#Unearthed: Early Advice To 'Lady Skaters'

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure.

From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. Today's treasure comes from the 1864 edition of "Godey's Lady Book", the most widely circulated magazine in the United States prior to the Civil War. The magazine was printed in Philadelphia, the home of the country's first skating club which had been established not long before. The short unattributed article, entitled "Hints About Health. Rules For Skating.", provided 'lady skaters' some advice for the ice.


"Skating on the Schuylkill"

1. Avoid skates which are strapped on the feet, as they prevent the circulation, and the foot becomes frozen before the skater is aware of it, because the tight strapping benumbs the foot and deprives it of feeling. A young lady at Boston lost a foot in this way; another in New York her life, by endeavoring to thaw her feet in warm water after taking off her skates. The safest kind are those which receive the forepart of the foot in a kind of toe, and stout leather around the heel, buckling in front of the ankle only, thus keeping the heel in place without spikes or screws, and aiding greatly in supporting the ankle.

2. It is not the object so much to skate fast, as to skate gracefully and this is sooner and more easily learned by skating with deliberation; while it prevents overheating, and diminishes the chances of taking cold by cooling off too soon afterward.

3. If the wind is blowing, a veil should he worn over the face, at least of ladies and children; otherwise fatal inflammation of the lungs, ''pneumonia," may take place.

4. Do not sit down to rest a single half minute; nor stand still, if there is any wind; nor stop a moment after the skates are taken off; but walk about, so as to restore the circulation about the feet and toes, and to prevent being chilled.

5. It is safer to walk home than to ride; the latter is almost certain to give a cold.

6. It would be a safe rule for no child or lady to be on skates longer than an hour at a time.

7. The grace, exercise, and healthfulness of skating on the ice can be had, without any of its dangers, by the use of skates with rollers attached, on common floors; better, if covered with oil-cloth.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Cocktails In Chicago: The College Inn And Terrace Garden Ice Shows

Down in the United States in the years leading up to the roaring twenties, two historic hotels in the Midwest had the bright idea of using figure skating as a novelty to draw in patrons. The College Inn and Terrace Garden's unique ice shows took off like wildfire and set the precedent for many similar productions that followed in the years to come. In today's blog, we will explore the ebb and flow of these early Chicago hotel shows, the stars and the stories that made them so fascinating and the factors that contributed to their ultimate demise. Grab yourself a classic cocktail and a smart hat. We're setting the dial on the time machine to the 1910's and heading to Illinois!

The Hotel Sherman, the Sherman House Hotel... Whatever name you want to call it by, there's no denying this historic space was an iconic Windy City landmark. Through five incarnations, the Sherman was a mainstay on the corner of Randolph and Clark Streets. It stood tall during the Iroquois Theater Fire and the S.S. Eastland Disaster; the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the only all-Chicago baseball World Series in 1906. The second Sherman was destroyed in The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the third demolished in 1910. That same year the fourth Sherman was rebuilt from scratch. It was in that space that some very fascinating figure skating history was made. 

In June of 1914 - four years after the fourth Hotel Sherman opened - a fifty square foot ice tank was installed in the hotel's basement College Inn restaurant. According to promoter Julian T. Fitzgerald, the initial plan for the College Inn's ice tank was not a traditional show but a series of "very clever skating contests decided during the hot weather. It worked in New York City; why not in Chicago?" Fitzgerald's idea never got off the ground and instead manager Frank W. Bering set to work organizing a series of ice shows to entertain diners while they sipped on classic cocktails and puffed on cigars.

What was it like? Well, the College Inn's decor was inspired by 'the old school spirit' with walls plastered with collegiate pennants and crests and tables illuminated by lightbulbs screwed in the ceiling. After paying your four dollars a night for a private room with a bath, you could enjoy dinner, dancing and an ice show at the College Inn for under two dollars a head. The food was indulgent - everything from Filet De Bass De Mer to Au Jus, Asperges En Branche and Tranche De Tomato Au Caviar Frais - and the skating exquisite. Early stars included Norval Baptie and Gladys Lamb, Grace Chappell and Eddie Bassett and speed skater Bobby McLean and by 1915, hotel guides and newspapers were raving about the daily, year round shows. "The Bulletin Of The Commercial Law League of America" boasted, "The midsummer ice skating at the College Inn is one of the sights of Chicago." The hotel prided itself on daily ice shows thrice a day "enjoyed at luncheon, dinner or after-the play."

As in any skating production, there was a healthy dose of drama behind the scenes at the College Inn shows. The American Exhibition Ice Skaters Association attempted to unionize the American skaters who felt they were losing out on job opportunities "to Europeans"... in other words, the German skaters who came over to perform in Charlotte's shows at the Hippodrome in New York. Not long after signing a contract the College Inn, speed skater Bobby McLean was hauled into a meeting by Allan Blanchard, President of the International Skating Union of America. He was 'charged with professionalism' for accepting payment for performing in the shows. McLean simply got up in front of his accusers, 'accepted the charges' and told them to get stuffed. Blanchard ultimately lost his position; McLean made buckets of money performing in the shows. Regulars at the College Inn shows included the aforementioned skaters along with Orrin and Ellen Markhus, Bunny Gray, Cathleen Pope and George Kerner, Francis LeMaire, Alonzo Kaney and Dorothy Henri, Roy Fink, James J. McGeever, Art Victor, James Bourke, Marie Nicholson, barrel jumper Claude R. 'Bucky' Lamy and twelve year old Mary Rowe. After the shows, carpet was hastily thrown over ice and stragglers were entertained with dance numbers and lassoing demonstrations.

