A Nifty Look Back At New Brunswick's Skating History

Exterior of the Victoria Skating Rink in Saint John. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

2019 may mark the first time that Saint John has played host to the Canadian Championships but it is actually the fourth time New Brunswick has hosted Canada's best. In 1974, 1985, 1992 and 2012, the city of Moncton played host to the Canadian Championships, where legends like Toller Cranston, Brian Orser, Liz Manley, Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Patrick Chan claimed gold.

Although it is right under our nose, New Brunswick's engrossing skating history is sadly far too often overlooked. The province played host to Canada's first known skating club at Lily Lake in 1833 and Saint John, New Brunswick - site of the city's popular Victoria Skating Rink - became known as the country's speed skating mecca. In 1863, Maliseet hunter and guide Gabriel Acquin skated seventy three miles down the Saint John River in what the London Guide called "the most remarkable feat... ever recorded." At his skate factory at Jones Creek in 1867, eighteen year old James Albert Whelpley developed the Long Reach Speed Skate. He later patented the seventeen ice long skate, which was incredibly popular with speed skaters on the Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers. In fact, so talented were the province's speed skaters that Norway's Axel Paulsen - the inventor of the Axel jump and one of the most successful racers of his era - came by railway to the province in the winter of 1884. He sold plenty of his patent tube skates but lost an exhibition race to Hugh J. McCormick of Kennebecasis Island. The ensuing well documented rivalry of the Norwegian and the New Brunswicker remains a fascinating highlight of Canadian winter sport history during the Victorian era.

Skaters on Lily Lake, circa 1899. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

The earliest documented figure skaters in New Brunswick took to the reflective, black ice of Marsh Creek and Lily Lake. The latter was the site of one of Canada's first organized skating clubs in 1833 and often attracted British officers that were garrisoned in the city for intervals. Many of these military men became quite proficient skaters. By the middle of the century, two Lily Lake skaters named Oliver Goldsmith and Albert Lyon gained popularity for their ability to carve their names on the ice in addition to other intricate figures of their own design. The sport caught on recreationally to such an extent by 1863 that a letter to the editor in "The Morning News" on January 26 of that year stated that skating "is contagious also, passing from house to house until the residents move en masse, skates in hand, to Lily Lake... It is fine recreation. The pale faces become flushed with a healthy hue, and everyone seems happy. No cross-natured people are admitted. And I will give you a friendly hint: Don't go without skates or you will be as I was - A Nonentity." Two years later, the lavish Victoria Skating Rink was built in Saint John. Fancy dress carnivals rivalling the Montreal Masquerades and those in Halifax were held. Everyone from Henry IV to Little Red Riding Hood were represented, many sporting skates brought up into town from Nova Scotia's Starr Manufacturing Company.

Poster announcing an 1884 exhibition by Louis Rubenstein in Miramichi, New Brunswick. From the collection of Rubenstein RB Digital Inc., Rubenstein Bros.

Costumed carnivals on ice aside, speed skating without a doubt reigned supreme in New Brunswick. If racing was not your speed (pardon the pun) you would have been largely relegated to sharing the ice with pleasure skaters to practice your figure eights. Despite the fact that Saint John mayor Albert Chipman Smith took an interest and served as a director of the Victoria Skating Rink, fancy skating just wasn't catching on.

Interior of the Victoria Skating Rink in Saint John. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives Of New Brunswick.

All of that changed in the 1880's, when a number of figure skaters of note including Mabel Davidson visited the province to show off her fancy skating prowess and Louis Rubenstein gave exhibitions in St. Stephen, Newcastle, Bathurst, Chatham and Moncton. An account from the March 12, 1884 edition of "The Daily Sun" details how the master from Montreal squashed the skaters of Saint John when he visited that year: "First came the fancy skating, the entries being Louis Rubenstein, champion of Canada, A.G. Stevens, A.M. Currie and Herbert Campbell. The programme included plain skating, cross roll, threes, plain eight, double eight, eights and loops, plain and double eight on one foot, eight with loops on one foot, grape vine, scissors, spins, pyramid spins, cross cut or anvil, and pivot figures. Rubenstein executed the different figures beautifully, his skating being universally admired. Stevens and Currie skated with good style, eliciting applause from the crowd. Campbell who is a mere boy dropped out when the programme was half finished, but the manner in which he skated was very fine. The specialities given by Rubenstein were the Maltese cross, several spins and a number of fancy figures. Stevens and Currie did the waltz, their initials, the eagle, the polka and several other figures. Rubenstein made 40 points out of a possible 45. Currie 21 and Stevens 20. Sheriff Harding presented the medals, a gold one to the champion, and silver medals to Stevens and Currie. The gold medal is very handsome. It bears the following inscription: 'Fancy Skating, Victoria Skating Club, St. John, N.B.'" One point that stands out immediately in this account is the fact that both Stevens and Currie performed "the waltz". Blogger Ronald J. Jack has suggested that "Saint John might have an earlier claim", but if you look at the context of performing "the waltz" as a speciality in a fancy skating competition, it appears evident that Stevens and Currie would have performing waltz steps individually and not Valsing.

After the competition, Louis Rubenstein (ever the epitome of good sportsmanship) mentored his nineteen year old competitor Albert G. Stevens. He went on to compete in fancy skating tournaments throughout Canada and the United States over the next ten years including the 1894 'Canadian Championships' held in Quebec, where he tied with a Mr. E. Dumas of Montreal for third place. Brian Flood's wonderfully researched 1985 book "Saint John: A Sporting Tradition 1785-1985" (which I used as a source for this blog) stated that "his style and grace was admired by all who watched him." Although he had stopped competing early in the last decade of the nineteenth century, "The Daily Sun" records Albert giving a fancy skating exhibition in January of 1898 at the Up Town (Singer) Rink and census records place as him as still residing in Saint John in 1911 with his brother and mother. Albert G. Stevens passed away on January 9, 1944 in the city and his obituary noted his skating achievements and that his brother Beverly was also a fancy skater.

Skaters in Saint John's Rockwood Park in 1899. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

Although Flood described Stevens as "Saint John's first and last great fancy skater", he was not without peers. Edge tool manufacturer G. Wilford Campbell, a speed skating competitor of Hugh McCormick, was widely known prior to the Great Fire Of 1877 for his fancy skating prowess. He took up the craft at the age of fourteen, inspired by a Maritime champion named Jack Cummings and at the age of seventy five in 1937 was still out there rocking it. An article from the June 14, 1937 edition of "The Montreal Gazette" noted, "Campbell does the Philadelphia twist, Dutch roll and double eight with the greatest of ease. Last year he abandoned the clamp skates he had used since 1886 and cut 22 figures with modern blades. This winter, he confined himself to 20, leaving out the '8 with loops' and the '8 with loops and 3's. But he hopes to go through the entire repertoire next year when he really gets his ice legs on the new skates." Campbell gave exhibitions until right before his death at the age of eighty one.

Sackville, New Brunswick's skating rink in 1892. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

Long after Louis Rubenstein came, conquered and inspired one of his competitors to follow his lead and Campbell carved out his last figure eight, figure skating began to come into its own in the province. The Sunny Brae Arena in Moncton, designed and built in 1922 by R.C. Donald, thrived as a venue for six years in the twenties until it was destroyed in a devastating fire that look the life of a young girl. Despite the tragedy, the people of New Brunswick skated on.

Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie visited New Brunswick with her Hollywood Ice Revue in 1952, performing in St. Andrews By-The-Sea, Fredericton and Saint John. Her three-night engagement at the world famous Algonquin Hotel was a far cry from Hollywood indeed. Sonja and her troupe performed in an unheated Quonset hut to six hundred spectators a night. There were no toilets and nearest restroom was in a gas station a mile away. Sonja's secretary and backstage crew had to arrange a wardrobe to serve as a makeshift dressing room. Yet, the Norwegian skater won over the hearts of New Brunswickers.

