Brackets And Banking: The George Greenslet Story

Photo courtesy (HUD 328.04) Harvard University Archives. Used with permission.

Born August 12, 1906 in Cohasset, Massachusetts, George Ferris Greenslet was the son of Ellen Stoothoff (Hulst) and Ferris Greenslet. His father was a renowned historian, editor and writer who served as Director and General Manager of Trade Department at Houghton Mifflin. Ferris Greenslet worked tirelessly to 'clear the name' of ancestor Ann (Greenslet) Pudeator, who was hanged for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. The Greenslet's - Ferris, Ella, George and his older sister Marguerite - lived in affluent existence in Charles River Square in Boston, their needs tended to by a live-in nursemaid and cook.

George's father Ferris Greenslet

George started skating when he was a student at Milton Academy. In 1921, at the age of fourteen, he claimed the junior men's title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia, defeating Beatrix Loughran's future husband Raymond Harvey, Charles A. McCarthy of Chicago and four others. At the time, the distinction between the junior and senior classes at the U.S. Championships had absolutely nothing to do with age. In fact, it was unheard of for a 'boy' of fourteen to win such a prestigious title. Many of his competitors were twice his age.

However, what really made George's success at the U.S. Championships so remarkable was what he overcame. In his autobiography "Under The Bridge", George's father Ferris wrote, "Not long after the war... death for the first time threatened my own immediate family. After a series of heavy operations, my son, a boy of fourteen, developed a brain abscess. Hope was all but given up. His life was saved by a miracle of modern surgery. A technique just developed in the war hospitals in France made it possible to locate the invaded area with precision and a brilliant brain operation pulled him through so completely that a few months later, he won the Junior National Championship at his sport of figure skating. During his convalescence, Margaret [Phillips] MacDonald, the spectacled maid at Thayer's who had summoned Senator [Henry Cabot] Lodge to the telephone to hear the terms of the armistice, was employed to read to him."

The First National Bank of Boston in Buenos Aires

George 'retired' from skating as a teenager and immersed himself in his studies at Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He graduated with an M.B.A. from the latter in 1930, worked at the Revere Airport and toured Europe by car before accepting a position as a statistician at the First National Bank of Boston on Roque Sáenz Peña Avenue in Buenos Aires. He worked his way up the ladder to become the head of the bank's accounting department. In his role, he was responsible for personnel, purchasing, maintenance, taxes and communications for almost eight hundred people. In November 1933, he married Glencora Ada De Osborn. While living in South America, George worked to better American-Argentine relations. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading and playing golf. He passed away on February 20, 1953 in Buenos Aires at the age of forty seven, his remarkable win at the U.S. Championships in 1921 a forgotten footnote in figure skating history.

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 1938 European Figure Skating Championships

Cecilia Colledge's mother, Austrian Vice-Chancellor  Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, Megan Taylor, Henry Graham Sharp and Cecilia Colledge at the opening banquet for the 1938 European Championships. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

As was far too often the case in the thirties, the 1938 European Figure Skating Championships were held in two different European cities at different times. The men's and women's titles were decided between January 20 and 23, 1938 at the Kulm Rink in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with the pairs champions crowned on January 30, 1938 in Troppau - now Opava in the Czech Republic.

Felix Kaspar and Cecilia Colledge in St. Moritz in 1938

The 'hothouse' British skaters arrived weeks in St. Moritz some weeks prior to the competitions to accustom themselves once again to outdoor ice conditions and gained many new fans by giving an exhibition on New Year's Eve, 1937 in the Swiss skating mecca. Not all the drama proved to be on the ice that year. The January 21, 1938 issue of the "Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung" reported, "World champion [Felix] Kaspar escaped in St. Moritz with a lot of luck from a serious accident. He was in
danger to be run over by a stray horse and was in the last moment taken to safety."

Henry Graham Sharp skating his figures in St. Moritz. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

One had to wonder if that renegade horse was a bad omen when Great Britain's Henry Graham Sharp defeated Kaspar three judges to two in the school figures. The judges showed loyalties strictly down the familiar political lines of the era. The British, Hungarian and Danish judges cast their votes for Sharp, while the Germans and Austrians supported Kaspar.

Felix Kaspar in St. Moritz. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

The styles of the two skaters couldn't have been any more different. Tall, lithe Sharp was a methodical skater and a fine exponent of the 'Modern English School' of skating, whereas short, athletic Kaspar was known for his high flying jumps. Both skated well, but three judges opted to place Kaspar first in the free skate. The German judge placed him in a tie with Herbert Alward and the British judge tied Kaspar, Sharp and Freddie Tomlins. As the two had been close in the school figures, Kaspar was able to handily move up to defend his European title by two points, with Sharp settling for silver ahead of Alward, Horst Faber, Elemér Terták, Tomlins and Edi Rada. Both Mildred and T.D. Richardson disagreed vehemently with the result. Writing for "The Times" and "The Skating Times" the British skating 'power couple' noted that "Faber, [Günther] Lorenz, Alward, Tomlins et all... completely out-skated the champion for variety and difficulty of program." They also expressed bewilderment as to why the German judge placed Tomlins seventh in the free skate while another judge had him third.

