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 Jinx Clark's students from 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.
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. She practiced several days a week at the Victoria Skating Rink and in 1906, won the Rubenstein Cup for "best lady skater" at the Canadian Championships. She won the same title two years later, along with the Earl Grey Trophy four fours skating. 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 lived in Switzerland for a time, then moved to England in 1929. William husband opened a private practice and Iris spent her free time reading, collecting art and skating at Queen's. The couple travelled extensively to Holland, Russia and France. 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. For many years, Iris and William lived in Bath, which was badly bombed during World War II. After William's death in 1949, Iris took up residence at St. James Square. 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.
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