Approximately two years into the College Inn's run, the nearby Morrison Hotel decided to give the Hotel Sherman a little competition. Located on the corner of Madison and Clark Streets, the Morrison had also been rebuilt following the Great Chicago Of Fire of 1871. Its reputation was certainly considered a little more upscale, as it regularly played host to visiting politicians and dignitaries and generally got in more well-known musical acts.

To capitalize on the skating craze, the Morrison's management installed a somewhat larger tank in its huge Terrace Garden cafe, which seated one thousand, four hundred people. In 1917, "Variety" magazine described the layout of the Terrace Garden thusly: "Starting from the floor, really the balcony, it ranges downward in semi-circular terraces, eight or nine in number, tables on each terrace. At the bottom is a platform upon which the show is given. Whether the general arrangement is a practical one is another question since from many of the tables, guests cannot see below the knee of the artists or skaters only when at the further end of the stage or rink, which is also of semi-circular form... The stage is laid in sections covering the ice surface and before the skating portion of the entertainment; it is necessary for a force of bus boys, resembling slow working canvasmen, to cart away the segments." As was the case at the College Inn, an experienced orchestra accompanied the skaters who performed in the Terrace Garden.

In 1917, "Iceland Frolics" opened at the Terrace Garden featuring Charlotte OelschlägelNorval Baptie and Gladys Lamb and a sixteen skater ensemble. It was a two hour show with music by Harry Robinson and Will Harris and production by George F. Lask. The concept was an ice show in 'four seasons' with dancing in between. By the late summer, Charlotte had left "Iceland Frolics" in a sea of controversy. The August 15, 1917 issue of "The New York Clipper" reported, "The row between Charlotte, the ice skater, and the management of the Hotel Morrison, which began several weeks ago, when it was said that the skater walked out of the Terrace Garden show because she was jealous of Norval Baptie and Gladys Lamb, in the same show, had an interesting aftermath last week when Charlotte brought suit against the hotel company for $10,500, claiming breach of contract. It appears now, however, that jealousy was not the cause for the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the skater and the Terrace Garden show. It seems that Charlotte took it to heart mightily when her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Oelschlägel, were ordered out of the place one evening by Harry Mehr, manager of the garden, when they refused to rise while 'The Star Spangled Banner' was being played by his orchestra. The suit is further complicated by the fact that Charlotte's father has also brought an action against the hotel company for the sum of $1,500 'for services rendered in bringing his daughter to this city for the purpose of rehearsing a certain production.' Charlotte is under the impression that she was 'fired', but Mehr says she quit her engagement, not because of jealousy, but because of the trouble over her parents." Apparently, the rumour that she left the show because of Baptie and Lamb started because the duo had left the College Inn show to join the Terrace Garden show the same night when the drama went down with her parents. Charlotte took a four week engagement at the College Inn and a major pay cut. The lawsuit fizzled and Freda Whitaker replaced her.

By 1918, the popular ice shows at both hotels became targets of the teetotalers, who took issue with these 'cabarets' where booze flowed freely and was cheap, cheap, cheap. For a time, it seemed the hotels had won the war. The August 7, 1918 issue of "The New York Clipper" reported, "The College Inn and Terrace Garden have been permitted to continue their ice skating in connection with the serving of liquors. The City Council granted this permission of a meeting of that body on Friday of last week. At the same time, the Food Administration at Washington issued a bulletin asking the owners of ice making and refrigerating plants to save ammonia. The Council License Committee adopted an amendment to the anti-cabinet ordinance to permit ice skating in connection with the sale of liquors." The party didn't last. The crowds started to thin out and by the end, the biggest draw in the Terrace Garden's show was a relative unknown named Margarete Hoshell, a chorus skater who got her start at the age of eleven in Charlotte's Eisballets in Germany. The North American skaters were getting increasingly fed up with the fact that European skaters were getting top billing in the shows and the show's producers were frustrated by the dwindling numbers. When the United States officially went dry in January of 1920, the ice on the stages melted along with the ice at the empty bars.