Freddie Tomlins and Henry Graham Sharp in Berlin. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland
While in Switzerland, Sharp received tempting offers to turn professional and forgo competing at the 1938 World Championships. In a telephone interview with a reporter from the "Sunday Dispatch", he explained, "I am in an awful whirl. My ambition is to win the world's championship in Berlin. It is held in a covered rink to which I am used, and I think I have a very good chance. But, at the same time, I should very much like to go to Hollywood. I know Sonja [Henie] well, and have skated with her at Garmisch."

Felix Kaspar. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

With a whopping seventeen entries, the 1938 St. Moritz competition tied the 1936 Berlin record for the largest number of entries in the women's competition European Championships at that point. Great Britain's Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor dominated the women's school figures and were one-two across the board on every judge's scorecard in the primary phase of the event. However, their marks were pretty much the only consistent element of the judging of the women's school figures. Both Eva Nyklova and Angela Anderes had ordinals ranging from third through tenth. Lydia Veicht's ordinals ranged from fourth through eleventh and Daphne Walker's ranged from fourth through thirteenth!

Cecilia Colledge, Pamela Stephany, Daphne Walker and Jacques Gerschwiler. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

If the judges couldn't seem to agree early on, they were all on the same page in handing Cecilia Colledge her second consecutive European title by some twelve points. Six of the seven judges had her first in the free skate, with the Austrian judge opting to tie her with Taylor.

Left:Megan Taylor, Cecilia Colledge and Daphne Walker in St. Moritz. Right: Cecilia Colledge. Photo courtesy Bildarchiv Austria.

Austria's Emmy Puzinger was third on all but one judge's scorecard in the free skate, and repeated as the European bronze medallist.

Cecilia Colledge and Susi Demoll in St. Moritz. Photos courtesy National Archives of Poland.

If there were whiffs of national bias here and there in the marking of the singles competition, the pairs competition in Troppau a week later absolutely reeked of it! Four of the judges had Olympic and World Champions Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier first, while Austrian judge Eduard Engelmann Jr. supported his own and gave the nod to siblings Ilse and Erik Pausin.

Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier. Photos courtesy Bildarchiv Austria, National Archives Of Poland.

The German judge had the Pausin's behind the bronze medallists from Germany and Inge Koch and Günther Noack, the Polish judge had the Polish team third and the Hungarian judge had the Hungarian team third. Ironically, the only team not to receive a boost was the home one. The Czechoslovakian pair was dead last on all but one judge's scorecard.

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 Search For The Next Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Used with permission.

If one thing has been consistent throughout the history of competitive figure skating, it has been the drive for skating associations to produce champions. European skating associations certainly felt that pressure in the years that followed World War II just as America most certainly did in the decade that followed the tragic Sabena Crash in Belgium that claimed the lives of their country's entire skating team in 1961

Sometimes the pressure to come up with 'the next big star' had less to do with external factors and more to do with continuing the legacy of one great, once-in-a-lifetime champion... and that's exactly the scenario that the Norges Skøyteforbund faced when Sonja Henie turned professional after winning her third Olympic gold medal and tenth World title in 1936.

Nanna Egedius

Many thought the woman that would pick up Sonja's torch and run with it would be Nanna Egedius. From 1932 to 1936, the talented young skater from Oslo had racked up an impressive five Norwegian senior women's titles. Although Sonja had opted not to participate in those domestic events, Nanna's 'resume' was certainly impressive in itself. She had placed in the top ten in every major international competition she had entered and had defeated bona fide contenders like Yvonne de Ligne and Mollie Phillips. However, Nanna got married and retired from the sport the same year Sonja Henie did. Another of Sonja's contemporaries, the talented Erna Andersen, was busy making a name for herself in professional shows in Great Britain. It seemed the Norges Skøyteforbund would have to look harder and harder for their next Sonja.

Gerd and Turid Helland-Bjørnstad. Photo courtesy Norwegian Digitalarkivet.

Enter Gerd and Turid, the two talented daughters of Sverre and Mathilde Helland-Bjørnstad of Oslo. The Helland-Bjørnstad siblings dominated the Norwegian skating scene in the years that followed Sonja Henie's retirement but neither managed to make any sort of an impact internationally. Gerd's best result on the world stage was eighth at the 1938 World Championships in Stockholm; Turid's a twelfth place finish the following year in Prague. After competing head to head at those World Championships, the skating careers of both siblings were cut short by the cancellation of both domestic and international competitions during World War II.

 Turid Helland-Bjørnstad. Photo courtesy Norwegian Digitalarkivet.