In the sixties, Alex Balisch started his Summer Figure Skating School in St. Andrews By-The-Sea. The first New Brunswick Section Figure Skating Championships were held in Oromocto in 1970. Saint John has thrice been the site of Skate Canada International. The latter city even hosted the World Junior Figure Skating Championships from November 30 to December 7, 1997, where a very young Aliona Savchenko competed with partner Dmitri Boenko.


Many accomplished skaters have come out of the province over the years including Olympian Shawn Sawyer and Canadian junior champions Hugh Yik, Chad Hawse and Ken Rose. I can tell you from personal experience that when the skaters from Northern New Brunswick came down to compete at Skate Dartmouth (now the Rob McCall Memorial) back in the nineties, you knew you had to step it up a notch. Not bad for a province where at one time if you were practicing a figure eight, you were looking over your shoulder to make sure you didn't get run over by a throng of speed skaters who were competing for cold hard cash. 

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 1998 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


Savage Garden's "Truly Madly Deeply" topped the music charts, the media had a frenzy over Alan Eagleson's guilty plea in the NHL scandal and everyone was going gaga over Giga Pets, "Good Will Hunting" and Ginger Spice. The year was 1998 and from January 7 to 11, over three hundred of Canada's best figure skaters gathered at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario to compete in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.


The competition took place during The Great Ice Storm of 1998, which caused over five billion dollars in damage in North America, left millions without power and led to the largest Canadian military deployment since the Korean War. Fortunately, the lights were on at Copps Coliseum but many of the telephone lines were down, causing a real headache for organizers, officials, media and competitors. Despite this challenge, CTV managed to pull off twelve hours of coverage without a hitch.

1998 coin commemorating one proposed date for Canada's first fancy skating championship and one hundred years of figure skating in Canada

Less than a week before the competition, twenty year old Julie Laporte, fifteen year old Sonia Arsenault and twelve year old Catherine Roussel were killed when Laporte, the young coach of the two teenagers, lost control of her vehicle on an icy road northeast of Rimouski, Quebec. The trio were on their way to a benefit ice show. Laporte had only recently retired from competitive skating and was a former pairs partner of David Pelletier. Laporte and Pelletier had in fact won the Canadian junior pairs title in Copps Coliseum only five years prior. Many members of the Quebec team, who travelled to Hamilton via bus, were just inconsolable.

On a happier note, a special celebration was planned in Hamilton to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Barbara Ann Scott's gold medal win at the 1948 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz. Despite the fact she was just getting over a battle with viral pneumonia in both lungs, Scott surprised even her husband and "moved heaven and earth" to be there, dressed to the nines of course.

Jean-Michel Bombardier, Jennifer Robinson, Elvis Stojko, Michelle Menzies, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. Photo courtesy 1998 Canadian Championships program, F. Scott Grant photography.

Let's hop in the time machine and take a look back at the skaters and stories that made headlines at this exciting competition from decades past!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR COMPETITIONS

Tara Schaak and Tyler Miles, who trained out of the Mariposa Club in Barrie, took gold in the novice ice dance event. They had been skating together for less than a year.  In novice pairs, it was Quebec's Chantal Poirier-Saykaly and David Lewin who came out on top. Coached by Paul Wirtz, the young skaters had a dramatic height difference which worked to their advantage in lifts. A young Craig Buntin, skating in his second Nationals with partner Chantal Chailler, was eighth. Michael Steinbach, a fifteen year old skater from the North Shore Winter Club, won the novice men's event - the only British Columbian skater to claim gold in Hamilton. Among the many 'future stars' he defeated were Christopher Mabee and Shawn Sawyer. In a touching story, thirteen year old Marie Michele McDuff of Quebec won the novice women's title. McDuff had been coached by Julie Laporte and was best friends with Catherine Roussel.

In the junior dance event, Rebecca and Josh Babb made history as the first skaters from Newfoundland to win a medal of any colour at the Canadian Championships. Though they represented the Western Ontario section, the siblings hailed from Harbour Grace, about an hour's drive from St. John's. Quebec's Marie-France Lachapelle and Sacha Blanchet landed side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple Salchow on their way to a gold medal in junior pairs. They had only placed sixth the year prior. Fourteen year old Marie Laurier of Île Bizard moved up from second to win the junior women's event. Leah Hepner, the leader after the short program and the previous year's novice champion, finished a disastrous fourteenth in the free skate and dropped down to twelfth overall. Fifteen year old Hugh Yik, a grade ten student from Moncton coached by Emery Leger, had won the novice men's title the year prior. He moved ahead of Jeffrey Buttle, who won the short program, to take gold in the junior men's event. In winning, Yik became the first male skater to win the Canadian novice and junior titles back to back since Kevin Hicks back in 1974 and 1975. He was also the first man from New Brunswick ever to win the Canadian junior men's title.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Unlike in the senior men's, women's and pairs events, there was little talk about Olympic spots in the ice dance competition. Only two couples, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz and Chantal Lefebvre and Michel Brunet, had met the Canadian Olympic Association's criteria... and Canada had two spots in Nagano. With few surprises in ice dance back in those 'wait your turn' days, it was considered a bit of a foregone conclusion that Bourne and Kraatz and Lefebvre and Brunet would be one-two in Hamilton.

Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz and Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe skating their compulsories. Photos courtesy J. Barry Mittan.

Bourne and Kraatz, who won their first Canadian senior title in 1993 and their first Champions Series Final in 1996 in Hamilton, took a strong lead in the compulsory dances as expected. Their original dance, a lively jive to "I Saw Her Standing There" earned them rave reviews and top marks, as did Lefebvre and Brunet's jive to Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly". Both couples received standing ovations and maintained their one-two slots after compulsories. Bourne and Kraatz ultimately ditched their Beatles original dance for a new program to "Greased Lightnin'" at the Nagano Olympics, something they were already openly talking about doing in Hamilton.

Unfortunately, Kristy Balkwill and Darryl VanLuven had to withdraw after a hard crash into the boards stopped their original dance dead in its tracks. They restarted their program from the time of the crash and managed to finish, but she had to be carried off the ice and sent to a local hospital for X-rays. The sad part was the fact that Balkwill was already injured and had practiced all week in a heavy brace, with a tensor bandage on her knee, just hoping to make it through the competition in one piece.


Bourne and Kraatz's "Riverdance" free dance brought down the house, earned a standing ovation and six perfect marks of 6.0. In winning their sixth consecutive national title, the duo neared Wilson and McCall's record of seven in a row. Lefebvre and Brunet's mambo took the silver; Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe's "The Last Emperor" the bronze. Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon finished fourth ahead of Christine Fuller and Steve Kavanagh. Kavanagh had twice won bronze at the Nationals with his former partner Janet Emerson.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

At the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Susan Humphreys was faced with a difficult decision: stand at center ice with a badly infected ankle and qualify Canada a spot for the Nagano Olympics or withdraw. She chose to withdraw and fight for an Olympic berth at the Karl Schäfer Memorial that autumn. In Vienna, she placed eighteenth. Humphreys wasn't on the list of competitors in Hamilton.

In the lead-up to Nationals, there was a perception amongst many of the women's competitors that they were being put down by the CFSA because they weren't 'producing' internationally. CFSA Director General David Dore told reporters, "The women's competition is anti-climactic here, if Nagano is all you're focused on, but what's done is done. I'm trying to focus on the future and find solutions." Peter Dunfield complained that David Dore was trying to 'bully female skaters into peak performance.' He complained to "Ottawa Citizen" reporter Shelley Page, "I'm sick of these David Dore-isms that keep coming out. They're flip and they're unnecessary... Even if you can't jump, you're given credit for trying. Now children are throwing things in before they're ready to because they're supposed to. A child works all year on a program, then they fall because of the jumps they can't do, and that stains them, the fear is built in. Once a jump is tried under pressure, you develop fear. Instead of putting the skater ahead, it puts them farther back." Twenty year old Jamie Salé of the Royal Glenora Club, mounting a comeback as a singles skater, told reporters, "Susan would have been the only one going to Nagano anyway so she didn't hurt any of us. I'm disappointed with the lack of support. It's like they're saying, 'The ladies are bad, and that's all there is to it.'"