In 1933, prohibition ended and the Chicago World's Fair of 1933, the Century Of Progress Exposition, enjoyed success with an ice show in its Black Forest Village. Hoping to capitalize on this, Ernest Byfield and Frank Bering decided to revive the College Inn shows and installed a 20 X 40 tank in the restaurant. Eddie Quigley, writing in "The Billboard" on December 22, 1951 noted, "The Hotel Sherman management got in touch with the Shipstads and Johnson and also Edward Mahlke, a Chicagoan very much interested in figure skating. They formed a show and came into the College Inn with the idea of remaining one month. So great was their success that they remained for 16 months. In the cast were Oscar Johnson, Eddie and Roy Shipstad, Gladys Lamb and Norval Baptie, Bobby McLean, Bess Ehrhardt, McGowan and Mack, LaVerne Busher, Eric Waite, Duke And Noble and others." That show ended summer of 1936 but really paved the way for the success of Shipstad and Johnson's Ice Follies for years to come. The College Inn kept in the ice in year-round until 1940. The Morrison Hotel was demolished in 1965; the Hotel Sherman in 1973. Today, the Chase Tower and James R. Thompson Center stand where the Morrison Hotel and Hotel Sherman once majestically stood, purveyors of cocktails and crossfoot spins in days long ago. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1979 World Junior Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

From March 27 to 31, 1979, the world's top junior skaters gathered in Augsburg, West Germany for the second official World Junior Figure Skating Championships in history. Though historically recognized as World Junior Championships, this event had been simply termed an ISU International Junior Championship prior to 1978. Under the rules in place at the time, all skaters had to be nineteen years of age of under.

Both the competition and practice venues proved quite shocking to many of the 'hothouse' skaters in attendance. The main rink was covered by a roof, but was open to the elements on one side. The practice rink wasn't covered at all, and rain and snow frequently interrupted the young skaters' training. Let's take a look back at how things played out that spring in West Germany!


A trio of Canadian pairs - Sherri Baier and Robin Cowan, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini and Josie France and Paul Mills - had won the pairs event at this event the three years previous. In Augsburg, Kerry Leitch's pupils Lorri Baier and Lloyd Eisler had to settle for bronze behind two Soviet pairs, Veronika Pershina and Marat Akbarov and Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. Pershina and Akbarov's victory would prove to be the first of five consecutive wins for Soviet pairs at the World Junior Championships. At the time, they were coached by Stanislav Zhuk.

Tatiana Durasova and Sergei Ponomarenko

Twenty one couples from thirteen countries participated in the ice dance event. Natalia Dubova's students Tatiana Durasova and Sergei Ponomarenko defended the title they'd first won the year prior in Megève. They were the unanimous choice of the panel, and their free dance to "Flight Of The Bumblebee" drew rave reviews. Roy Bradshaw's students Kelly Johnson and Kris Barber received second place marks from the British and Canadian judges, but had to settle for bronze behind
Lyudmila Pakhomova's students Elena Batanova and Andrei Antonov.

Elena Batanova, Lyudmila Pakhomova and Andrei Antonov

Americans Elisa Spitz and Scott Gregory finished second. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice",  Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "They had less than two months to learn the Starlight Waltz and change their OSP to a full-sequence dance because U.S. Silver Dance was not formatted the same as Junior World Dance." West Germans Elke and Dieter Kwiet, the children of 1959 World Roller Dance Champions Rita Paucka and Klaus-Peter Kwiet, placed sixth. They managed to defeat the third Soviet team, Oksana Gusakova and Genrikh Sretenski, who were students of Tatiana Tarasova. Their placement was considered quite an upset at the time.


Bobby Beauchamp, Vitali Egorov and Alexandr Fadeev on the podium

In winning the men's competition, Kharkov's Vitali Egorov made history as the first Soviet singles skater to claim the title. America's Bobby Beauchamp finished second, becoming the first skater of colour to win a medal at the World Junior Championships. A young Alexandr Fadeev finished third. Canada's two entries, Brad McLean and Darin Mathewson, placed a disappointing thirteenth and fourteenth. As Canadian men had won the event the previous two years, there was 'much talk' about the CFSA's decision to send two novice men instead of Brian Orser, the Canadian junior champion who had landed a triple Axel at that year's Nationals. Orser planned on moving up to the senior ranks and was given an international assignment at that autumn's Vienna Cup instead.

Left: Elaine Zayak. Right: Manuela Ruben. Photos courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

To the delight of the West German audience, fifteen year old Manuela Ruben was in first place after the women's school figures. Though a talented free skater, Ruben proved no match for thirteen year old Elaine Zayak of Paramus, New Jersey. Zayak, the second youngest skater in the event, brought the house down with a free skate jam-packed with triple jumps. Ruben took the silver, less than a point and one ordinal placing ahead of Zayak's teammate Jacki Farrell. Daniela Massanneck of West Germany and Petra Schruf of Austria placed fourth and fifth. The CFSA and Mrs. Ellen Burka agreed that "it was better for [Tracey Wainman] to stay home" and Kay Thomson placed a creditable sixth in her international debut.

An interesting footnote about this event is the fact that it was the first time ever that a future World Champion won a medal in all four disciplines at the World Junior Championships.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Climb Every Mountain: The Armand Perren Story

Born March 21, 1903 in the small municipality of Zermatt, Switzerland at the foot of the Matterhorn, Armand Hermann Perren began skating when he was four years old. "With my father, skating was his recreation," he explained in a September 13, 1953 "Sunday Mail" interview. "On a Sunday, after Mass, always the same - he goes skating. And what was there to do with Armand but take him too? And so it began."