The torch then got passed to the daughter of Rolf and Anne Marie Næs... Sonja Henie's cousin Marit. The talented young skater had claimed the Norwegian junior women's title the same year that her famous relative had retired from the sport and many believed that after the War, her time would come. Though much hyped by the Norwegian press, Marit Henie placed a disastrous twenty second in her only Olympic appearance in St. Moritz in 1948. Her only trip to the World Championships as a pairs skater with Erling Bjerkhoel in 1947 hadn't been any better. Out of their element, Henie and Bjerkhoel placed dead last, sixty placement points behind the winners.

In the over eighty years since Sonja Henie struck gold at the 1936 World Championships, a Norwegian woman has yet to win a gold medal in a major ISU Championship. Does that mean there won't be another great Norwegian champion in women's figure skating? Of course not! Many Europeans certainly didn't expect much when North Americans first burst on the international scene, nor did many North Americans when Asian skaters first started rising to prominence. No one can say where the next great skating champion will hail from... but the struggles of Norway to produce 'the next Sonja Henie' in the decade following her retirement certainly serve as a reminder that some acts can't be topped easily.

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 Meteorology Of Skating

Brass weathervane depicting Andrée and Pierre Brunet at the Cambridge Skating Club clubhouse in Massachusetts. Designed by Elinor M. Goodridge. 

If you've ever talked to a skater who competed during the first half of the twentieth century, chances are you've heard the tales of competitions held in blizzards or the pouring rain; of 'hothouse' skaters who traced figures in bone-numbing minus zero temperatures. To those who haven't had the misfortune of competing under such conditions, these tales almost remind one of that parent or grandparent who "walked to school every day in a snowstorm... uphill both ways." In today's world of cushy indoor rinks, we tend to forget just how bad skaters of yesteryear sometimes had it... and how much of a factor the weather has played in the early development of figure skating as we know it. An interesting footnote in skating history that relates to this is how skating clubs in the nineteenth century took to studying meteorology.

Graham Hutchinson's "A Treatise On The Causes And Principles Of Meteorological Phenomena", published in 1835, noted that study of weather patterns and ice conditions for skating on the Clyde at Glasgow, Scotland were recorded as far back as Christmas of 1813. Eugene Beauharnais 'E.B.' Cook was perhaps best known for his prowess as a chess player, but he was also an avid skater, collector of historical skating literature and the New York Skating Club's first meteorologist. If he ascertained that there was 'good ice', a red ball would be placed atop a bell tower on Vista Rock signalling to skaters that it was safe to skate in Central Park. M.L. Gorby recalled, "'The Ball Is Up' was the cry all over Brooklyn whenever there was skating... As a youngster, I will remember the boys borrowing their father's or uncle's telescopes so that might go out in the middle of Vanderbilt Avenue from which, miles away, the big red 'ball' could be seen - if they were lucky."


A lengthy report by E.B. Cook published April 1, 1864 entitled (unoriginally) "Report of the Meteorologist of the New York Skating Club" noted his understanding of weather patterns to study and record frosts, ice conditions and trend. Through his research, he concluded, "Were all the scientific aids brought into requisition for our ponds, the number of skating days could be considerably extended." He suggested to the Club's President that "full hygrometric, barometric and other meteorological observations" be obtained from the New York observer of the Smithsonian Institute for study. He also suggested that a screen be purchased to shade the ice from the sun.

In London, England, a member of The Skating Club named P. Bicknell took a special interest in 'the meteorology of skating'. A fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, Bicknell provided quarterly reports to the society's journal noting how many 'skating days' members of the club were able to enjoy each winter and analyzed the results. In 1886, Bicknell's research noted, "The only Club record of skating in November is two days (23rd and 24th) in 1858, but there was skating in Bushey Park on November 16th, 1879... On a pond (Captain Edwards') at Pinner there was almost continuous skating for three months, and at Rickmansworth for about seventy days; but at both places the ice was most carefully nursed - the snow kept swept, and skating was stopped in the middle of the day when desirable." That same year, a Mr. W.P. Warner of the Welsh Harp Fishery at Hendon noted that ice conditions only permitted two three day periods of 'good ice' for skating in January and February, but that in March skaters enjoyed 'good ice' until almost the end of the month!



Long before the days of weather apps, social media and the evening news, the research and advice being offered by these skating meteorologists sadly sometimes went ignored or unheeded. A prime example of this was the Regent's Park Skating Tragedy on January 15, 1867. Evidence from "The Gardeners' Chronicle" in 1841 - over twenty years before the tragedy - and reports published in the Royal Meteorological Society the year prior to the event prove that this skating hotspot was very much on the radar of weather researchers and that ice depths and temperatures were regularly monitored and researched. Had the skaters that day heeded warnings by meteorologists, many lives undoubtedly would have been spared.