In a five-four split of the judging panel, twenty four year old Peter Dunfield student Angela Derochie came out ahead of twenty one year old Jennifer 'Tiger' Robinson in the women's short program. Derochie two-footed her triple Lutz combination but landed a triple toe-loop and double Axel. Robinson two-footed her Lutz and didn't complete the double toe-loop and missed her double Axel. Keyla Ohs, who won the Canadian junior title at Copps Coliseum in 1993, was third, ahead of Annie Bellemare, Annie Bazinet and Jamie Salé.

Jennifer Robinson. Photo courtesy Charlie Covell.

Angela Derochie wasn't perfect in the free skate, but knowing she only match or better Keyla Ohs' three triples to win, she got the job done. Jennifer Robinson finished third, imploding in her "Madama Butterfly" performance, falling twice and doubling most of her other jumps. Bazinet, Tara Ferguson and Jamie Salé rounded out the top six. For all the fuss about Netty Kim only having three triples in her repertoire in 1995, most of the top ten women in Hamilton weren't landing any more triples than Kim did in Halifax. Ohs' silver was the best finish by a British Columbian woman since Barbara Terpenning won silver in Moncton in 1974.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice. Photo courtesy J. Barry Mittan.

Canada qualified two entries in pairs for the Nagano Olympics and four teams met the Canadian Olympic Association's qualifying criteria: Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet, Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz, Michelle Menzies and Jean-Michel Bombardier and Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice. All four couples had previously competed at the World Championships and were well-matched.

Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet. Photo courtesy J. Barry Mittan.

It wasn't Annabelle Langlois' week. She placed seventeenth and dead last in the novice women's competition and she and partner Patrice Archetto were forced to withdraw prior to senior pairs event after a nasty fall in practice that sent her to the hospital. Chad Hawse suffered a spinal fracture on Boxing Day and showed up in Hamilton with a huge cast on his right arm after breaking his hand practicing a lift. He and partner Samantha Marchant placed tenth in the short program when she slipped right through his hands on the double twist and took off his cast. Coach Kerry Leitch pulled them before the free skate.

Six of the nine judges had twenty three year old Kristy Sargeant of Alix, Alberta and twenty eight year old Kris Wirtz of Marathon, Ontario ahead of defending champions Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet in the short program. Michelle Menzies and Jean-Michel Bombardier sat third. None of the top three teams successfully completed their side-by-side triple jumps. By placing outside of the top four, Higgins and Rice all but took themselves out of the running for one of the two Olympic spots.


 As in the short program, neither of the top two teams were perfect in the free skate. Sargeant and Wirtz both singled their side-by-side double Axels, she fell on a throw double Axel and they had a problem with synchronization in their side-by-side spins. Savard-Gagnon and Bradet fell on their side-by-side triples and slipped entering a death spiral. The fact that Sargeant and Wirtz landed their side-by-side triples and throw triple Salchows was enough to give them the edge and earn them their first Canadian title. Valerie Saurette and Jean-Sébastien Fecteau, only ninth the previous year, moved up to claim the bronze over Menzies and Bombardier, who had a very disappointing skate and dropped to fourth. Saurette and Fecteau skated last and drew the greatest ovation, helped along by their upbeat music and the fact they really weren't considered to be contenders.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Jeffrey Langdon. Photo courtesy J. Barry Mittan.

Prior to the men's competition in Hamilton, twenty two year old defending Canadian Champion Elvis Stojko told reporter Cam Cole, "I enjoy pressure. When you're the World Champion going into the Olympic Games, and the chance is there to win the gold medal, it's like I'm in my dream, its happening. Why be scared of it? Enjoy the process. Enjoy the ride. It should be fun." Stojko may not have minded a little pressure, but it was certainly there in the men's event. Because of he and Jeffrey Langdon's results at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Canada had earned three spots for the Nagano Games. However, only two skaters - coincidentally he and Langdon - met the Canadian Olympic Association's qualifying guidelines... or so the CFSA thought. During the event, Carol Anne Letheren (the President of the Canadian Olympic Association) informed CTV that the CFSA could send another skater instead of Langdon if they wanted, based on the results of the Canadian Championships. David Dore, confused by the mixed messages, tried to phone Letheren in Ottawa for clarification, but the phone lines were of course down because of the ice storm. Letheren's revelation meant that a number of other young men were apparently in the running for an Olympic spot if they skated brilliantly in Hamilton. There was Ravi Walia, who had won the junior title in Copps Coliseum in 1993, crowd favourite Jayson Dénommée of Asbestos, Quebec (who just missed meeting the COA's qualifying criteria), Ben Ferreira of Edmonton, Collin Thompson of Mississauga and Daniel Bellemare of Longeuil, who missed the 1997 Nationals with a broken arm. No one was really talking that much about seventeen year old Emanuel Sandhu of Richmond Hill, who was making his senior debut at Nationals.


On what would have been Elvis Presley's sixty third birthday, Elvis Stojko came out and skated his heart out, landing a triple Axel/triple toe-loop combination, triple Lutz and double Axel in his short program to "Lion" by Kodo. His fast-moving footwork sequences drew cheers from the crowd of nine thousand. When it was all over, he earned a standing ovation and a 6.0 for required elements from judge Debbie Islam - his first ever in a short program. The only other man to successfully land a triple Axel combination was Jean-François Hébert, but he finished behind Jeffrey Langdon and Emanuel Sandhu, who both missed their combinations.


In the free skate, Elvis Stojko dazzled once again, landing a quad toe-loop/double toe-loop combination and two triple Axels, one in combination with a triple toe-loop. His gutsy effort earned six 6.0's, four for technical merit and two for presentation. After winning his fourth Canadian title, Stojko told reporters, "I'll say one thing, just separating myself from it for a minute: it's been a while since I've seen 6.0's at both ends. But that's what I set out to do, going through it: I wanted to achieve excellence. And to show that you can be technically excellent and still be able to produce the artistry. It's difficult because you can lose your way trying so hard to improve the artistry that you lose something on the technical side. So I'd have to say that's the most satisfying thing -- to have pushed through and done it on both sides and to have that recognized."

Stojko's great skate was somewhat eclipsed by the surprise performance of Emanuel Sandhu, who tried ten triples and landed nine - more triples in his first free skate as a senior at Nationals than any skater before him. Sandhu's brilliant skate earned him the silver over Langdon, Hebert, Dénommée, Ferreira, Thompson, Walia and Bellemare and set into motion a sequence of events that caused a major controversy in Canadian figure skating.



After Sandhu's silver medal win, David Dore told reporters, "It's not a question for Emanuel. He's done his job; now we have to do ours. It's very clear Elvis and Jeff Langdon have met the criteria and we will honour that. However, I think logic should prevail here. We have a wild card and it behooves us to play this wild card. It's all up to the gang now -- you know, The Gang, the CFSA and the COA, to set it all up, but you ask my opinion, I think we should send three... We've got great skaters in Canada. Sure, there are some misses out there but they're all so young. The important thing isn't falling but trying again. I've had a lot of falls, but you keep pushing forward. I once had a coach who told me: 'Keep hitting that tree, and eventually it'll come down.'"

The CFSA's request to name Sandhu as the third member of the team was rejected by the COA, who seemingly had informed the CFSA they could send another skater instead of Langdon, not in addition to. Sandhu was given Worlds as a 'consolation prize'. His people planned to appeal under the COA's independent arbitration process, but dropped the appeal at eleventh hour citing the missed training time dealing the red tape would cause. Jack Todd, a reporter with the "Ottawa Citizen" noted, "Dore IS the Canadian Figure Skating Association, which worked out the criteria with the COA eighteen months ago. Dore, like everyone else, was ambushed by Sandhu's performance in Hamilton, but he had to know going in that there was little chance the COA would change its mind."

