving their loved ones one final skate. It's kind of beautiful, isn't it?

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

A Jumble Of Judging Tales

Tom Engelhardt editorial cartoon from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 18, 1994. Photo courtesy The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Cartoon Collection, The State Historical Society of Missouri Art Collections. Used with permission.

"If I were asked for statistics I think I could say that out of ten judges, four are incompetent, three are 'consciously' dishonest, and three are good judges." - Jacqueline du Bief

From the all Norwegian panel that handed Sonja Henie her first World title to the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal, figure skating history is peppered with stories of judges run amuck. While the majority of judges are honest, extremely dedicated volunteers, there's no denying that there have been many bad apples in the bunch over the years. Hell, in her autobiography "Thin Ice", World Champion Jacqueline du Bief even claimed she overheard one judge remark, "I would willingly give her two-tenths for a kiss." Wow! From the controversial to the charming, today we'll take a look back at 6.0 lesser known anecdotes about judges from the annals of figure skating history.

BREAKING A TIE

As World War II raged overseas in 1941, the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society hosted the North American Figure Skating Championships for the very first time. Mary Rose Thacker, Eleanor O'Meara and Norah McCarthy made history with the first clean sweep of the women's podium since the event's inception.

Mary Rose Thacker, Eleanor O'Meara and Ralph McCreath. Photos courtesy "Maclean's" magazine.

It was a great moment that was eclipsed by a lot of hullabaloo in the men's event surrounding the problematic nature of nationalistic judging in a competition between two countries. In his 1955 book "Dick Button On Skates", two time Olympic Gold Medallist Dick Button recalled the fiasco: "In the men's event, Ralph McCreath of Canada competed against Eugene Turner of the United States. Out of the six judges, three were American and three Canadian... The three Canadians voted first places to the Canadian McCreath and the three American judges voted first to the American Turner. Each judge placed the skater from the other country second, thereby giving both of the skaters a total of nine ordinals. Whenever a tie is reached in ordinals, the point totals are resorted to in deciding the winner. In this case, since the Canadian had a total of 1575.8 points to the American's total of 1575.0 points, he won; with an exact split on first and second places down the judging line, the decision was decided on the fact that the Canadian judges had marked the American slightly lower in second place than the Americans had marked the Canadian skater in second place!" Button's example outlined in black and white the kind of recurring controversial judging that ultimately led to the downfall of this competition some three decades later.

ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright remembered, "I attended that North Americans also, as I was assigned by Tee Blanchard, the editor of 'Skating', to interview and write a column called 'Meet the Champions' for the magazine. That was the first time that I met my future wife (then age seventeen), whom I married in 1953 after the War. I was a young (unpaid) volunteer on the magazine at that time and a freshman in college... It was probably the closet competition ever in that championship. McCreath won, Turner was second and third was the US Junior champion of that year, William Grimditch, who was a better free skater than both Ralph and Gene."

DEDICATION AT DAWN

Jacqueline du Bief finished a forgettable sixteenth at her first Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1948. She fondly recalled the dedication of the judges who ensured ice conditions were favourable for the school figures: "When we arrived at 7 a.m. it was still dark and I shall always remember the two nice judges who, their eyes heavy with sleep, tried to examine the state of the ice by the light of a candle. The wind blew softly and felt almost warm and the drip, drip of water falling from the roofs told only too clearly of the thaw."

JUDGES REVOLT

Disenfranchised by their lack of input on everything from assignments to training and a lack of representation on CFSA boards, by the late eighties Canadian figure skating judges were fed up. Several prominent competitive skaters turned judges, including Norris Bowden and Suzanne Morrow-Francis, were involved in the push to organize a separate Judges' Federation, very similar to the controversial Professional Skating Association of Canada/Figure Skating Coaches of Canada organization which sparred with the CFSA for decades. In Teresa Moore's book "Reflections On The CFSA: A History Of The Canadian Figure Skating Association 1887-1990", judge Jane Garden explained, "There was a real push for this in 1988. Most judges [had] been involved in skating programs longer than the elected officials and [could have provided] continuity and overall perspective." The situation escalated and David Dore was tasked with the job of writing a report that summarized the judge's concerns and suggested solutions. The CFSA board approved it, but the judging community hated it. Though the Judges' Federation died with Norris Bowden in 1991, resentments brewed for several years until the CFSA started making an effort to include judges on committees that made decisions that affected them.