If you stop and consider just how many people perished by skating on unsafe ice during the nineteenth century in particular, the importance of studying weather and ensuring ice thickness were absolutely paramount to keeping figure skaters and the sport/art itself alive.

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 1955 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

A Mickey Mouse lunchbox, Slinky and home perm all cost less than two dollars. "Sincerely" by The McGuire Sisters topped the music charts and pink typewriters and refrigerators were all the rage. Dwight Eisenhower was President and Marlon Brando was the hottest star in Hollywood.


The year was 1955 and from March 30 to April 2, America's best figure skaters gathered at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs for what was then the grand finale to their season: the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was the fourth time in less than a decade that the U.S. Nationals were held at the Broadmoor.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

The weather was all over the place. There was a light snow, a wind storm and several days that were so summery that skaters put on their bathing suits and hopped in the outdoor pool! A who's who of figure skating was in attendance including Maribel Vinson Owen, Theresa Weld Blanchard, Norah (McCarthy) and Michael Kirby, Cecilia Colledge, Gene Turner, Hedy Stenuf, Jimmy Grogan and Pierre Brunet. Who were the big winners? Who were the 'losers'? Let's take a look back!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS


Robert Brewer. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Fourteen year old Carol Wanek of the Skating Club of New York's lead in the figures was enough to secure her the novice women's title. She was upstaged in the free skate by a twelve year old from Brooklyn named Lynn Finnegan, who moved all the way up from fifth to take the silver. Wanek lived in Ozone Park, New Jersey and was coached by Pierre Brunet. In her free time, she enjoyed ballet, horseback riding and speed skating. Seventeen year old Jim Short of Los Angeles, fifth in 1954, similarly used a lead in figures to his advantage in winning the novice men's crown. It was a different story in the junior men's event, when Tom Moore came from behind to defeat Robert Brewer, who had won the figures. Sixteen year old Moore had two first place ordinals to Brewer and Barlow Nelson's one apiece. Moore had been skating for eight years and excelled in track and field and football.


To the delight of Maribel Vinson Owen, her daughter 'little Maribel' and partner Chuck Foster were the clear winners in the junior pairs event. Maribel had won the same title with Thornton Coolidge twenty eight years prior. Nancy and Bruce Heiss, siblings of Carol, placed sixth. Thirteen year old Nancy made up for her finish in junior pairs by winning the junior women's title. The standings had been very close after the figures and when three of the top contenders faltered in free skating, she was able to earn a three judge majority over Los Angeles' Janice Marie Crappa.


After skating the European Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Paso Doble, the top Silver (Junior) Dancers were deemed to be Californians Barbara Jean 'Bobby' Stein and Raymond Sato. Years before Wen-an Sun claimed the novice women's crown in 1967, Sato was one of the first Asian American skaters to win a national title. He was thirty two years old, roller skated in his spare time and financed his skating with a job as a sales clerk at a supermarket. 

THE PAIRS AND ICE DANCE COMPETITIONS

Two time U.S. Champions Carole Ann Ormaca and Robin Greiner were fresh off a fourth place finish at the World Championships in Vienna. They easily defended their national title, besting Lucille Ash and Sully Kothman and Agnes Tyson and Richard Swenning. The judges were unanimous in their marks for first, second and third... a rarity at the national level!

Ed and Carmel Bodel with Barbara Jean Stein and Ray Sato. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In the quest for the Harry E. Radix Trophy, Gold dancers performed the Three-Lobe Waltz, Blues, Kilian and Viennese Waltz as well as a free dance. Married couple Carmel and Ed Bodel managed to win their third national title in a very close competition. They received two first place ordinals and three second's.


Third place Phyllis and Martin Forney tied with second place Joan Zamboni and Roland Junso in points, but the Forney's had two first place ordinals to Zamboni and Juno's one. The  fact that Zamboni and Junso had two second's and the Forney's three third's was what decided second and third.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION



Fresh off reclaiming her World title and defending her North American title, Tenley Albright of Boston was the clear favourite in the senior women's event, but as always faced stiff competition from Carol Heiss, the young upstart who was clearly 'waiting in the wings' to fill her shoes as the next U.S. Champion. Albright took a strong lead and figures and skated a strong enough free skate to earn a wild ovation and unanimous first place marks on her way to her fourth consecutive U.S. title. Her marks averaged at 9.7. Fifteen year old Heiss was again second but won the hearts of the crowd. Catherine 'Chado' Machado moved up past Patricia Firth to take the bronze. She won the Oscar L. Richard Trophy for the second consecutive year. The trophy was awarded for the most artistic performance by a woman at Nationals.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION 