Joanne McLeod, Emanuel Sandhu and David Dore. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Many in the figure skating world believed the CFSA should have sent Sandhu over Langdon and/or that the Canadian Olympic Association should have approved a third entry to Nagano, as the spot had been earned at the 1997 World Championships. Toller Cranston even called Carol Anne Letheren personally and said, "Give the kid a break. The bottom line is he beat Langdon fair and square and Langdon's in the top ten in the world. For heaven's sake, flash the green light. Let the kid go." Carol Anne Letheren told reporters, "I'm not surprised at all by the outcry. It was a tough, tough decision for the executive committee and increasingly tough because of the public expression around the case.
It's not like we're saying this is not a talented skater. There is no harm in sending him, that's not the issue. It's a question of fairness across the board. The other one hundred and fifty three athletes have spent two years qualifying, and they've all met the standards. There's no question [that if Sandhu was sent to Nagano] there are a lot of borderline cases that would have come forward." Many saw it all as a triumph of bureaucracy over common sense. In the end, Canada's third spot was given to Luxembourg. The man who took it, Patrick Schmit, finished dead last in the short program in Nagano and failed to qualify for the free skate. At the World Championships in Minneapolis, both Schmit and Sandhu failed to qualify for the free skate; Langdon finished eighth overall.

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.

Blades Of Courage


Less than a year before The Battle Of The Brian's and Liz Manley and Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall's medal winning performances at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, a CBC made for television capitalized on Canada's figure skating fever. The film, directed by Randy Bradshaw, originally aired on CBC as "Skate!" but was later released on VHS and Beta as "Blades Of Courage" and in Scandinavia with subtitles under the title "Tulta Ja Jäätä".

Rosemary Dunsmore, who played Carla Laroche. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library. Used for educational purposes under license permissions.

"Blades Of Courage" starred nineteen year old Swiss born Vancouver actress Christiane Hirt as fifteen year old Lori Laroche, a figure skater from Peterborough vying for gold at the Canadian Championships. It was Hirt's first lead role in a film. She starred alongside Rosemary Dunsmore, who played her (at times overbearing) mother and Colm Feore, who played the film's villain - her coach.

Prior to "Blades Of Courage", Christiane Hirt had been a competitive figure skater for seven years. Her skating career ended at the age of thirteen, when chronic tendinitis caused her hang up her skates. She focused her attention on dance and acting lessons, earning roles in "Shelley", "The Glitter Dome" and "Picking Up The Pieces". CBC had been looking for someone for almost a year before Hirt first auditioned in Toronto. She went home, returned to the ice and took private lessons for three months, came back to Toronto for a screen test and got the part. She told a reporter from "The Vancouver Sun", "I was never at the point in my skating where Lori is, but I dreamed of the same things. In a way, it was very close to me, and yet on the other hand, it showed me how far I had moved away from the skating world."

In the film, Lori LaRoche wins the free skate at the Canadian Championships but finished third due to her poor showing in the school figures. The powers that be at the CFSA bump the second place skater from the Canadian team and send her to the World Championships. When she places an impressive tenth, they make her ditch her maternal small-time coach and send her to work with a 'top notch' abusive, manipulative coach in Toronto. The film addresses the role her complicated relationship with her new coach and the divorce of her parents affect her skating career. It also touches on the problem of how skaters deal with retirement, when they've devoted their young lives to sport at the cost of education and 'real world' skills.

Suzette Couture, the film's writer. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library. Used for educational purposes under license permissions.

Olympic Silver Medallist Debbi Wilkes, whose picture was in the lobby of the Markham Centennial Centre where all of the skating scenes were shot, served as the choreographer and worked with Suzette Couture on the script. She had been contacted prior to the Sarajevo Olympics by Bernard Zukerman, then a producer at "The Journal", about the idea of a skating film. It was shelved for a time, then revived when Zukerman moved to CBC's drama department. The film drew on Wilkes' reminisces about her own skating career. "I remember that at sixteen, you are rather a pawn," she told reporters. "Many of the decisions of the Canadian Figure Skating Association are not popular. It's a deadly game because very young children are pushed. You're dealing in a psychological game that can be devastating."

Lynn Nightingale. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library. Used for educational purposes under license permissions.

Canadian Champion and Olympian Lynn Nightingale was Christiane Hirt's mentor and stunt double for the film. Though Hirt did a great deal of the skating scenes herself, it was Nightingale who performed the jumps, spins and school figures. She hadn't done figures for ten years, having toured with Ice Capades and coached since turning professional in 1977. She wore a wig to look more like Hirt. On set, one young extra without a filter told her, "You have to age by two years [in the script]. Gee, you look like you've aged twelve years."

There were criticisms about some of the film's inaccuracies. For starters, all of the competition scenes were filmed under spotlights, which of course only would have been used for professional competitions at the time. In one scene, a triple Salchow was incorrectly identified as a triple Lutz. The short program didn't exist. It was also suggested that Lori's 'big trick', the triple Salchow, would alone have been enough to win the Canadian or World Championships. Even in the late eighties, Liz Manley was performing multi-triple programs and had the triple Lutz in her repertoire. Some questioned the believability of the character of Bruce Gainor, Lori's detestable coach. Alan Burke, who produced the film, said, "We've seen examples of Bruce Gainor's type of behaviour. Debbi Wilkes says she has seen worse. What we wanted to do with the character is push it as far as we could truthfully go." Feore later admitted that he "was terrified" of the character he played and that he went through more soul-searching than Hirt's character when the script called for him to throw her against a wall. He told Ted Shaw, "That was done in one of the first few days of shooting and we were not particularly well-acquainted, so all the crew saw was this total stranger, looking reasonably evil, come in and slam their darling against the wall! You know, the funny thing is, when I was asking around in Stratford, doing research for the role, talking to skating coaches, they said this was tame."
Despite these criticisms, the film still managed to probably do the best job of any film - television or otherwise - to that point of accurately portraying the figure skating world.


The film was released on October 4, 1987 as part of a new series of specials called "Sunday's Main Event". Up against a new Perry Mason film and a Victoria Principal TV movie called "Mistress", the film garnered impressive ratings and received mostly positive reviews. Vancouver film critic Lee Bacchus was one of the few to give the film a 'thumbs down'. He complained, "Skate! falls flat on its kiester. It panders to its audience and opts for a Rocky-like finale that warms our hearts but insults our intelligence." 

The film's producers got the last laugh when "Blades Of Courage" won three Gemini awards in 1988 for Best TV Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series and Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series. Christiane Hirt was also nominated for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series and Rosemary Dunsmore was nominated by Best Performance by a Supporting Actress. Hirt went on to appear in another skating film, "On Thin Ice: The Tai Babilonia Story" as Tai's friend Jamie. As far as Canadian TV films of the eighties go, "Blades Of Courage" was thoroughly entertaining and to be fair, far less unrealistic than many other films of the era that featured figure skating. Talk about a nightmare coach though!

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.

Plunge From Grace: The Baron Von Petersdorff Story


Born September 23, 1895 in Berlin, Otto Wilhelm Helmut von Petersdorff was a member of one of two non-related noble von Petersdorff families. His parents Paul Julius Axel Von Petersdorff and Elisabeth Adelheid Anna (Fehlan) von Petersdorff were well-to-do Lutherans from Wiesbaden. His father served as a guard in the Artillery Brigade of the Prussian army.

Helmut - or the Baron von Petersdorff as he was referred to his entire life - learned to skate at the famous Swiss skating resorts prior to The Great War - a fitting locale as his family had ties to Switzerland which dated back to the thirteenth century. During the War, he gave an exhibition at a domestic competition held at the Berliner Schlittschuhclub with Thea Frenssen - one of his very few known connections to amateur skating.


