#Unearthed: Politicians, Diplomats And Skating

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 'buried treasure' is a fascinating piece about the skating backgrounds of a number of British, Canadian and American political figures. It was written by NSA historian Dennis L. Bird, with assistance from Captain T.D. Richardson and Benjamin T. Wright, and first appeared in "Skating World" magazine in September of 1965.


A few weeks ago Edward R.G. Heath became the new leader of the Conservative Party. In the ballot which secured his election, he had a narrow majority which proved to be decisive. Until the last minute, however, political correspondents and opinion polls were predicting that the honour of becoming Party leader and possibly the next Prime Minister would go, not to Mr. Heath, but to a member of the National Skating Association - Reginald Maulding.

Reginald Maulding

Most of the newspaper articles on Mr. Maulding's career have stressed his youthful lack of enthusiasm for sport. It is true that as a schoolboy he was not over-fond of team games, but he certainly enjoyed figure skating. He joined the NSA in 1930, when he was thirteen, and eventually passed the International-style bronze medal test. In a recent letter to the Skating World he says "I did my skating at Hammersmith, and was taught by Freda Whitaker. I enjoyed free skating more than set figures, and I am afraid I never had the patience to persevere for the silver."

After serving in the RAF in the war, he entered Parliament in 1950 as Conservative MP for Barnet. Since then he has held increasingly high office in successive Governments, culminating in his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1962. Since the Conservatives defeat in last year's General Election, he has been the Opposition's spokesman on foreign affairs, and has had no time to spare for skating. He writes that he had hoped to attend the Royal Skating Club's party at Queen's last October, but, much to his disappointment, was prevented by pressure of work.

Sir John Simon. Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Nowadays it is rare for British politicians to be skaters. It was not always so, however. Before the Second World War, skating was a popular pastime in high society, and many MPs, peers, even Cabinet Ministers were to be seen on the ice at Grosvenor House or the Westminster Ice Club. Some, of course, preferred the old English style. Notable among these was Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who sat in the House of Lords from 1922 to 1963 as a representative peer for Scotland; he has been an NSA member for over sixty years, and holds the Association's English-style gold medal. Another English-style medallist (this time bronze) was the late Viscount Simon, Foreign Secretary from 1931 to 1935 and probably better known as Sir John Simon.

Sir Samuel Hoare. Left photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Lord Simon's successor at the Foreign Office was an even more enthusiastic figure skater, but in the International style. He was Sir Samuel Hoare, later Viscount Templewood, sometime President of the NSA and holder of many of the greatest offices of state. between the two World Wars. He was a notably reformist Home Secretary, and served also as Secretary of State for India, Lord Privy Seal, and finally Ambassador to Spain. When the Ice Club, Westminster, was opened in 1927, he was persuaded to go there by a life-long friend, our distinguished contributor T. D. Richardson. Lord Templewood wrote in 1930, in his preface to "T.D.'s" book "Modern Figure Skating," "I am under an obligation to the author. At the most helpless moment of my life he came to my rescue. do not mean when I was born, but rather when I first set skate upon ice. This is the moment when we want a helping hand, and this is the moment when Captain Richardson outstretched his to me. At the critical turning point, battle as hopeless, he put me on the right way to learn something of a delightful art and a very exact science."

Lord Templewood certainly did not "give up the battle". He found skating an excellent relaxation from problems of government policy, and he achieved the remarkable feat of passing the NSA silver figure test when he was over fifty years old. His ice-rink activities on one occasion interfered with his political life; in December 1935, at the height of this political life; in the Hoare-Laval pact which resulted in his resignation, he was hors de combat in Switzerland, having fallen on the ice at Zuoz and broken his nose.

Sir Charles Cayzer. Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Other politicians of this period who sought their pleasure on ice included Sir Charles Cayzer, Conservative MP for Chester from 1922 until his early death in 1940, and Captain Leonard F. Plugge, MP, whom Captain Richardson describes as "very keen and not a bad performer up to about silver standard."

Sir Peter Markham Scott. Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

At least two NSA members have made unsuccessful attempts to become Conservative MPs. One was Peter Scott, the famous artist, ornithologist, dinghy sailor, and TV commentator. He was a bronze figure medallist, and in 1932 he won a pair-skating competition at the Ice Club with Joyce Macbeth. In the 1945 General Election he was defeated by only 435 votes at Wembley North. Five years later, at Greenwich, another skater lost his chance of a seat in the Commons. This was Ronald Dashwood Gilbey, now chairman of the NSA Council and a former member of Westminster City Council and the LCC.

A pre-war championship contender with political leanings is B. J. Humby. He skated for the British men's title three times, and passed his gold test in 1940, just before joining the RAF for war service. In recent years he has played an active part in local politics, and just completed three years as vice-chairman of Croyclo, South Conservative Association.

Violet Helen (Millar), Countess Attlee. Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

It is noticeable that all the British politicians interested in skating have been Conservatives. This is perhaps a consequence of the social esteem in which the sport has been held in the past; perhaps it presents an insufficiently democratic "image" to attract the Labour Party. The only prominent Socialist whom 1 can remember being associated with skating is the late Countess Attlee, who during her husband's Premiership regularly attended the British championships at Wembley, and presented the prizes.

Colonel Viktor Gustaf Balck

Diplomats as well as politicians have sometimes been active skaters. One of the most notable was the Swedish diplomat Colonel [Viktor] Balck, who was President of the ISU from 1925 to 1933 and presented (in the name of the Stockholm Allmanna Skridskoklub) the "Swedish" cup awarded each year to the British men's champion.