As in the senior women's event, twenty two year old Hayes Alan Jenkins was considered a heavy favourite heading into the National Championships. A bout with bronchial pneumonia forced World Silver Medallist Ronnie Robertson to the sidelines, but he still had his brother David to contend with in Colorado Springs. Motivated by a challenge between him and Tenley Albright to see who could earn the higher point total, Hayes delivered a more jam-packed program than normal to "Rhapsody In Blue" to earn a spate of 9.8's and win the informal challenge, gold medal and Oscar L. Richard Trophy for most artistic men's performance. David Jenkins was unanimously second, but landed two double Axels, a triple loop, triple Salchow and a double Axel/flying sit spin... showing clearly that in 1955 technical content didn't trump the pecking order. Hugh Graham Jr. took the bronze, ahead of Tim Brown and Raymond Blommer.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

The Broadmoor Skating Club and Los Angeles Figure Skating Club tied with sixty six points each, and thusly became the joint winners of the Bedell H. Harned Trophy. After the competition was over, Tenley Albright wowed the crowd with an exhibition as "Peter Pan", dressed in a gold spangled forest green jacket and gold cap. An awards presentation and supper dance at The Broadmoor Hotel capped off another successful Nationals.

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.

#Unearthed: The CSKA Moscow Children's School


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month's edition comes to you from the January 1974 issue of "Soviet Life" magazine and is a very brief look at the children's figure skating school at the Soviet Army Central Sports Club (CSKA Moscow) penned by none other than Irina Rodnina, then the reigning Olympic and World Champion in pairs skating.

"CHILDREN'S FIGURE SKATING SCHOOL" (IRINA RODNINA)


Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev

High speeds and giddy leaps, graceful movements, music, sparkling ice - that is figure skating. But how much energy goes into the training for this beautiful spectacle? In our country figure skating is one of the most popular winter sports. Thousands of girls and boys train at the many rinks.

Soviet figure skating is world famous and so are the leading skaters: Lyudmila Smirnova and
Alexei Ulanov (pair skating), Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov (ice dancing),
Sergei Chetverukhin and Yuri Ovchinnikov. They have won repeatedly at world and European
championships and at the Olympics. I'm happy that I too have been able to contribute to this
sport.

The figure skater's career begins at the children's skating schools, whose number is increasing from year to year. There used to be only two main figure-skating centers - Moscow and Leningrad - but at the recent junior championships youngsters from Sverdlovsk, Kiev, Kirov, Kazan, Tallinn, Gorky and
other cities competed. Over 60,000 children now go in for figure skating.

Irina Rodnina with young CSKA Moscow skaters

The future skaters I am going to tell about attend the children's skating school at the Soviet Army Central Sports Club. I began studying there at the age of six and still train at its rink. Applicants to the school must pass intensive tests for physical fitness, musicality, rhythm and plasticity. Skilled
specialists train the children, among them Stanislav Zhuk, a former figure skater, silver medal
winner at three European championships and the best coach in the Soviet Union; Alexander Gore-
lik, silver medal winner at the 1968 Olympics; and Victor Ryzhkin, several times the champion
of the USSR. Choreographers, composers, musicians and costume designers create the compositions and plan the programs.

At the disposal of the students are all the necessary equipment, facilities and medical services. The tuition fee is a token five rubles a month; after two years instruction is free.

It's not easy to become a good figure skater; both the students and coaches must follow an intensive regimen. Success comes only to the most persistent and stubborn. But the years spent at the school leave their mark. Though not all the youngsters become champions, they grow up healthy, resourceful, with a keen sense of beauty, the goal of sports.

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.

Figure Skating Hodge Podge, Volume 7

As autumn crept in the last six years, I reminded you of a delicious Maritime classic - hodge podge. If you've never had a proper bowl of hodge podge, you don't know what you're missing. It's a traditional Nova Scotian fall dish that uses nothing but the freshest harvest vegetables. It just warms your soul and I'm craving it already by just mentioning it.

Atlantic Canadians use the expression 'hodge podge' to describe anything that's got a little bit of everything. Figure skating constantly evolves and changes that much that it's not always easy to keep track of all of the developments, stories and (sometimes) dramas that develop along the way.

I''ve had several topics that I'd been wanting to write about for quite a while that all seemed to have two common denominators. For one, they are all tales that many people may not know or if they did, might not remember. Secondly, they don't all really have enough material to constitute a full blog of their own. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a tour of compelling stories with a skating connection... and a delicious 6.0 finish!

THE VIKING RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE

Left: Cover of menu from The Viking Restaurant And Lounge. Photo courtesy Broward County Library. Right: Matchbook from The Viking Restaurant And Lounge.

Broward County, Florida plays host to a small city called Dania Beach, which is known as "The Antique Capital Of The South". Today, antique shops line the city's North Federal Highway but in the sixties and seventies, one of the city's most unique and novel attractions was The Viking Restaurant and Lounge.


The Viking was a Scandinavian restaurant whose claim to fame was the fact it served the 'World's Largest Viking-American Smorgasbord Luncheon' daily for a dollar and twenty five cents. Menu items included Filet Mignon In Warrior Dress and Whale Steak Surprise. However, what made The Viking so unique wasn't its hokey take on Scandinavian fare... it was its ice skating rink.