Following the War, the Baron emigrated from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires, Argentina, taking a job teaching ballroom dance at the Palais de Glace, a ballroom that was once South America's first ice rink. It was in this venue that another Baron - Porteno trendsetter Baron Antonio de Marchi - later staged tango soirees, after which the dance was accepted by local high society.


The Baron moved on to New York City in 1921, listing German skating star Charlotte Oelschlägel as his arrival contact. He applied for permanent residence two years later and in 1925 married Erna Schmidt, a professional skater from Berlin who went by the stage name Erna Charlotte. The Baron and Erna gave adagio skating exhibitions during hockey matches at Madison Square Garden and ballroom danced professionally at the Paramount Hotel Grill in Brooklyn. They also spent some time in Canada, visiting the Montreal Winter Club and Winnipeg Winter Club. After a brief stint in Paris skating in a show with Arne Lie, the Baron and Erna relocated to Great Britain, where their impact on the figure skating world was substantial during the thirties.

The Baron and Erna Charlotte skating at the World's Fair of 1934. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library.

Name a British ice pantomime in the thirties and the Baron was connected with it. He starred in a series of pioneering shows at the S.S. Brighton and Westover Ice Rink in Bournemouth with names like "Ice Time", "Marina" and "Patria: A Coronation Ice Cruise". He also appeared in shows at Empress Hall at Earl's Court, Blackpool and the Palace Ice Rink in Liverpool. Perhaps most notable was the 1933 production "Gypsy Dream", a full-scale nightly show with matinees which he both produced and starred in with Erna and Phil Taylor. During the thirties, the Baron also skated in The Black Forest ice show, staged in the German village during A Century Of Progress, the Chicago World's Fair of 1934, at Madison Square Garden and with Hilda Rückert in Herbert Selpin's 1934 comedic film "Der Springer von Pontresina". His signature solo number was a torch dance and he and Erna's signature duets were an adagio act and a Rhumba. The Baron and Erna - who divorced in 1932 but continued to skate together for many years afterwards - even skated by command before the Royal Family in 1937. The Baron supplemented his income from skating in shows during this period with a job as an instructor at the S.S. Brighton.

The Baron and Erna Charlotte performing their neck spin in "Marina" in 1937

The Baron was in his early forties around the time World War II broke out, but at six feet tall and one hundred and forty pounds (and in excellent shape from skating and dancing) could have easily served in the Wehrmacht. The June 7, 1938 issue of the "Mid Sussex Times" reported, "Last April the Baron went over to Germany to attend to some of his property. While he was there efforts were made to get him to join the German army. He was only released because of his contract to appear in the show." How the Baron managed to escape Europe is unknown, but he left behind his older brothers Egon and Horst. Egon had converted to Catholicism, studied demonology and worked at the Pontifical Library in the Vatican City. He became involved in the South Tyrolean German Resistance as a Vice Commander of a group which worked with the Western Allies.

Egon and Anna Dorothea von Petersdorff in 1914 at the start of the Great War

In January of 1942 the Baron headlined a skating carnival in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York with a new partner - hotel show skater Janice Hamilton of Great Neck, Long Island. From 1942 to 1946, he worked in the Big Apple for Arthur Murray as a dance instructor. After the War ended, he returned to Germany to visit relatives in Helmstedt in the Western Zone and Berchtesgaden, a town on the Austrian border in the Eastern zone best known as the home of the Kehlsteinhaus - Hitler's mountain hideaway. He returned to America in 1948 under the German immigration quota, settling in Detroit and later Houston, Texas. In February of 1952, the Baron moved to Miami Beach, taking up residence in the Indian Queen Hotel and teaching ballroom dancing at the Shoremeade and Broadmoor Hotels.

Postcard of the National Hotel in Miami Beach in the fifties

That brings us to the strange and tragic conclusion of the Baron's story - his death on May 23, 1952 in Miami Beach at the age of fifty seven. Shortly after two in the afternoon that day, the Baron got into the elevator of the National Hotel, a swanky waterfront hotel on Collins Avenue. Posing as a window cleaner, he nervously asked the operator to be taken to the solarium on the roof. Earl B. Useden, the manager of the hotel, said he saw the Baron walk down a stairwell to a window on the landing between the tenth and eleventh floors and climb out onto the ledge. Useden said he shouted and the Baron plunged to a concrete area used for the removal of garbage. Detective Wayne Miller and Deputy Constable William McCrory said he died instantly. The scene was a gruesome one - his chin was torn off completely and both of his feet were nearly severed from the impact. The Baron's body was taken to the Beach Memorial Funeral Home and an autopsy was ordered. Reporter Wilson McGee noted, "A check on von Petersdorff's hotel room [at the Indian Queen] showed that he was an active trader in the stock market, one balance sheet showing a credit of almost $16,000 on March 26. On that day, he purchased 1,300 shares of stock in a movie company. A record of a $2,300 cash deposit in a Miami Beach bank also was found. The police said no reason was found for von Petersdorff to take his life. However, he had only $45 in his wallet and the hotel said his bill was in arrears."

Photo courtesy Helen Muir Florida Collection at Miami Dade Public Library System

That wasn't all. Staff of the Beach Memorial Funeral Home telephoned his New York stockbrocker and discovered that he'd closed his account some time ago. Two cut diamonds and a diamond watch that the Baron was known to have owned less than a month before his death were strangely missing. The police had discovered that he'd recently reclaimed these items - valued at over nine thousand dollars - from a Miami firm that he'd entrusted to sell them. There was an inquest into the Baron's death, which was ruled a suicide, but as the police weren't able to locate his next of kin, his body remained unclaimed at a chapel for some time.

Having lived on three continents, made history as one of Great Britain's first 'visiting' professional stars in ice pantomimes and pushed the envelope with elements like the neck spin back in the thirties, the Baron has been all but ignored by many chroniclers of our sport. Though he met a tragic end, his fascinating story deserves to be recognized.

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.

You've Got (Reader) Mail!


There's nothing I enjoy more than rolling up my sleeves, digging deep in the archives and piecing together the puzzle pieces to share stories from ice skating history from all around the world. Well, maybe there's one thing I love more... and that is hearing how these stories speak to the people who are reading them. Over the last year, I have received countless e-mails, messages on Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. In today's blog - which is again crazy overdue - I want to once again answer some of your questions and share with you a small sampling of reader mail, many connected to several of the blogs in the archives and some relating to topics that haven't even been covered.

READER QUESTIONS

Q: From Anne (via Twitter): "How do you think Torvill and Dean would have done in Calgary '88?"

A: I don't think the question is how Jayne and Chris would have placed if they competed at the Calgary Olympics, but how they would have managed to match or top "Bolero". At the level they were skating at as professionals at the time, I think they could have easily repeated as Olympic Gold Medallists. I don't say that to discredit the ice dance medallists in Calgary - I actually loved watching all three - but Jayne and Chris were just remarkable.

Q: From Edward (via Facebook): "Which skaters do you think that history has been most unfair to?"

A: Really interesting question! The obvious answer is Nancy Kerrigan. The poor woman got attacked twenty five years ago and is still remembered moreso as part of 'Nancy and Tonya' than for her two Olympic medals. As entertaining as "I, Tonya" was, I don't think the revisionist history has helped. Sonja Henie is perhaps another... I keep going back and forth on how I feel about her and I'm sure I always will.