Armand turned professional at the age of sixteen by what he referred to as "an accident". He had been training at a Swiss hotel's rink when the resident instructor broke his leg and asked him to take on some of his duties. He was thrilled with the extra pocket money and completely naive to the fact that the favour he did for his instructor disqualified him from participating in amateur figure skating competitions in the future.

At the time, skating was about number five on Armand's list of pursuits. A talented Swiss guide, he claimed to have climbed the Matterhorn over one hundred and forty times and to be "the only man in the world to climb the Matterhorn twice in one day". He also excelled in tennis, narrowly losing a selection for the Davis Cup. In addition to hockey, skiing and cooking, Perren also excelled at Greco-Roman wrestling. It wasn't until he was twenty eight that Perren seriously pursued figure skating as a career.

Olive Robinson and Armand Perren

A contemporary of Jacques and Arnold Gerschwiler, Armand taught skating in Switzerland, France and Great Britain. Prior to and during World War II, he worked with Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet, Jeannette Altwegg and future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. To supplement his income from giving lessons, he regularly appeared in ice shows. In 1937, he skated in Claude Langdon's ice pantomime "Marina" at Brighton with Red McCarthy, Erna Charlotte and The Three Bruises and "St. Moritz" at The London Coliseum as part of 'The Original Cossack Trio' with Emmie Boyd and Leonard Stewart.

Left: Armand Perren and Hanny Egli. Photo courtesy Hennepin County Library. Right: Armand Perren and Hanny Egli.

Two years later, Armand skated pairs with St. Moritz's Hanny Egli and doubled as the skating director for Empress Hall, Earl's Court and Arthur M. Wirtz's All Star European Revue "Hello America!" tour. He later skated pairs with Olive Robinson in several of Tom Arnold's ice pantomimes. After appearing in the show "Ice Follies" - not to be confused with the North American tour - with Raymonde du Bief, he performed in "La Féerie de la Glace" at the A.B.C. Theatre in Brussels, Belgium before going on the road with the Internationale Eis Revue, touring throughout Europe.

Armand Perren and Pierre Franchine preparing for a Tivoli show

In the late forties, Armand created his own show company which opened in Switzerland and later toured Belgium and Italy. He headed to Australia in 1950, where he directed a string of J.C. Williamson productions on The Tivoli Circuit.

Left: Marika Saary and Armand Perren in 1951. Photo courtesy National Library Of Australia. Right: Armand Perren.

Armand skated in some of these earlier Tivoli shows with Hungarian Champion Marika Saáry but ultimately stepped away from performing to focus on the direction and production. His efforts in Australia were at times in rocky. He contended with everything from mixed reviews to ice problems and in 1955, eighteen of the twenty two skaters in his "Rose Marie On Ice" show quit en masse over a wage dispute, only to be later rehired out of desperation. In the mid fifties, he was affiliated with a group which planned to build a giant, world-class rink in Brisbane, but it never materialized.

After a stint teaching skating in Johannesburg, South Africa, Armand returned to England in the sixties. He taught at Solihull Ice Rink in Altrincham, the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Streatham and the Birmingham Ice Rink. Among his students were Hywel Evans, Sally-Anne Stapleford, Carol Ann Warner, Vera Jeffery and Peter Webb and a young Lorna Brown and John Curry. 

John Curry and Armand Perren

Armand had quite a reputation for the time he spent at the horse tracks. He once claimed to have won thirty eight thousand pounds at a three-day meet in Goodwood, Sussex and while living in Australia, he owned several horses of his own. Bill Jones' book  "Alone: The Triumph And Tragedy Of John Curry" noted, "By the mid-1960's Perren's once sparkling career was in reverse, and his behaviour was becoming eccentric. For lessons he wore a dark double-breasted suit and tie, and if a pupil arrived two minutes late he would walk from the rink and not return. As one contemporary described him: 'He always had snots out of his nose. He sometimes didn't come in because he was drunk and he went to the races all the time and lost his money.'" John Curry and Armand's professional relationship ended unhappily after less than a year and the former Swiss guide's star continued to dwindle. He passed away in 1982, all but forgotten.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Bad Things Come In Threes

Photo courtesy "The Runaway Donkey And Other Rhymes For Children", 1905

"In attempting a back outside bracket
Be sure to put on a cork jacket;
For if you should fall, it will be on the small
Of your back and you'll probably crack it."

- "The Globe", December 1896

Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey, the hosts of my favourite podcast Stuff You Missed In History Class, often lament about the constant requests for tales of shipwrecks, exhumations and other tales of doom and gloom. As depressing as these stories may be, they are part of history - which isn't always rosy.

Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"

I've covered too many skating catastrophes on the blog before. From the Sabena Crash and the Regent's Park Skating Tragedy to the Kolonnade Shopping Mall Rink Collapse and The Hallowe'en Holocaust, the fact of the matter is that skating has been far been immune from the reach of tragedy over the years. In today's blog, we will go down the rabbit hole and take a look at three more tragedies that have largely been forgotten.


The Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia certainly has a rich skating history. It has also seen its fair share of tragedy. In 1911, fifteen workmen staying in makeshift quarters for rink employees on a barge on the Fontanka River (a left branch of the Neva) were killed in a tragic fire. The April 20, 1911 issue of The Evening Star recalled, "A watchman dropped a lamp in the kitchen. The flames reached a large oil-can standing near by. A violent explosion ensued, and in a moment the kitchen was ablaze. The watchman woke up the sleepers, of whom fourteen rushed out on to the quay without any boots and practically undressed, with the thermometer at nearly zero. The remainder stopped to dress and collect their belongings, and when they attempted to leave the dormitory they were faced by stifling smoke. The only exit was by a very narrow ladder. The two foremost of the men fell back unconscious upon the others, among whom a desperate fight of life followed, but not one escaped and they were all suffocated. When the firemen arrived they were found in a heap on the floor. The bodies bore marks of cuts and bruises and other signs of a struggle. One man even had several ribs smashed in."


After a performance of Holiday On Ice in Prague, Czechoslovakia on December 20, 1972, a group of skaters attended a party at the British Embassy. Late at night, they accepted a drive back to their hotel in a chauffeur-driven Embassy car.

Anita Jager winning the bronze medal at the Vera Pilsworth Trophy in 1967. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Tragically, the car collided with the rock wall of the Vyšehrad road tunnel, skidded and then collided with a tram and was flattened. The only survivor was an American Embassy official, but he was badly injured and was unable to provide a clear picture of how the accident occurred. The driver, a twenty one year old accountant at the British Embassy and three skaters were killed. Twenty one year old Andrew Aitkenhead from Brighton, nineteen year old Anita Jager and eighteen year old Janice Wells, both of Nottingham, were the skaters who perished. "Skating World" magazine noted that Andrew and Anita were inter-silver dance medallists and that Anita and Janice had passed their inter-silver figures. Andrew had won the Barron Trophy for boys under fifteen in 1965. The tragic accident was covered in the "Daily Mirror" and "Birmingham Post". Three skaters less, the Holiday On Ice troupe solemnly made their way to Essen, West Germany for their next show... and a rather gloomy Christmas.


1908 press photograph of a man performing a back shoot the duck on the Bois de Boulogne, which ironically was well-known for its pigeon problem.

In January of 1908, an afternoon of pleasure and figure skating on the Bois de Boulogne in Paris (historic home of the Cercle des Patineurs) was marred by a horrific incident that could have easily been of the same proportions of the 1867 Regent's Park Skating Tragedy, had it not been for some quick thinking.

Five hundred people were on the ice around four in the afternoon when disaster struck. An account from the February 22, 1908 issue of "The Express and Telegraph" described what transpired thusly: "Men, women and children were going around in merry circles on the different portions of the big lake, most of them belonging to the bourgeois or better classes. They were heedless of the fact that, whereas the temperature before was still some degrees below zero, it gradually rose under the influence of the south wind, and the treacherous process of thawing had been going on since the morning over ice already weakened by successive spells of thaw and frost. Suddenly, as some hundreds of skaters were moving round the middle of the lake, there was an ominous creek, and outburst of mingled cries and shrieks of terror as the ice gave way, and some forty or fifty persons were plunged into the lake... As soon as the park guards saw what had happened, they rushed forward, followed by the few policeman about, and some of the public who had recovered their self-control, to rescue the victims. Some thirty persons, at least, were plunged in the lake, and most of them in their frantic efforts got under the ice. A few who were near the edges were rapidly helped out, but then the more difficult part of the work began. Some twenty persons were finally rescued, but it was evident that many were missing. Soon several dead bodies were seen in the water or under the ice and taken out with difficulty and early reports stated that fourteen corpses had been recovered."

Like a game of telephone, later accounts vary widely as to what really happened. One account has two young boys colliding while skating, getting in a scuffle and while in fisticuffs, the ice breaking and people jumping in the water and rescuing them. Another cites an eyewitness, Monsieur Armand Laval, who saw a young boy climb over a danger barrier and call to his friends to follow and catch him when the ice broke.

Photo courtesy "Halcyon", 1905

In one version of the story, both boys were rescued. In Laval's account, the boy (Ferrietes) and "a middle-aged woman, two little girls and two youths of 16 and 17, an English governess and three English or English-speaking children" perished. Another reports that there were only two victims. Whatever the truth of the story, we can definitely ascertain that tragedy struck on the Bois de Boulogne that day and more lives could have easily been lost than at Regent's Park had it not been for some very brave souls.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

The 1997 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Jean Chrétien, Alexa McDonough, Giles Duceppe, Jean Charest and Preston Manning were six months away from squaring off in a federal election. "A Long December" by the Counting Crows neared number one on the Canadian music charts. Orbitz soda, TETRIX robotics kits and pogs were the latest fads.