While tourists perused the wine list and supped on fish and cheese platters, they were treated to daily exhibitions by members of the Viking Skating Club on a fifty by one hundred foot artificial ice rink. Hanging over the ice were chandeliers that were handmade authentic replicas from the Viking Hall in Reykjavik and flags from viking battleships. Pillars beneath the restaurant's mantel were replicas of the Pillars of the High Seat in Arnarfjörður, Iceland.


From a business perspective, The Viking Restaurant and Lounge's inclusion of a members-only ice rink was pretty clever. The skaters who gave exhibitions were all young amateurs who couldn't accept money for giving exhibitions... so they managed to provide the owners with entertainment that didn't cost them a dime. The restaurant operated from 1963 to 1977, and today it is nothing more than an empty lot. The address has even been removed from civic records. Here today, gone tomorrow!

1984: A YEAR OF FIGURE FURY



"I just feel the skaters are manipulated like pawns in a chess game. It's time we stood up to them about it." - Gary Beacom, February 14, 1984, "The Ottawa Citizen"

In January 1984, twenty three year old Gary Beacom dominated the initial phase of the Canadian Championships at the Exhibition Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, decisively winning all three school figures ahead of three time Canadian Champion and reigning World Bronze Medallist Brian Orser. In the free skate, Brian fell on his triple Lutz and triple flip attempts. Gary wasn't perfect either - putting one hand down on a triple flip and almost falling on a triple Salchow attempt - but received a standing ovation for his effort. Two judges actually tied the two men in the free skate and Gary received strong marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9. Toller Cranston later remarked that Gary "probably should have won the Canadian title. He did not."


The story would be completely different at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia when Gary staged one of the most public protests of his era at the Skenderija ice rink in response to what he perceived as politically motivated judging. After skating his third figure, a back loop change loop that he felt was finer than any of the figures he laid down in Regina to win, he was given marks lower than the first two figures he skated, which he felt weren't of the same strength.

Gary didn't go back to the boards. He stood in front of the judges and glared them down. In a February 15, 1984 interview in "The Spokane Chronicle", he said, "I said I wasn't moving. I wanted the judges to look me right in the eye. One of the judges gave me a dirty look." He skated away and kicked the boards in anger, making a thunderous boom. Brian Orser was seventh in the figures in Sarajevo to Gary's tenth... a far cry from Canadians.

Everyone was abuzz about Gary's protest in Sarajevo; it even made "Time" magazine. In the February 15, 1984 issue of "The Globe And Mail", he spoke of the incident thusly: "I don't regret it in the least; I feel quite good about it. I'm very serious about the judging and I think it's about time somebody stood up to the judges and expressed their feelings. We're not allowed to express our feelings because it's detrimental to us. But we're not monkeys, we're human beings and we should be allowed to demand fair play.''

Although not officially reprimanded by Donald Gilchrist, the Canadian referee of the event, Gary was hauled into a meeting on February 14, 1984 with Robert Hindmarch, Canada's Olympic chef de mission. He told reporters that Hindmarch "was upset but understanding. It wasn't a spoiled-brat type of thing. I felt that, last year in the Worlds, I was marked down, and the last three competitions I've been at, everybody's told me I was the best, yet I came second in all of them. And I have to think I have the best figures in the world, there's no question in my mind. And when I come tenth - it's just too much for me." Disciplinary action was threatened if his 'behaviour' continued. Gary skated a clean short program but dropped from tenth to eleventh - where he'd ultimately finish overall.


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

Gary's protest in Sarajevo resonated with other skaters who felt they too were getting the bum's rush from the Olympic judges. His teammate Kay Thomson told reporters, "You can't ever control what the judges do, just what you do. It's very frustrating. I can see why Gary... did what he did." American skater Mark Cockerell expressed, "This is the worst it has ever been. Everyone is starting to react to it. It seemed like half the people in the audience booed all the marks. I know how Gary feels when he says we're not trained monkeys. It is really heartbreaking when you put in all the time and money for what seems like a slap in the face. Gary and I are in the exact same position. We go out there and do what we have to do and don't seem to get credit. There are times I've wanted to roar and blow the roof off the building. If you speak out, it will hurt you potentially. They will come back and really give you the ax."

Toller Cranston, in the February 14, 1984 issue of "The Globe And Mail", said: "In skiing, you just have to go down a hill as fast as you can and a clock tells you who won. You can be a normal human being. In figure skating, you have to play the part. I applaud him because he was right. The problem with men's figures is that name, reputation and the country you're from mean more than the figures you skate. Gary is too unique and eccentric to put up with that. He coaches himself and puts a lot of hard work into his preparation. He's too intelligent and bright to be slaughtered in a competition where that sort of thing happens.'' He later remarked, in his 2002 book "Ice Cream", "It occurred to me that, if I had known during my own amateur career that such irreverent behaviour could garner publicity in 'Time', I certainly would have done the same thing myself." The late Barbara Graham, technical director of the CFSA at the time and a former judge, sang a different tune. She remarked, "Gary can only see the print. He can't see the execution, the movement and style on which the judges marked his performance."