ANCHORS AWEIGH: TRUE TALES OF SKATERS ON THE HIGH SEAS




From Heather Chartrand (via e-mail): "I enjoyed your blog story about the history of skaters travelling by ship overseas to and from competitions! It reminded me of a story of Alaine's great grandfather, Robert Norris, who was 2nd Mate on the SS Rapids Prince that navigated the St. Lawrence River from Prescott, Ontario through treacherous rapids and on to Montreal, Quebec throughout the 1940s.  When Alaine won the Canadian Championship in 2016, long-time Prescott residents and benefactors to the Prescott Figure Skating Club, Joan and Scott Hubbard, presented Alaine with a painting of the SS Prince along with a little history book that told stories of the ship and crew. It was an amazing gift to receive and it means a lot to our family to have this piece of history to connect us to our family's past. The book features personal accounts of the history of the ship and there's a little anecdote about Alaine's great grandfather and Barbara Ann Scott. I've attached so you can read it. I don't know if it was the famous yellow Buick convertible that Barbara Ann had been given for winning the 1947 World Championships which she was allowed to keep following the '48 Olympics... but it's fun to think that it was!  It was just a brief encounter, but for Alaine, who never had the opportunity to meet Barbara Ann Scott (or her great grandfather) this story is a fun piece of family lore.  I'm sure that young Robert Norris never ever would have thought when he encountered 'Canada's Sweetheart.' Ms. Scott that his own great granddaughter would also one day be a Canadian Champion figure skater! It was special for Alaine to learn this story as a gift for winning Nationals. It probably wasn't uncommon for Barbara Ann to travel via Prescott. She trained at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa which is an hour drive north of Prescott. Many people travelled by ship to Montreal on the St. Lawrence as the main highway wasn't constructed then. Mrs. Judith Caldwell who is a long time resident of Prescott, was also a figure skater who spent some time training at the Minto Skating Club and was friends with Ms. Scott. Mrs. Caldwell went on to establish the Prescott Figure Skating Club which celebrated it's 50th Anniversary last season. The club has a rich history.  Joan Hubbard and her sister, Mary, were skaters with the PFSC. Mary Warren went on to be a long-time coach with the Oakville Skating Club. Joan has been president and involved with the PFSC for many years.  She's also the club historian. She has every program from every ice show the club put on. The PFSC hosted many Canadian figure skaters as guests in their annual ice show, with the skaters often staying at the Hubbards' house which is next to the arena.  Jennifer Robinson was once a surprise guest when she arrived with then boyfriend Shane Dennison who was guest skating in the show with his pairs partner. Both were later coaches of Alaine. I love these little intertwining stories that make up the history of the skating community... Anyway, I thought you might appreciate this little bit of history with a skating connection. Alaine and I are big fans of yours and share your love of the history of figure skating!"

A FAMOUS IMPOSTER



From Rowan (via e-mail): "I'm writing a history of Hamilton's Panoramas and including notes on the many variety artists who performed with the show during the 19th century. These included several roller skaters, notably 'Ashley, Smith and Hess', 'Hess and Lisbon' (Ashley and Smith well known, but Hess and Lisbon are a nightmare to disentangle as at least three performers used those stage-names), and 'Chivers and De Monti'. De Monti’s real name was Charles Walter Holt and after breaking with Chivers he joined the 'Four Mayos', founded by Arthur Mayo (real name Arthur Collard). Mayo is first found in the Era 6 May 1877 skating in Ulverston with a Jackson Grant as 'The Imperial Canadian Skaters'. Then in September (Era 23 Sep.1877) they have become 'Jackson Haines and Arthur C. Mayo (late, Mayo and Grant, the Imperial Canadian Skaters)'. The pair are then found touring England, and returning from a Continental tour in June 1878 with 'Mdlle Bell, the Great Dutch Lady Skater and Champion Lady of the Nederlands' (Era 9 June 1878). In September they are back on the Continent (no mention of the lady); last found in Brussels in 1880 (Era 29 Aug.1880). I have not searched for them in European papers as they are peripheral to my interest in the Hamiltons, and I am easily distracted. The Mayos returned to England as 'The Three Mayos (Ida, Arthur, and Will)' in 1897 (Era 14 Aug.1897) saying they had been playing in Europe and America 'over Eighteen Years'. Soon they are the 'Four Mayos' and continued touring for many years, with some changes in personnel, until at least 1915. Arthur Mayo (Collard) died in London in 1933 age 82. No idea who this 'Jackson Haines' (originally Grant) was: taking on a famous performer's surname was common enough but using a whole name, even that of someone deceased, is very unusual."

THE LANSINBURGH HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S RESEARCH AND CLIPPINGS ON JACKSON HAINES

From Christopher (via e-mail): I saw the e-mail and thought you'd appreciate the info! [Feel free] to share my article.

Jackson Haines (1840-1879) was variously called the father of: figure skating, modern figure skating, international style, freestyle skating, the Viennese style, etc. His parents Alexander Frazee Haines and Elizabeth Terhune Bogart, his sister Elizabeth, and his children lived in the Village of Lansingburgh during the span of 1865-1873. The 1875 NYS Census shows Alexander F. Haines and his wife living with her mother, Maria (or Mary) Westervelt, on Peebles Island opposite Lansingburgh.

TROY GYMNASIUM - Haines, the great "star skater," and who created so great a sensation on the Van Rensselaer Skating Park [in Albany] last winter, made his debut at the Troy Gymasium last evening, on "rollers," or parlor skates, and delighted a very numerous auditory, with his extraordinary and artistic movements.
Albany Morning Express. March 29, 1862: 3 col 3.

- Jackson Haines, the skater, well-known in this city, has recently been presented with a beautiful medal by the Grand Duke Constantine, of Russia. It is a very large circle of Siberian crystal, in which are set letters of gold, stating the object of the gift. The edge is of solid gold, and it is surmounted with gold straps, dotted with rubies and pearls. A very handsome ring, with a ruby centre and five first-water diamonds on either side, was also presented to Mr. Haines by the Czar Alexander.
Troy Weekly Times. July 8, 1865: 1 col 5.

Haines Alexander F. h. 218 Congress [3rd Ave.], Lans.
Troy Directory for the Year 1865: Including Lansingburgh, West Troy and Green Island. Vol. 37. Troy, NY: Young & Benson, 1865. 48.

Arrested on the Charge of Kidnapping.

An examination of more than usual interest occurred before Justice Lansing, of the ‘Burgh, on Saturday last, which originated as follows: On Thursday of last week, a gentleman and lady, named William H. Bates and Almira Haines, of New York city, arrived in the ‘Burgh and engaged rooms at the Phoenix Hotel, for the ostensible purpose of making a short sojourn in the "Garden," and which they did, as the sequel will show. The lady referred to proved to be the wife of Jackson Haines, the celebrated skater, who is now astonishing the crowned heads of Europe by his consummate skill as a skater, and whose father, William S. Haines, resides in Lansingburgh. Previous to her husband’s departure for Europe, his father, who was then a resident of New York city, who was appointed guardian for the children, consisting of three in number, and they were accordingly placed in his custody, as such guardian, for the purposes for which he was appointed, and upon his removal from New York he brought the children with him to Lansingburgh, as it would appear, without the consent of Mrs. Haines, their mother, but on the contrary against her will. Such at least was her statement.
The mother, desirous to regain the custody of her children, came to Lansingburgh for that purpose, and instead of proceeding in a legitimate way to obtain such custody, resulted in the arrest of both herself and her escort, Mr. Bates. Some time prior to the afternoon of Friday last, the parties called at the residence of William S. Haines, apparently for the purpose of seeing the children and having an interview with them, the real object of the visit undoubtedly being to inspect the premises and decide upon [?] plan by which the custody of the children could be obtained. This belief is deduced from what subsequently transpired. Upon the Friday afternoon referred to, between four and five o’clock, Mr. Bates and Mrs. Haines were seen in the rear of Mr. William S. Haines’ residence, by some factory girls who were employed in an adjacent building. The latter was leading two of the children toward the Phoenix Hotel, where she succeeded in conveying them. As soon as this fact came to the knowledge of Mr. Haines, he proceeded to the hotel and demanded the children and the mother refused to surrender them—whereupon Mr. H. procured a warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Haines and her accomplice, Mr. Bates, on the charge of kidnapping. Officer Longstaff served the process, and the parties were arraigned before Justice Hearman for an examination, who, in consequence of the late hour in the day, declined to hear the same at that time, and bail was required for the appearance of the parties before Justice Lansing on the following day, Saturday, or by failure to procure said bail, be committed until such time. The re-delivery of the children into the custody of Mr. Haines was accepted as a sufficient recognizance, and the parties were held to await the determination of the following day’s examination. At two o’clock P. M. on Saturday the parties appeared, Justice Lansing’s Court, Francis Rising, Esq., appeared for the people, and James R. Stevens, Esq., as counsel for the prisoners. Several witnesses were examined on the part of the prosecution, and after the testimony was all in, the counsel for the prisoners moved for their discharge, on the ground that the evidence did not sustain the charge of kidnapping; that if they were guilty of any crime at all, it was one entirely distinct from that with which the prisoners were charged, and upon which they were arrested. The Court took half an hour to examine the law, and being convinced that the evidence did not sustain the charge of kidnapping, discharged the prisoners, who returned to New York on the same evening.