IN A ZONE

In an interview in "Weekend Magazine", Canadian judge Hugh Glynn recalled the first time he ever judged World Champion Petra Burka thusly: "It was in 1965 [at Canadians] and as you know, in free skating the skater is judged both for technical merit and artistic impression. Well, I was so awe-struck after seeing her that I forgot all about the score. They stood in front of me, waiting, and finally they had to say, 'Your slip, please... may we please have your score?' I snapped out of it and stuck up 5.9 and 5.9 because it was the nearest thing to perfection that I had ever seen."

LOSING LUNCHES OVER LASSO LIFTS

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

Ralph McCreath, a Canadian Champion in singles, pairs, fours and ice dancing, judged the men's and pairs events at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. He told reporter Paul Rimstead that while judging the pairs event, "the tension, even among judges, was so great that two judges were sick to their stomachs before it was over."


ONE JUDGE PER COUNTRY

Herma Szabo's loss to Sonja Henie in the women's event at the 1927 World Figure Skating Championships in Oslo, Norway is often cited as the straw that broke the camel's back with regard to the ISU finally instituting its infamous "one judge per country" rule. However, in his 1948 book "The Complete Figure Skater", T.D. Richardson reminded us of an equally disturbing scenario that played out in the men's event in Davos that year: "They are lucky inasmuch as they will never be in the position that I was in the World’s Championship at Davos in 1927, wherein three Viennese skaters from rival clubs each claimed a judge or he would not skate, and the panel was made up with three Austrians, a German, a Frenchman, a Swiss and myself. Seven in all. It was skated in a blizzard. The late Jack {Ferguson] Page of Manchester was the only skater who did not fall in the figures and once or twice in the free. If ever a man won a Championship, Jack won that one, but on account of the arrangement of the panel he was placed fifth - first, second and third being Viennese - one of their judges placing him, as far as I can remember, last or last but one. I reported this matter to the NSA and kicked up an awful fuss in the public press, the direct result being the alteration of the rules of the ISU on the matter of judges and the establishment of 'one country, one judge'."

Men's competitors and judges at The 1927 World Championships in Davos

ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright noted, "At the... Congress (of 1927) at Luchon (France), a protest by Austria of the composition of the panel of judges for the World Ladies at Oslo and a demand for cancellation of the Championship, on which no action had been taken by the Council, was considered at length, but in the end the decision of the Council (to take no action) was confirmed, although it was recorded that the action of the Norwegian association was considered reprehensible and unsportsmanlike... With respect to the complaint of Great Britain, which was not a formal protest, on the apparent irregularities in the composition of the panel of judges for the World Men's at Davos, again no action was taken, no report (to the Congress) was made by the Council, but it 'indicated' that if it had found the action of the Swiss association (in nominating three Austrian judges) was also reprehensible and the Swiss association 'admitted' its error. In any event, the Council finally adopted rule changes providing for 'one country, one judge', with the actual composition of the panels of judges for ISU Championships to be controlled by the President."

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 1964 World Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze

Radios blared with news of the Vietnam War and Beatlemania. Cassius Clay had just been crowned the heavyweight champion of the world. Agatha Christie's Miss Poirot mystery "The Clocks" was on every nightstand and The Swinging Blue Jeans' cover of Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake" topped the music charts. 



The year was 1964 and from February 25 to March 1, a who's who of figure skating gathered at the twelve year old Große Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, West Germany. The 1964 World Figure Skating Championships proved to be one of the most exciting and well attended post-Olympic World Championships in history but it wasn't an event without drama.

Left: Mr. and Mrs. Willy Böckl in Dortmund. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. Right: German lobby card of Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler. Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze.

NATO refused the visas of East German skaters who hoped to compete on the other side of the Berlin Wall and then the team dramatically withdrew when West German announcers refused to say "Deutschland Ost", instead announcing the East German skating association Deutscher Eislauf-Verband. An angry mob was waiting for Suzanne Morrow-Francis when the Canadian contingent arrived by bus in Dortmund. The judge dubbed by the European press as 'The Red Devil Of Innsbruck' had given low scores to the popular West German team of Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler at the Olympics and the patriotic Dortmund crowd was out for blood from the moment she arrived.