The year was 1997, and from February 6 to 9, a multitude of Canadian figure skating greats gathered at GM Place in Downtown Vancouver for the 1997 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. It was the first time since 1988 that the province of British Columbia had played host to Canadians and fittingly, Karen Magnussen and her coach Linda Brauckman were inducted to the CFSA's Hall Of Fame. Magnussen was the event's honorary chairperson.

The CFSA had worried about ticket sales because Vancouver wasn't (according to David Dore) "a skating city" but the event brought in over a million dollars - exceeding a record set at the 1994 Canadian Championships in Edmonton. There were over sixteen thousand tickets sold for the Saturday of the event alone.

An interesting side note about this event was the fact it was the first Canadian Championships to have a real presence on what was then termed "the information superhighway". ctvistar.com, or "The Rink", was the clunky, dial-up predecessor of today's live marking websites. Sponsored by Colgate, Centrum, Ford, CTV Talk and the CFSA, the website offered at-home viewers results, skate orders, schedules, bios and commentary from Debbi Wilkes.

Break out your baggy pants and bucket hats for a trip down memory lane. Today we're looking back at all of the stories and skaters who shaped the 1997 Canadian Championships!


The 1997 event marked the final time novice events would be held at Canadians until 2010.
Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec's Monica Murovic and Dany Provost took the gold in novice pairs despite the fact they had only three days of training in the weeks leading up to the event due to injury. They bested Benjamin Barrucco and a young skater who would go on to win an Olympic medal in ice dance representing the United States - Tanith Belbin. Brenda Key and Ryan Smith, representing the Midland and Orillia Figure Skating Clubs, won novice dance. Leah Hepner of the Glencoe Club won the novice women's event, but she was upstaged by the prodigious ten year old who took the silver. Audrey Thibault of Drummondville, Quebec was landing triple toe-loop's - something you'd very rarely see in the novice women's ranks in those days. Moncton's Hugh Yik made history as the first skater from New Brunswick to win a novice title at Canadians in the men's - despite not winning either the short program or free skate. The bronze medallist, Chad Kilburn of the Royal Glenora Club, moved up from tenth after the short.

Sean Kelly Wirtz, the fifth place finisher in the junior men's event. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Also moving up was Kilburn's Royal Glenora Club training mate Sarah Schmidek, who came from behind to take the gold in the junior women's event. Quebec's Marie Laurier and Shane Dennison and Ontario's Laura Currie and Jeff Smith took the gold in junior pairs and dance. Sixteen year old Emanuel Sandhu dominated the junior men's event from start to finish, landing six triples in his free skate and earning a standing ovation. The teenager from just outside of Toronto had chosen skating over the National Ballet Of Canada. An impressed Louis Stong accurately predicted big things from Sandhu in the future, noting that he had "the whole package".


Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe

Twenty one year old Shae-Lynn Bourne and twenty five year old Victor Kraatz had split their training time between Lake Placid and Philadelphia during the 1996 season. In the months leading up to the 1997 Canadians in Vancouver, they had opted to train entirely in Lake Placid with Natalia Dubova. Bursitis in Bourne's left heel had caused them to miss a week of training time. In the first compulsory dance, the crowd of nine thousand collectively gasped when Kraatz took a tumble after getting caught on Bourne's dress. Despite the freak error, Bourne and Kraatz still had a healthy lead after the two compulsories. Kraatz told reporters, "It's such a fluke thing. I couldn't explain it at the time. I didn't know what was wrong until I saw it on the [video] tape. Afterwards, we just kind of made fun of it, because it's so ridiculous."

Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. Photo courtesy Charlie Covell.

Bourne and Kraatz went on to skate brilliantly in both the original dance (the Tango) and free dance, easily winning their fifth consecutive Canadian title. Chantal Lefebvre and Michel Brunet narrowly outranked hometown favourites Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe for the silver, and the second spot on the World teams. There had been a five-four split between the teams in the original dance. Despite a tumble in the free dance, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon held on to fourth, bettering Steve Kavanagh and his new partner Christine Fuller. In seventh was Michel Brunet's former partner Jennifer Boyce, returning to competition with Peter MacDonald.

The senior dance podium in Vancouver

Victor Kraatz was proud of Shae-Lynn Bourne for soldiering through her injury. He told reporter Steve Ewen, "She's such a great skater that she's able to not show (the pain). She's determined to always skate well. When it comes time to perform, the lights come on, she skates and starts limping afterwards." Bourne admitted, "I think this is the best we've skated the free dance to this point. It just keeps improving."


A crowd-pleasing and uniquely Canadian event was the fours competition. Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice had helped bring the gold in this event home to Kerry Leitch's camp the past four years, but in Vancouver Alison Gaylor, Nadine Prenovost, David Pelletier and David Annecca took the crown back to Quebec for the first time since 1992. One of the 1992 winners was Jean-Michel Bombardier, the defending Canadian pairs champion with Michelle Menzies.