Lansingburgh Weekly Chronicle. August 8, 1866: 2 col 3. [Jackson Haines’ father was Alexander Frazee Haines; Jackson Haines’ grandfather was Jackson Haines. It's unclear why the newspaper reported the father’s name as William S. Haines. A William S. Haight, for what it’s worth, was the name listed just above Alexander F. Haines’ in the 1865 and 1866 city directories.]

Haines Alexander F. house 218 Congress [3rd Ave], Lans.
Troy Directory for the Year 1866: Including Lansingburgh, West Troy and Green Island. Vol. 38. Troy, NY: Wm. H. Young, 1866. 56.

A SAD CASE OF DROWNING.—A son [Abram] of Jackson Haines, the celebrated skater, was drowned in the river opposite Lansingburgh, on Thursday evening. The lad, who was about ten years old, was in a row boat with two others and when in the river opposite Haskell’s oil cloth factory, ran into a sail boat. The force of the blow thew H. into the water, and he sank to the bottom at once. The body was found about ten o’clock that night.
Hudson Daily Register. July 23, 1870: 2 col 4.

TROY, N. Y., 10.—Eugene Haines, nine years old, a son of Jackson Haines, the great skater, was drowned this morning at Lansingburgh.—His brother nearly the same age, was drowned this month last year.
St. Lawrence Republican and Ogdensburg Weekly Journal. July 11, 1871: 2 col 7.

Haines Alex F. carpenter, h. 110 River, Lans.
Troy Directory, for the Year 1872: Including Lansingburgh, West Troy, Cohoes and Green Island. Vol. 44. Troy, NY: Wm. H. Young, 1872. 70.

The Last Sensation in Lansingburgh—The Spirits Proceed to Discover the Whereabouts of Certain Bonds Stolen from the Waterford Bank—A Foolish Old Woman—An Outrageous Affair.

A highly sensational and disgraceful affair, in which the arts of old women combined with the gullibility of followers and modern Spiritualism were interestingly exhibited, too place in the village of Lansingburgh yesterday afternoon. Miss Clementina Jones owns a large frame house on the corner of River [First Avenue] and Grove [118th] streets. She, with her mother, both aged and remarkably eccentric females, occupies the lower floors, the upper portion being rented by the Haines family, worthy and respectable people, the parents of Jackson Haines, the celebrated skater. Miss Jones considers herself a singularly persecuted female, and is constantly communicating her thousand troubles to either the police or the newspapers, who in common with others regard her as the source of all her own unhappiness, and of various annoyances and discomforts to her tenants and neighbors. Her latest idea is that her habitation is the abode of perturbed spirits, and the story appeared in a late issue of the Gazette. Her tenants, the Haines's, seem for some unknown reason to have found great disfavor in her eyes, and several times of late she has announced by placards on her front door that "stolen goods were received up-stairs," "performances every day," etc. On Wednesday evening a number of persons held a spiritual seance in Miss Jones’s parlor, when the medium of the party discovered to the rest that silverware and bonds belonging to David Brewster, and stolen from the Waterford Bank, were secreted in Haines' apartments and in the cellar of the house, the bonds being buried in a certain designated spot in the cellar. This seance was repeated at Dr. Benton’s rooms on Thursday evening. The result was that yesterday Mrs. Brewster appeared before Justice Davenport, who, upon the woman’s oath that she believed and suspected upon the best of grounds that her property was in the above mentioned place, furnished her with a search warrant. In the afternoon Mr. Brewster summoned an officer and searched a certain portion of Mr. Haines’s rooms. Trunks were ransacked and packages of private letters examined, but they disclosed no traces of bonds or spoons. With the aid of one of the seancers a great hole, large enough to bury the whole party, was then dug in the cellar, but the lost treasure would not turn up, although the precise spot had bene marked off, according to the "spirit’s" directions, two feet from the wall and three feet deep. The bonds didn’t appear but another officer did, who, at the instance of Mr. Haines, arrested Mr. Brewster for malicious trespass, and proceeded with him to the station house. Mr. Brewster at once sent word to Gen. Bullard of this city, who went up and, with Wm. Bradshaw, became his bondsmen in the sum of $100 before Justice Hearmans to appear before the next criminal court in Troy. As we have said Mr. and Mrs. Haines are people of the highest respectability and honor, and the proceeding of yesterday is regarded as shamefully outrageous. The whole affair seems to have been contrived by an addled minded and maliciously inclined old woman. As to the other actors in the performance their conduct can only be regarded as silly as it was unwarrantable. Even the police declare themselves ashamed of the part they were compelled to perform in the matter.
Troy Daily Times. February 8, 1873: 3 col 3.

—Mrs. Haines, a former resident of Lansingburgh and the widow of the late Jackson Haines, the celebrated skater, is in Lansingburgh to remove the bodies of her two sons, which are interred in the village burial ground, to Cypress hill cemetery, Long Island. Both the boys, it will be remembered, were drowned in the Hudson river at Lansingburgh, one in 1870 and the other in 1871. Mrs. Haines has married a second husband, who is in prosperous circumstances at Brooklyn.
"Lansingburgh." Troy Daily Times. November 23, 1882: 2 col 5.

During [Jackson Haines’] absence in Europe, his two sons were drowned in the Hudson River while visiting their grandparents who had moved from New York City to Lansingburg. His daughter died in early womanhood, and his wife in 1890.
Minnoch, Jack. "Dressing Room Chatter." Amsterdam Evening Recorder. January 24, 1941: 12 cols 4-5.

EVEN MORE JACKSON HAINES... AND A LITTLE GEORGE MEAGHER

From Bill (via e-mail): " I'm a retired writer in Kingston, Ontario and have been enjoying your excellent blog on this remarkable performer. I discovered him in the 1980's while researching the history of hockey, and made copious notes on winter sports. I recorded his visit here from February 26 to March  2, 1864 and performances on indoor and outdoor rinks, one of which attracted such large crowds that the water came up through the harbour ice. An account of Haines' performance in Kingston from DBW Feb. 25/64 - 'The celebrated star skater of America exhibited his singular skill and dexterity at the King Street Skating Rink today. A slightly male young man under 30, of pleasing and gentlemanly  manner, he cuts figures, skates on one leg backwards, turns somersaults and pirouettes like and opera dancer... dances Quadrilles, waltzes, college hornpipes and took figures as if he had pumps on.' Another from the Kingston Daily News, Feb. 26/64: 'Jackson Haines, the champion skater of America astonished and delighted the citizens in the King Street Rink by a series of inimitable performances.' I recorded this in an article, 'The Rinks and Rinkists of Kingston,' published in Historic Kingston, Vol. 34, 1986. I have no doubt that his appearance here inspired The Meagher Brothers of Kingston, who toured the major cities of North America in the 1860's and 1870's. I also presented  a paper on this family for the Kingston Historical Society and unveiled an historic plaque in their honour in front of their home close to the waterfront."