In her book "Ice Time", Debbi Wilkes recalled, "They were ready to tear Suzy apart. She switched outfits with Marg Hyland and quickly walked out with the kids with Marg's hat pulled over her face. Marg sauntered out in the red coat and said, 'Hi, everybody.' Everyone stared at her. 'Who are you?' She said, 'I'm one of the mothers.'"


Photos courtesy Julia C. Schulze

Soon after the Trojan Horse like ruse was discovered, the media frenzy continued. With all of the theatrics off the ice, tension was building in the Westphalian city before the competition even began but the action on the ice turned out to be just as exciting as the hype. Let's take a look back at the thrills and spills of this fascinating event!

Manfred Schnelldorfer and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Men's medallists in Dortmund. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives.

Despite the fact that twenty one year old Munich student Manfred Schnelldorfer had walked away with a surprise gold medal at the 1964 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, many of those 'in the know' in the skating community still considered twenty three year old Alain Calmat of France - the defending European and World Champion - the overwhelming, hands down favourite entering the men's event in Dortmund.

German press clipping featuring Sjoukje Dijkstra and Manfred Schnelldorfer. Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze.

However, in the school figures, five judges had Manfred Schnelldorfer first.  Two gave Alain Calmat the nod, the Canadian judge favoured Karol Divín of Czechoslovakia. The Italian judge tied Schnelldorfer and Calmat. The free skate was won by Tommy Litz of Hershey, Pennsylvania, who made history by landing the first triple toe-loop in international competition in his athletic performance.

Tommy Litz

Manfred Schnelldorfer finished second in the free skate and Scotty Allen, Emmerich Danzer and Calmat were close behind. Karol Divín imploded and received ordinals from sixth to twelfth place in the free skate but narrowly held on for the bronze behind Schnelldorfer and Calmat. Scotty Allen of Smoke Rise, New Jersey settled for fourth place ahead of Danzer and Litz. Canadians Donald Knight and Charles Snelling placed ninth and twelfth.


In unseating Alain Calmat, Manfred Schnelldorfer became the first skater from East, West or unified Germany to win a gold medal at the World Championships in men's singles since Gilbert Fuchs in 1906.

Scotty Allen on "To Tell The Truth" following the 1964 World Championships

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Left: Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman. Right: Janet Sawbridge and David Hickinbottom. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

Eighteen and twenty one year old Czechoslovakian siblings Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman led the pack after the compulsory dances with first place ordinals from every judge. Janet Sawbridge and her bespectacled partner David Hickinbottom sat close behind in second. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Eva and Pavel won unanimously, skating faultlessly and in perfect unison the same free dance program they had used for three years. The key to their success was elegant dancing. The gallery criticized the prevalence of pair-like moves and skating apart in the free dances, especially among the lower placed European Continentals. The English-speaking countries locked up second through eighth place. [Paulette] Doan/[Kenneth] Ormsby, recently engaged, had a lot to celebrate in moving up from third to second with their charming performance. Skating very close together and smoothly, their lively footwork brought fewer points but more ordinals to rise a place and beat the couple with higher marks. Sawbridge/Hickinbottom dropped to third with their classically English free incorporating neat changes of temp. [Yvonne] Suddick/[Roger] Kennison skated as well as they could for fourth."

Photo courtesy Marie Petrie McGillvray

Canadians Carole Forrest and Kevin Lethbridge and Marilyn Crawford and Blair Armitage placed seventh and eleventh. The judges didn't know quite what to do with an unheralded pair of sixteen year olds named Diane Towler and Bernard Ford. Only fourth in Great Britain's junior ranks ten months earlier, they were completely unknown to the international judges. British judge Harry Lawrence had them tied for fourth in the compulsories and seventh overall. They finished an unlucky thirteenth, with a last place ordinal from the Hungarian judge. Lawrence earned a one year suspension for 'inexperience' and two years later, Towler and Ford were World Champions. Demonstrations of the Cha-Cha, Cuban Rhumba, Jamaican Rhumba, Samba, Silver Samba, Starlight Waltz were skated by Peri Horne and Courtney Jones and Joan and John Slater and the Starlight Waltz was accepted as a new compulsory by the ISU, with the others taken under consideration.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Marika Kilius, Hans-Jürgen Bäumler, Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell in Dortmund. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives.