At the 1984 World Championships in Ottawa, two time European Champion Norbert Schramm skated onto his patch to perform his third compulsory figure. He spread his arms to align his figure, started his tracing and then put his free foot down. Referee Sonia Bianchetti Garbato went over to him and offered him an opportunity to restart. He shook her hand and said he could not continue. She tried to convince him to but he said he couldn't and was quitting out of frustration. He bowed to the applauding crowd of one thousand and left the ice, effectively ending his amateur career.

Norbert cited his federation's politically jockeying in support of teammate Rudi Cerne at his expense as one of the motivating factors of his decision. In his 2012 Manleywoman SkateCast interview, Norbert explained, "When I got eleventh and fourteenth in the first two compulsory figures, I knew, my time is over, I will never ever be up in the top of the skaters again. So I decided to quit right in the competition, and I didn't do my loops that time. At least I got one more time a standing ovation for that. This was something unbelievable, for a school figure I never did I got a standing ovation, so I guess a lot of people at that time realized what was going on behind the scenes. These days, I'm a bit unhappy about this situation at that time, but on the other hand it was the right decision, and I continued on my own way."

Ironically, Gary Beacom was just one spot ahead of Norbert Schramm in the starting order in Ottawa. In the March 21, 1984 edition of "The Globe And Mail", he said, "I stepped on to the ice and gave a cheer. I shouldn't have. Somebody might think I was trying to steal his thunder, but I just wanted him to know that I was behind him. He got a standing ovation afterward. He felt delighted that he got one. Norbert's a good guy... He was just fed up. He was second last year, and only eleventh in the figures this year, so what was the point? He said it was because he had a bad year, and that he did skate the figures well and should have got better marks... I'm quite discouraged and frustrated. I don't really want to blame the system. I just don't want to fit into the system. The top five is where the contest is. Who cares if you're eleventh?"

When I interviewed Gary in 2013, he said, "My back change loop at Olympics was a personal achievement in spite of the temperamental conflict that ensued. It was the only loop in the competition that came close to rulebook specs. Yet, I suspect because it stood out and because I was reputed to be a renegade, I was not justly rewarded." Say what you will about sportsmanship but you have to pick and choose your battles in life... and Gary's protest will long be remembered fondly for its courage and conviction.

IRIS MUDGE



The daughter of Edward and Greta (Beasley) Mudge, Iris Langley Mudge was born November 5, 1886 in Montreal, Quebec. She grew up in the city's west ward on St. Peter Street in an Anglican home. Her father (a Newfoundlander) served as a Captain with The Canadian Grenadier Guards.

Lady's Tickets from the Victoria Skating Rink. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Iris was one of the first women to join the Earl Grey Skating Club when it was founded in 1908. She practiced several days a week at the Victoria Skating Rink and two years later was sent to Ottawa to compete at the Canadian Championships. Incredibly, although it was the very first time representatives of her club had been sent to compete, her club's four (Iris, Jeanne Chevalier, E.V. Hall and Allan Richardson) fittingly claimed the Earl Grey Trophy. Historically, this competition has been recognized as Canada's first official fours championship. Iris also succeeded in winning the Minto Challenge Trophy that year as well, now recognized as the Canadian women's title. She was twenty three at the time. It can't have been an easy go either. A report in the March 1, 1910 issue of the "New York Herald" noted that though there was "a large and fashionable crowd... the ice was such as to make the usual excellent skating impossible, a soft sheet prevailing as the result of the soft weather."

The Great War effectively ended Iris' skating career. Inspired by the Canadian Nursing Sisters who served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps near the front lines in Europe, she went overseas to England to work in a hospital for four years. After the War, she married William Edward Carless, a talented British architect who'd moved to Montreal in 1912 and found a job teaching at McGill University. Iris and William moved to England in 1929, taking up residence in a second floor flat in Holland Park. Her husband opened a private practice and Iris quietly pursued a second passion - writing. After a trip to Brittany, Iris and William penned a travelogue together titled "Two Pilgrims In Brittany" which went undiscovered for many years until their family located it in attic. After William's death in 1949, Iris took up residence at St. James Square in Bath. She passed away there on September 12, 1964 at the age of seventy seven, her moment in the sun as one of Canada's first 'lady champions' all but forgotten.