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

Menzies and Bombardier tumbled in the pairs short program, placing third behind Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz and Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet. There was rightfully much made of Savard-Gagnon and Bradet's improvement under Paul Martini. In the free skate, the bad luck that befell Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz in 1996 continued, when Sargeant elbowed Wirtz on the triple twist, leaving him with a bloodied cheek. Their problems continued with a fall on the side-by-side triple toe-loop's and an aborted lift. Wirtz later admitted that the collision on the twist left him a little dizzy. The pair had the option to stop and restart but opted to soldier through their program. Despite their problems, they still managed to outrank Menzies and Bombardier. With the skate of their lives, Savard-Gagnon and Bradet finally managed to take the Canadian title. They received unanimous first place ordinals and a standing ovation. The Quebec pair had been on the Canadian scene for close to a decade, having won the novice title back in 1988. Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice placed a disappointing fourth, but made history by landing back-to-back triple twists for the first time at Canadians. Under the current rules, pairs are only allowed to attempt one twist lift in their free skate, so it's unlikely Higgins and Rice's feat is something we'll see in the future.


Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

After her disappointment at the 1996 Canadian Championships, Josée Chouinard had opted to return to the professional ranks, making defending Champion Jennifer Robinson the favourite in Vancouver. In the short program, Robinson was bested by former Olympian Susan Humphreys, who had struggled at the past two Canadians due to a back injury. CTV audiences were very confused when the short program of the third place finisher, former Canadian Champion Netty Kim, wasn't included in the broadcast of the event. Twenty year old Kim, who'd skated poorly at the 1996 Canadians and fallen out of favour, had skated in one of the earlier groups and performed better than expected. The York University student's program was ultimately shown in one of the station's "Afternoon Picks" broadcasts.

As in 1996, the women's free skate was a cavalcade of errors. 'David Dore's crackdown', as it was known at the time, made it painfully clear to skaters that if you didn't attempt the difficult triple jumps, you weren't going to earn international assignments. It was something Kerry Salmoni, the seventh place finisher, was all too familiar with. She had won the Junior World trials in 1995, but was left off the team anyway because she wasn't "going for the bigger tricks". Karen Magnussen wasn't impressed. She told "Vancouver Sun" reporter Gary Mason, "At last year's Nationals in the senior ladies, the judges said they would be giving credit for triples that were at least attempted. Well, every girl who went out there tried triples that they probably never landed. Barbara Ann Scott said she and her husband counted twenty nine splats - not trips or falls, splats." She felt that the push for skaters to attempt jumps in competition they hadn't yet mastered was asinine, as it only led to humiliation and shattered confidence. Susan Humphreys was one of the few women who managed to stay upright in Vancouver and she was unanimously ranked first, earning the only spot on the World team. Jennifer Robinson settled for the bronze behind Angela Derochie and Netty Kim placed fifth behind hometown favourite Keyla Ohs.

Susan Humphreys told "Kingston Whig" reporter Grant Kerr, "I was really nervous and for a moment I thought it might slip away, but I really believed in myself and I think that's what pulled me through all these times that I've had."


Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

While Canada's women had growing pains in their quest to meet the CFSA's expectations, the men's event was quite a different story. Whereas Elvis Stojko had been the only senior man consistently landing the triple Axel in 1996, nine men - more than half of the field in Vancouver - were now landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump in practice. Sébastien Britten, the 1995 Champion, had fallen out of favour with the CFSA because he hadn't mastered the Axel and it was pretty evident before he even took the ice that the judges weren't going to give him the second spot on the World team.

The top three men in the short program - Elvis Stojko, Jeffrey Langdon and Stéphane Yvars - all trained at the Mariposa Club with Doug and Michelle Leigh. There was a lot of talk about the three junior medallists from 1996 - nineteen year olds Collin Thompson and Jayson Denommée and seventeen year old Ben Ferreira - all making their senior debuts... and attempting the triple Axels. None of them had any luck.

Ravi Walia and Matthew Williams were both skating in front of hometown crowds in Vancouver. Walia skated better than he had when he won the bronze in 1995, landing a triple/triple combo, triple Lutz and triple flip in his free skate. At twenty eight and six foot four, Williams was the oldest and tallest skater in the men's event. The married father finished an unlucky thirteenth in 1995 but failed to qualify for the Canadians in 1996. Williams' wife and father both volunteered for the event to be able to see him skate. He fell on his opening triple Lutz, but went on to skate more or less cleanly, to the delight of the crowd. Both Vancouver area skaters trained under Cynthia Ullmark at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton and earned standing ovations. Walia placed fourth; Williams twelfth.

The senior men's podium in Vancouver. Photo courtesy Chuck Stoody.

Stéphane Yvars' free skate was delayed by more than five minutes while flower retrievers picked up Elvis Stojko's bouquets. The triple Axel he'd landed in the short program escaped him in the free skate and he dropped to sixth. Jeffrey Langdon landed the triple Lutz and flip in his free skate but like Sébastien Britten, made a handful of mistakes.

Jeffrey Langdon. Photo courtesy J. Barry Mittan.