The 1964 World Championships in Dortmund marked the first time a two and a half minute compulsory connected (short) program was skated by pairs at the World Championships. The compulsory program had been tested at that year's European Championships in Grenoble, France but had not been included at the Olympics in Innsbruck. Olympic Gold Medallists Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov took a slight lead in the first phase of the pairs competition. Six judges had them first, one had them tied with Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler and two gave the latter the nod. The West Germans had won the European Championships and the Soviets the Olympics and the battle between the two pairs in the free skate - on Kilius and Bäumler's home turf - was the talk of the entire competition.

Left: Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler kiss for the photographers. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives. Right: Photographic postcard of the pairs medallists.

In his 1966 book "Winter Sports", British sportswriter Howard Bass described the showdown in front of twelve thousand, two hundred skating fans thusly: "The Russians, skating their free programme first, were at their classical zenith, achieving lifts and daring spirals of even greater difficulty than at Innsbruck. Their victory seemed assured but the tension was electric as the West Germans followed immediately afterwards. Knowing that something fantastic was necessary, they risked everything - and by a miracle everything came off in their greatest-ever performance. Five of the nine judges gave them 5.9 for technical merit and six awarded the same for artistic impression. Their seemingly impossible triumph was a fitting farewell for the Garmisch students."

Pairs medallists. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives.

As in Innsbruck, Canada's Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell decisively took the bronze ahead of Americans Vivian and Ronald Joseph. Debbi Wilkes recalled, "We had gold costumes that were totally beaded. We didn't dare wear them for the Olympic Games because everything was black or navy back in those days - that was the trend and the expected fashion. We didn't want to do anything that was going to jeopardize our ability to finish as high as we could, so we opted to stay with the black. There was no short program at the Olympic Games, but there was a short program for the first time in pairs, at Worlds. I think we wore black for the short program and then we decided, 'What the hell... we're going to wear the gold!' We wore the gold for the free program and it was like, when we stepped on the ice, the air went out of the building. It was like, 'Oh my God! What are those Canadians doing?' It was pretty funny... I remember Guy coming off the ice at Worlds saying, 'Those beads have got to come off the waist of that dress. They're making my hands bloody!' How true though - all those catches and twists with those bugle beads which were glass. He was trying to catch me around the waist and he was getting cut in the process. It wasn't very funny at the time, but it seems funny now."

Tatiana Zhuk and Alexander Gavrilov made up serious ground in the free skate to move up to sixth behind West Germans Sonja Pfersdorf and Günther Matzdorf. The Soviets had been ranked as low as eleventh of the twelve teams competing by the West German and Hungarian judges in the compulsory program.


Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Interestingly, the whole debacle surrounding the medals in the pairs competition at the 1964 Winter Olympics didn't ultimately tarnish Kilius and Bäumler's World title win in Dortmund as the complaint regarding their amateur status had been made to the International Olympic Committee - not the International Skating Union. Nevertheless, it was their swan song to amateur skating.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Women's medallists. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives

More than six thousand people came from Holland on four special trains to watch the newly crowned twenty two year old Olympic Gold Medallist Sjoukje Dijkstra skate in her final World Championships. Of the twenty two women who skated their school figures, Dijkstra and Austria's Regine Heitzer were unanimously first and second. Canada's Petra Burka was a solid third, followed by Christine Haigler of the United States and Nicole Hassler of France.

Left: Sjoukje Dijkstra and Arnold Gerschwiler toasting her success in Dortmund. Photo courtesy Dutch National Archives. Right: Peggy Fleming in 1964. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Twelve thousand spectators packed the Große Westfalenhalle for the women's free skate. Though she turned out of an early double Axel attempt, Dijkstra - dressed in turquoise silk crepe - won the gold medal with first place ordinals from every judge. Interestingly, the Dutch judge gave Burka the nod over Dijkstra in the free skate. Another judge, Dr. János Zsigmondy of West Germany, had the two tied. Both Heitzer and Haigler had disastrous showings in the free skate. Heitzer fell twice - once on a double Axel attempt and a second time while making a turn at the edge of the rink. One judge had Heitzer in a tie for fourteenth; three judges had Haigler nineteenth. The skater who actually finished third in the free skate, Helli Sengtschmid of Austria, shockingly remained in twelfth place overall, hindered by a disappointing showing in the school figures and ordinals for other skaters that were all over the place.