JOHN CURRY'S ICARUS

From Lee (via Facebook): "Just to say I saw John Curry's Icarus and was transfixed as he fell, and fell, and fell! It remains one of the most memorable things in my life (along with flying on Concorde). Both unbelievably beautiful things that I was privileged to share in and be enriched by.  A very great talent lost too soon."

LARKYN AUSTMAN AND SEVENTIES SKATING IN B.C.



From Jim (via Facebook): "I I thought with the I would share a story that has a British/Canadian connection with one of our women competitors in the Olympic Games. Jean Scott represented Great Britain in the 72 Olympics in Sapporo and at the Worlds a month later in Calgary. She placed 11th at Olympics and then 6th at Worlds which my parents took me to see. I would be meeting my future coach Edi Rada as by that summer I would be skating at North Shore Winter Club where Karen Magnussen, Olympic Silver Medallist, also trained. Another family also moved to North Vancouver that summer and I would end up boarding with them starting in September of 72 after staying with the Rada's all summer. Mrs Jean Anderson and her husband Tom, along with their 2 daughters, Heather 11 and Yvonne 9, took me in as their border. I would stay with them for several months before moving in with Dennis Coi and his aunt and uncle. I was 15 at the time and living away from home to train. Every morning up at 5am for 6am patch and on the way to the rink Mrs Anderson in her lovely Scottish accent, I believe she was from Scotland originally would tell me about her favorite skater Jean Scott and had put the girls in skating hoping for similar results, hence the move to NSWC for more ice and better coaches. Heather and Yvonne would become very good! Heather under the tutelage of Cynthia Titcombe Trudeau (now Cynthia Ullmark) would win the 1974 Novice Ladies at both Western Divisionals (I have included a picture from BC Thin Ice) and Canadians. Her sister Yvonne that year at BC Sections jumped from 7th after figures to 1st in the Pre Novice event with a spectacular freeskate. Heather would go on the following year in 1975 to be the ruuner up Jr National Champion and eventually a Sr Ladies national competitor. Yvonne in 1978 was 3rd at the Junior Canadians and in 79 was also runner up in Jr. Ladies at Canadians. 2 sisters, same medal 5 years apart! Yvonne also would compete in Sr. Ladies against her sister no less. Heather Anderson (now Austman) is Larkyn's mother and is a coach in Coquitlam, B.C. Larkyn won Jr. Canadians a few years ago, a feat both her mother and aunt did not quite make. Also Larkyn's father Leonard also skated and Larkyn is coached by Zdeněk Pazdírek, a Czech who also competed in the 1972 Worlds. I always enjoy your posts and have many more skating stories. I have been fortunate in my career to skate with many Olympians and World competitors. From Ondrej and Dorothy, to Robin, Toller and Liz Manley."

THE EPIC THAELLS

From Bill (via Facebook): "Rona Thaell was one of my last coaches to be able to put up with Edwina Hewison (Sloman) & myself, she taught us a lot of the tricks they used to do. She then later taught me how to teach. A great lady."

From Joan (via Facebook): "We got our blades from him, while he was in Lake Placid. He imported Wilson & M.K from England. Still have one of the original bills. Coronation Ace = $36."

SHOPPING WITH THE PROTOPOPOV'S

From Amelia (via Facebook): "I loved them so much! I was in the Ice Capades when they defected! Talk about life lessons and appreciating what you have... I took Oleg to a U.S. grocery store. He asked me at the meat counter, 'Which one (meat) can I have?' Puzzled, I said, 'All of them.' He looked astonished. 'You mean I can have anything I want? 'Yes...' It was a moment in my life where I truly was thankful for what I had."

DICK BUTTON'S SHOW AT THE NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR

From Michael (via Facebook): "I worked at the rink as a skate guard 1961 and 62 before it closed for construction for Dick Button’s show. The last week of operation as a public skating rink featured an ice show as a preview for the World’s Fair. The resident pro, Paul Von Gassner skated as well as Dick Button and Scott Allen. I made life long friends at the rink."

PAGING STEPHEN MORRIS

From Rupert (via Facebook): "I stumbled across your astonishing website and wanted to say a big thank you for the brilliant work you are doing. I also would like to know if a message can be put out in the ether for the wider skating community. I'm trying to get in touch with a friend from school many years ago. His name was Stephen Morris. He was a dedicated skater. We went to school in South West London. Orleans Park School in Twickenham. He would be skating every morning before school, and would arrive a bit late because of this. I remember he competed in a St Ivel. tournament (early 80s probably). I googled him before and found he took part in the 1982 British Championships in Solihull. (ironically this was away from Richmond Ice Rink, which was very local as it was situated in East Twickenham). After we left school in 1982 we both went to Richmond Upon Thames College in Twickenham. That was the last contact I had with Stephen. I've tried looking online to see if I could contact him, but I've not been lucky enough to trace his whereabouts. He was an extraordinary kid. Dedicated, funny (humorous),  and someone who was his own man. It's such a shame that we lost touch. If there is any news at all as to which continent he might be in, or any news of any kind, then I would be very, very grateful indeed. I never skated to the same level in any way but I used to go to Richmond Ice Rink as a kid. I enjoyed it. That's before I met Stephen Morris, but what a lovely ice rink it was. It's sadly missed. Thank you kindly for your time on this. Well done again on keeping the flame alive for so many aspects of the skating world."

AN OLYMPIC TEST DRIVE

From Linda (via Facebook): "Evgeni Platov once bought my Lexus from me, I think, it was in 1994, just a bit after the Olympics (he must have been training at the University of Delaware, in Newark, DE, because I live near there). I remember being star struck, when he came to give it a test drive, although I tried my best to act normal. My husband, on the other hand had never heard of him, so he wasn’t overly impressed. I told him, for me, it was like riding in the car with the Super Bowl MVP! He told us that he wanted to buy it. He just had to have the money transferred. I remember him saying to me that he was the Olympic champion and that he could afford to buy it. I told him, not to worry and that I knew who he was. In the end, it all worked out. He drove away with a very nice car and left me with a wonderful memory. I’m 63, now, but I’ll never forget the experience. Oh, and he was absolutely lovely."

BARB AND THE BUNNIES


Photo copyright Liza Dey Photography

From Liza (via Facebook): "That [picture] was the last time I saw them perform, on the Elvis Tour in Hamilton in the fall of '97. The program was 'Way Over Yonder'. I remember that was one of the four big times in my life that I had to try to shoot while ugly crying. One of the others was their performance to 'Yesterday' for Stephanie at the World Pros. I was there in Cincinnati when the announcement was made of her pregnancy; when the twins were born, my Mom and I sent her The Velveteen Rabbit and two big bunnies for them - something we had never done with any other 'celebrity'. We felt foolish, but needed to do it. We got back a wonderful, long, handwritten note from Barb, along with a photo of the girls, saying the girls loved the bunnies and she was already reading them the book and they loved it - as much as newborns can love a book - and that she'd taped the letter from us inside so they could read who gave it to them when they were older! We were so moved at this warm, personal response from her! When Samantha passed, we had to send a condolence card and letter, and once again, we got a beautiful handwritten note back from Barb, on a beautiful Christmas card with children skating on a pond, thanking us personally for our card and letter! She is such an amazing person, and for years as we headed in to the World Pros each December, knowing we'd see a new Barbie and Paul number, my mother and I would agree that we were about to get really one of our best Christmas presents that night... My life has taken me in directions away from skating, so now I'm mostly a casual viewer, though I did get into all the Olympic skating! It is odd, after spending over a decade of my life travelling all over the East Coast, shooting skating professionally. I'm sort of glad that I don't follow it as much as in the 'golden age'; it was something I shared intensely with my mother, who is now in a nursing home with fairly advanced dementia. I think the distancing from skating is at least partially tied in with a need to close the door my own way on that love we shared so much, rather than losing it with her as I lose her. So I haven't thought of Barbie and Paul in a while. Thank you so much for allowing me to remember their beautiful skating, and all the great times Mom & I had attending events together and watching their programs!"

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