Though Britten received high presentation marks and one judge had Langdon in sixth, the Barrie skater earned the second spot on the Canadian World team with a majority of second place ordinals. Elvis Stojko's winning program featured two triple Axels and a historic quadruple toe-loop/double toe-loop combination. His only error was a two-foot landing on a triple loop. It was the first time a quad jump had been landed in combination at the Canadians. Stojko had landed it at Worlds back in 1991. The Barrie skater earned a standing ovation and a sea of 5.8's and 5.9's.

Thanks to a generous donation of VHS tapes by Skate Guard reader Kate, you can take a trip back in time and rewatch performances from the 1997 Canadian Championships in digitized video form. The YouTube playlist, which includes several of the medal-winning free skates from the senior events, can be found above or at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6c_NN6KdCfLPXUNZTaJy_BCI7ygJ4r9p.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Perseverance Paid Off : The Suzanne Davis Story

Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years"

The daughter of Esther (Saville) and Francis Woodward Davis, Suzanne 'Susie' Davis was born in Waban, Massachusetts on February 7, 1912. Her father was the President of the Pilgrim Laundry Co. Suzanne, her brothers Samuel and Saville, grandmother and two servants from the Caribbean lived  with her parents through the roaring twenties in the family home on Windsor Road in Newton.

Suzanne first put on a pair of skates at the age of nine at the Braeburn Country Club, where she received early instruction from Dan Keefe and Bud Monroe. She didn't really start taking skating seriously until the family joined the Skating Club Of Boston when she was thirteen. She took her first formal lessons in figures at the age of fourteen from Willie Frick and quite incredibly managed to claim the U.S. junior women's title less than a year later.

Constance Wilson, Suzanne Davis, Melitta Brunner, Cecil Smith, Maribel Vinson and Sonja Henie at the 1930 World Championships

Though she skated in the shadow of her training mate Maribel Vinson for much of her career, Suzanne finished in the top three in the senior women's event at the U.S. Championships from 1928 to 1930 and won the bronze medal at the 1929 North American Championships in Boston behind Constance Wilson and Maribel. In 1930, she was selected to represent the U.S. at the World Championships in New York City. Though she placed last of the six entries and dropped to fourth at the 1931 U.S. Championships in Boston, she remained undeterred in her quest for success on the international level despite being labelled as something of a Susan Lucci - "always the bridesmaid, never the bride."

At the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, Suzanne placed a creditable tenth in the school figures but dropped to twelfth overall after a disappointing free skate. She moved up one spot to eleventh at the 1932 World Championships in Montreal. Things started to come together again in 1933, when she won the Original Dance with Frederick Goodridge and moved back up to second in the women's event at the U.S. Championships, returned to the podium at the North American Championships and became one of the first three women in the U.S. to pass the Gold or Eighth Test.

Suzanne Davis and Frederick Goodridge's winning Original Dance from the 1933 U.S. Championships in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The following year when Maribel was overseas in Europe, Suzanne shocked the stuffy American establishment by appearing in black velvet shorts to skate her figures at the U.S. Championships in Philadelphia. Some grasped their pearls and exclaimed "Well, I never!" while others cheered on her refreshingly modern fashion choice. She later admitted her decision to wear shorts wasn't an act of rebellion; she only did because she was be able to see her tracings better without a billowing skirt in the way!

Photo courtesy "Boston Globe" Archives

Perseverance paid off when Suzanne amassed a huge lead in the figures and won the 1934 U.S. women's title with unanimous first place marks from all five judges. She also repeated as winner of the Original Dance with Frederick Goodridge and took home the gold in fours skating with Richard L. Hapgood, Frederick Goodridge and Theresa Weld Blanchard that year, making history as the first skater to claim the singles, dance and fours title in the same year. Sadly, Suzanne's father passed away the summer before and was unable to see his daughter finally win the U.S. women's title after so many tries.

When Maribel Vinson returned to compete at the 1935 U.S. Championships, Suzanne resumed her 'number two' position and won a third bronze medal at the North American Championships in Montreal. She decided to retire from the competitive skating world after marrying Bill King, an ivy league swimmer at Dartmouth College.

Settling in Richmond, Virginia, Suzanne became a mother of two, a co-founder of the Skating Club Of Richmond and a national level judge. Late USFSA President and ISU Technical Committee Benjamin T. Wright knew her well and regarded her as "a good gal and a fine judge." Memorably, Suzanne performed in the USFSA's star-studded anniversary shows in 1971 and 1986.

Though Suzanne only skated a brief duet with fellow U.S. Champion Joan Tozzer Spalding in the 1986 America On Ice benefit, in 1971 she performed a full solo. In "Skating" magazine, William Carroll described her performance thusly: "In a long, black dress with matching stockings and black-booted skates, she held the audience's attention as she glided softly and wistfully about, doing three turns, spirals, short arabesques, with steady ease." Remarrying later in life to William Bradshaw, she passed away at Stuart Circle Hospital in Richmond, Virginia on July 28, 1991 at age seventy nine after a lengthy illness.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Featured Post

Pre-Order Your Copy of "Jackson Haines: The Skating King"

  "Jackson Haines: The Skating King" won't be available for purchase until November 1, but the good news is that you can place...