Top: Scotty Allen and Regine Heitzer. Bottom: Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler. Photos courtesy Julia C. Schulze.

A young Peggy Fleming placed seventh in her first trip to the World Championships and Canadians Shirra Kenworthy and Wendy Griner placed tenth and eleventh. Sengtschmid's result contrasted with Heitzer's sparked much discussion about the weight of school figures in determining the overall result of international competition.

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.

Rags, Riches And Restitution: The Arnold Shoda Story

Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive

"I think of myself as a glider floating through space when I am skating. My aim is to please the eye, rather than excite the mind." - Arnold Shoda, "The Reading Eagle", July 19, 1951

Born August 18, 1926, Arnold Shoda grew up in crushing poverty in the tenements of Manhattan, New York during The Great Depression. His father Ignatz was born in Minsk, Russia and kept food on the table as best he could by taking a job with a cleaning firm as a window cleaner. His mother Poli, born in Austria, contributed by working as a housekeeper. The family had arrived in Ellis Island from Steinbrück in 1911 and hadn't had an easy go of it raising Arnold and their eldest son Stephen. In a sea of Italian, Polish, Czechslovakian and Jewish immigrants, the Shoda's were 'just another' struggling family trying to make it in the Big Apple.

When Arnold was twelve in 1939, he discovered the skating at the rink at the New York World's Fair and was instantly hooked. Every day after school, he showed up at the rink, borrowed skates and taught himself how to skate by following around the experienced skaters like a puppy and mimicking what they did. His parents recognized how much he loved the ice and somehow managed to find the money somewhere to get him his own pair of skates, even though they certainly couldn't afford it. In an interview in August of 1951, he recalled, "My mother bought me my first skates. They were hockey skates, and she bought the shoes too big so that I could grow into them. I scuffed the toes dreadfully." He continued to improve and quickly graduated out of those hockey skates into a pair of figure skates.


There were no competitions; no lessons. Arnold didn't have the inclination and Ignatz and Poli just didn't have the money. What Arnold did have was ambition, sparkling aquamarine eyes and a certain flair about him.

Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive

Arnold auditioned for an ice show in the Bowman Room at the Biltmore Hotel on Madison Avenue and Forty Third Street, got the job and soon found himself skating pairs with Joan Hyldoft. In case you're trying to do the math here, yes, Arnold was an untrained, professional skater at sixteen. He later skated and sang at the Terrace Room at the Hotel New Yorker in its "Circus Daze" show alongside Bob Ballard and Mary Jane Yeo. The May 20, 1944 issue of "Billboard" magazine raved, "Shoda, as ringmaster, darts about on the ice in flashy manner, and also warbles 'Circus On Parade' in nice fashion."

Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive

The Biltmore and Hotel New Yorker gigs led to a fifteen month stint at the Center Theatre in Arthur M. Wirtz and Sonja Henie's shows and a fourteen month engagement skating at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Once you got your foot in the door in those days, more opportunities presented themselves. More opportunities, luckily for Arnold, meant more money.


After World War II, Arnold found himself headlining a series of tank ice shows at the Roxy Theater in New York with Carol Lynne, Jean Arlen, Bruce Mapes and Martha Firschke, a.k.a. Trixie The Skating Juggler. A versatile entertainer, he skated to everything from gypsy folk music to Edvard Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16" and soon gained respect and a keen following among fellow skaters for his artistry and sensitivity toward music.


In a July 1951 interview with society columnist Alice Hughes, Arnold proudly proclaimed, "There are lots of ice skaters, but not many who combine skating with ballet. That's what I do." His dream was to have his own touring show just like Sonja Henie and he stayed in shape "just like any athlete. No smoking; hardly any drinking; as much sleep as I can get and of course, three hours a day training whenever I'm not doing four shows a day, as I am now. Any slight injury to a foot or even an arm is dangerous, for I have to be as supple as a ballet dancer." He kept his dressing room 'neat as a pin' apparently and loved to cook.