THE BOULEVARD TAVERN



Located on Queens Boulevard at 62nd Drive in Long Island, New York, the Boulevard Tavern holds a a rather unique place in figure skating history. In the heyday of hotel ice shows at hotels like the New Yorker, St. Regis and Biltmore hotels in New York, Cincinnati's Netherland Plaza, the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, the Nicollet in Minneapolis and the Copley Plaza in Boston, the Boulevard Tavern was the lone watering hole that decided to get in on the 'skating as entertainment' game. It was hailed by hotel ice show producer Art Victor as "the only non-hotel night club which has installed a permanent ice tank" in the January 2, 1943 edition of "Billboard" magazine. It was actually the popularity of a one-off production that got the tavern started in the business of pairing Long Island Iced Tea's with layback spins.

Art Victor explained, "At the Boulevard Tavern ice shows have been instrumental in putting the spot across to the extent that they are now a permanent policy. After opening with a traveling ice show, which transported its own ice equipment, the spot has installed its own refrigeration plant and is now producing its own shows. The talent situation has hampered the development of muck ice revues. Last year a muck plastic, Plasticc, was developed, on which skaters could attain 80 per cent of the speed on real ice. The Pelham Heath Inn has used this type of revue a couple of months ago... To build new tanks will be rather difficult, as most of the material needed is subject to priorities, but it is still possible, particularly for hotels with their own refrigeration plants. Muck ice has not proven successful so far; it is neither pleasant to skate on nor to dance on. With war conditions, however, favoring the development of substitutes in fields, ice skating shows on an improved muck surface may well be the result of war necessity. Didn't someone say necessity is the mother of invention?"

The Boulevard Tavern's ice shows first started being held regularly in 1941 and with a capacity of eight hundred, often attracting impressive audiences. In 1942, John Harris of the Arena Managers' Association booked MCA's McGowan and Mack ice show at the Boulevard. The show starred the husband and wife pairs team of Ruth McGowan and Everett Mack, who had respective backgrounds in roller skating, hockey and speed skating. Their young daughter Jo Ann appeared in the show and  went on to be a star with Holiday On Ice.


There is evidence of the shows continuing until the Boulevard's September 1944 to January 1945 run of "Fantasy On Ice", which had to compete with the "Hats Off To Ice" show at the Center Theatre and many popular roller skating revues that didn't have to contend with sometimes shoddy ice conditions. The tavern turned its attention to music as 'the fad' of hotel ice shows slowly dwindled. Sadly, on March 29, 1958, the Boulevard was gutted in a four alarm fire. I don't know about you but I think a revival of taverns with triple toe-loop's is definitely in order. When's happy hour?

THE SARDINE TASTER


For decades, coaching and skating in ice shows were the typical paths many amateur skaters would venture down after their competitive careers came to an end. New England Champion ice dancer Hazel Williams went down the path less travelled in the fifties, perhaps picking the most unusual post-skating career in history.

Hazel took a job as a sardine tester, tasting no less than three hundred Maine sardines a day. She worked her way up the shellfish ladder, eventually earning the cushy title of Market Specialist for the Maine Sardine Council's Research and Quality Control Laboratory at the ripe old age of thirty six. Shem indirectly credited skating for getting her the sardine tasting job, because she'd never smoked while she competed. Of seventy five applicants, none of the three successful candidates were non-smokers... with better taste buds. You'd think tasting hundreds of anything a day would put you right off it but Hazel told reporters, "It's a good thing I like sardines!"

NOVA SCOTIAN HODGE PODGE RECIPE


Sop up what's left with some nice hearty bread and be sure to double or triple up so that you have leftovers... this is always better the second day! This recipe is for four to six people:

Ingredients (fresh from a farmer's market or garden):

10-12 new potatoes – scrubbed/not peeled, and halved – quarter any large potatoes, and don't cut the small ones – you want the potato pieces to be about the same size
2-3 cups chopped new carrots – scrubbed/not peeled, cut into bite sized pieces (you can peel them if you like)
1 cup chopped yellow beans – 1 inch long pieces
1 cup chopped green beans – 1 inch long pieces
1 cup shelled pod peas – you want just the peas, not the pods
1.5 cups cream
1/4 – 1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Fill a large, heavy pot about halfway with water, and salt lightly (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt). Bring to a boil.
2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook for about seven minutes.
3. Add the carrots to the pot, and continue cooking for about seven minutes.
4. Next add the yellow and green beans to the pot, and continue cooking for about five minutes.
5. Finally, add the peas, and continue cooking for about three minutes.
6. Drain off most of the water – leave about an inch of water (no more) in the bottom of the pot with the vegetables. Return the pot to the stove, and reduce burner heat to low. Add the cream and butter, and some salt and pepper (I start with a 1/4 teaspoon of each).
7. Gently stir to combine, allowing the the blend and butter to heat through. As you’re stirring, the potatoes might break up a bit. As the the blend and butter heat through, the broth may begin to thicken. This is normal. Don’t allow the mixture to boil.
8. Once the mixture has heated through, it is ready to serve. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread.

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.