By 1951, Arnold was represented by the Fosters Agency, the same talent agency who represented Cecilia Colledge, Carol Lynne and Adele Inge. By 1952, they got him out of the Roxy and into the Boulevard Room at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, where his big act combined a vocal rendition of a song called "My Heart Is In My Boots" with a 'show stopping solo' which the July 5, 1952 issue of "Billboard" magazine described thusly: "A dance routine to a tango beat, featuring some flashy stag jumps, Axels, headless and sit spins. He ended the routine with a fast spin and pulled a big hand."

Arnold Shoda and Kay Servatius. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

After reuniting with his old partner Joan Hyldoft, Arnold had finally accepted the realization that he'd never have his own touring show like Sonja Henie when he was offered a position as a principal on Holiday On Ice.

Arnold Shoda and Kay Servatius. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

Arnold soon found himself touring with two time Olympic Gold Medallist Dick Button and skating behind the Iron Curtain in Moscow as one of the European tour's male leads. That 1959 Holiday On Ice show was the first American skating production to perform in the Soviet Union. Four years prior to the trip where he met Nikolai Kruschev, Arnold partnered Sonja Henie in her 'Holiday On Ice' Christmas special. His usual partner on the tour was Kay Servatius.

Right photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"

Arnold remained with Holiday On Ice for over a decade and found himself more at home on the North American tour, doing everything from playing the tragic clown Pagliacci in a 'Continental Circus' to skating a pairs routine to the old standard "Begin The Beguine".

Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive

Arnold later coached at the All Weather Roll 'N' Ice rink in Copiague, Long Island. When he died June 25, 2003 in Palm Desert, Riverside, California at the age of seventy six, he may have taken heart in one good deed he performed that few who came to marvel at him in shows ever knew about. The very first thing that he did when he started making money as a teenage show skater was buy his impoverished parents a nice house in Long Island. They took a chance on him when they couldn't afford to, and he never forgot it.

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 1937 British Ice Skating Championships

In modern day, when someone says, "I'm going to Nationals" we safely assume they are heading to one venue for a several day figure skating competition featuring multiple disciplines. However, if the year was 1937 and you lived in Great Britain and told someone the exact same thing, you could have been talking about one of any number of events! Today on the blog, we'll take a trip back in time to pre-World War II England for a look at the many British Championships of 1937.

Beryl Styles

In early February of 1937, the National Skating Association presented the first 'Junior Competition For Ladies', which was open to young women over the age of twelve who had not competed in the British Championships prior to October 1, 1936. In his book "Skaters' Cavalcade: Fifty Years Of Skating", author A.C. Wade explained, "This competition was frequently referred to as the British Junior Championship, and although this definition was incorrect the contest was regarded by many as for the Junior title. The first winner was Miss Beryl Styles, who, not long afterwards became a professional, and was the star in the very successful ice revue 'Marina' which ran for many months at Brighton and later at Earl's Court. While at Earl's Court the Queen saw 'Marina' and Beryl was presented to her Majesty."


Cecilia Colledge, Megan Taylor and Belita Jepson-Turner

On February 16 and 17, 1937, the British Ladies Championships were held at the Westminster Ice Rink. After the compulsory figures, Park Lane's Cecilia Colledge held a twenty three point lead over Manchester's Megan Taylor. The February 16, 1937 issue of "The Western Morning News And Daily Gazette" noted, "Miss Colledge, at sixteen, was one of the oldest of the nine competitors who for eight hours circled gracefully on the ice in six set figures and skated with each foot in turn." The youngest entry in the event was thirteen year old Daphne Walker, whom the London County Council made wait until after midnight to be 'seen by the judges' in the previous year's competition. This was owing to the Young Children and Persons Act, which forbade young people to give public exhibitions after seven in the evening, unless it was for charity. At Westminster she told reporters, "I felt tired occasionally, but it was the waiting between the figures which fatigued me."


Some in the audience believed that Megan Taylor might overtake Cecilia Colledge in the free skate. The February 17, 1937 issue of "The Aberdeen Press And Journal" reported, "Miss Colledge's skate grated ominously as she pirouetted into a simple spin, and the spectators held their breath, but [she] recovered and went on to perform an intricate series of spins and jumps - a programme which won her the title for the third year in succession." Taylor settled for silver, ahead of Streatham's Gladys Jagger, Jacques Gerschwiler's protégé Belita Jepson-Turner, Daphne Walker, Pamela Stephany, Joy Ricketts, Jean Leonard-Smith and Beryl Styles.

Violet and Leslie Cliff

Bournemouth's Violet and Leslie Cliff reigned supreme at the British Pairs Championships ahead of Daphne Wallis and Reginald Wilkie, better known as ice dancing pioneers than pairs skaters. At the first British Ice Dancing Championship for seniors at Richmond Ice Rink, Wallis and Wilkie also reigned supreme.

Graham Sharp

On March 14 and 15, 1937, the British Men's Championship was held at Harringay Arena. Fresh off a silver medal win at the World Championships in Vienna, Henry Graham Sharp skated to a commanding lead in the school figures. Though Freddie Tomlins won the free skate, Sharp's early lead was enough for him to easily retain his title. The skating correspondent for "The Times" remarked, "I find it hard to understand why the judges could make such a great difference between the holder's skating and that of his nearest rival, F. Tomlins, who skated very steadily and with true lines and in excellent style."

Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders

The following month, the British Open Professional Championships for men, women and pairs were held at Harringay Arena. In the women's event, eighteen year old Pamela Prior was victorious in her first appearance in the event. She was actually the only entry but was still expected to obtain at least two thirds of the maximum marks for compulsory figures (yes, figures in a professional event) and seven twelfths of the maximum marks in free skating to be awarded the Championship. She earned 956.7 points out of a possible 1250. London born Hope Braine reclaimed the men's title ahead of ahead of one Herr Rolle from Germany. Four teams contested the pairs title, where Australians Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders defeated two time Olympic Gold Medallists and four time World Champions Andrée and Pierre Brunet by one tenth of a point.


On December 12 and 13, the National Skating Association decided to finally consolidate the British Men's, Ladies and Pairs Championships into one event at one venue, the Empire Pool, Wembley. One of the reasons often cited for this decision is the fact that audiences would flock to see the women's competitions and rarely turn up in the same numbers for the men's or pairs events. A.C. Wade noted, "This meeting proved an immense success, about 10,000 people being present, and many turned away." The Cliff's repeated as pairs champions and Daphne Walker won the bronze medal behind Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor, but actually beat Megan in the free skate and reportedly received more applause than either of her older competitors. The men's event was far closer than the one held that March, with Sharp's margin of victory over Tomlins depleted significantly. On his "Saturday Page", Godfrey Winn offered us a rare glimpse into the men's event and the relationship between Sharp and Tomlins: "Graham Sharp sailed on to the ice to give his exhibition of free skating. But, good though he is, the enthusiasm in the crowd is twice as great for the boy who follows, and in the five minutes allotted to him, courts disaster a dozen times by the daring of his leaps and turns. There is a roar as he makes his exit. I look at the programme excitedly. Freddie Tomlins. The name is new to me. Perhaps to you, too. Remember it. He is going to be the champion one day. Afterwards I went behind the scene and met this comet in the skating world. On the final figures of the judges he was placed second to Sharp by a very small margin. You might have expected him to be disappointed. You might have expected a feeling of tenseness between the two close rivals, the assured champion and the youngster stepping on his heels. But not a bit of it. Sharp and Tomlins talked to me with their arms around each other's shoulders. 'If he could do figure skating like I can, and I could put up his show at free-skating, we'd win the World Championship between us,' Sharp explains. 'Anyway, we're off to Berlin next month, aren't we Tommy, to see what we can do!' Tommy grins. He is shy. All his articulation lies in his feet. But all the same it easy for me to see that there is not a scrap of jealousy in his nature. He has done is best, he has been beaten at the post by a better man. He acknowledges the other's superiority and thereby gains new laurels for himself. Some people would have gone home blaming the judges, picking holes in their rival's perfection. In short, they would have spoiled the thought of having held a prize at all by the vain envy of the man or woman who topped the poll."

The next time you bemoan the expense and time off work involved in attending one National Championships a year, be thankful that you didn't have to attend 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' 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.