David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale. Photo courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

In the heyday of Princes SC, Knightsbridge, many ambassadors accredited to the Court of St. James's were regular skaters, among them the representatives of Chile (Don Augustin Edwards), Brazil (M. de Bittencourt), Siam, Belgium, and France. The first Lord Redesdale, too, who had represented. Britain in Japan, appeared every morning at Princes; he was a remarkable character, best remembered now as the father of "the Mitford girls" (the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Mosley, Nancy Mitford, and so on).

Jaochim von Ribbentrop. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

Adolf Hitler's ambassador in London, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was at one time a competitive skater. In his youth he was attached to the German Embassy in Ottawa, and he joined the Minto SC there. In February 1914 he was a member of the Minto team which travelled to the United States to contest the Ellis Memorial Trophy against the SC of Boston - one of the earliest international competitions in North America. The famous American champion Mrs. Theresa Weld Blanchard, who was one of the victorious Bostonians, remembers him as an interested and reasonably skilled skater, and a pleasant personality. Some twenty years later Ribbentrop was at the 1936 Winter Olympics, and often told T. D. Richardson (who was acting as the British chef de mission) that "he would like to go on to the rink and skate -- only the limited space available for the competitors stopped him."

The Earl and Countess of Minto skating on the Ottawa River. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.

Mention of the Minto SC brings us to the Countess of Minto, after whom the club was named. Her husband, the Earl, was Governor-General of Canada from 1898 to 1904, and they were both staunch supporters of figure skating; they donated the cups which are still awarded for the Canadian men's and pairs' champion-ships. On their return to Britain, Lady Minto was often to be seen at the Ice Club, Westminster, and Captain Richardson recalls many pleasant waltzes with her.

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

Since those days, there seem to be few links in Canada between skating and politics. One, however, is represented by Leonard P. Kelly ("Red" Kelly), the Liberal MP for York West. He first made a name for himself as an ice hockey player with the Toronto Maple Leafs before entering Parliament in June 1962. He is married to Andra McLaughlin, who was on the US team for the World figure skating championships of 1949, 1950, and 1951.

Joseph Kennedy and Megan Taylor

American politicians have not shown much enthusiasm for ice sports, although I believe Charles E. Wilson, President Eisenhower's Secretary of Defence, once had the misfortune to fall and break his ankle while skating, during his period of office. The Kennedy family of Boston, however, have long had an interest in it. When Joseph Kennedy senior was US Ambassador in London before the war, his sons used to take winter sports holidays in Switzerland, and I have in .my collection a happy photograph of Joe Kennedy junior, snapped at St. Moritz with Megan Taylor, then champion of the World. When Joe was killed in the war, his family had built in his honour the Joseph P. Kennedy Memorial Skating Center at Hyannis, Massachusetts.

President John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy. Photo courtesy National Archives.

Joe's younger brothers all had connections with skating. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was at Harvard with Tudor Gardiner, who later married 1956 Olympic champion Tenley Albright. Mr. Kennedy became President of the United States less than a month before the disaster of February 15, 1961, in which the entire US World team lost their lives. He issued a special tribute to the team from the White House, and he and his family gave strong support to the creation of the USFSA's memorial fund.

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

At the benefit carnival that initiated the fund, Edward Moore Kennedy (now the junior Senator from Massachusetts) came to read a personal message from the President. Edward himself had a particular sympathy with the fund, for when he was a freshman at Harvard he shared a room with one of the crash victims - Dudley Shaw Richards, the 1961 U.S. pairs champion.

Another member of this gifted family, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, often takes an opportunity to get his skates on. When representing the President en a goodwill tour of Japan in 1962, he skated at the Korakuen rink in Tokyo, and now that he is a Senator-for New York State he is sometimes to be seen at Rockefeller Center rink in Manhattan, guilding uncertain steps of some of his nine children.

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.

Wit Before Witt: The Hans Witte Story

Photo courtesy Seán Moore

The son of Max and Louise Witte, Hans Eduard Wilhelm 'Henri' Witte was born on January 8, 1890 in the village of Bodzanów (Sporwitten), then part of East Prussia but now incorporated in the Płock County of Mazovia Province, Poland. His name was sometimes later anglicized to Hans White. In his youth, he apprenticed as a welder.

Photo courtesy Seán Moore

At the age of eighteen, Hans first took to the ice at the Berlin Eispalast. That same year, he turned professional and began instructing young German businessmen in figure skating - an art he was then barely familiar with himself. His seemingly natural aptitude for the sport quickly led to starring roles in Leo Bartuschek's Eisballets at the Admiralspalast in Berlin prior to the Great War, alongside Charlotte Oelschlägel. In 1913, he made his first of many trips to Australia. At the Sydney Glaciarium, he gave countless exhibitions and tutored skaters in the finer points of figures and free skating.

Photos courtesy State Library Victoria

For over a decade, Hans was a fixture at the Grand Hotel in St. Moritz, a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts from around the world. Working alongside Angela Hanka, an Austrian skater who won the silver medal at the final World Championships prior to the Great War, he crossed paths with a veritable who's who of skating while working as a skating instructor and giving exhibitions, often with a comedic and acrobatic flavour.

Top: Hans and Heta Witte. Right: Hans jumping another skater in St. Moritz. Photo courtesy Julia C. Schulze.

In October of 1926, after a stint teaching skating at the Melbourne Glaciarium in Australia, Hans
travelled to America via Copenhagen aboard the S.S. Estonia with a large group of German skaters. The group worked off their sea legs at the Iceland rink in New York City and then made their North American debut during the intermission of an NHL hockey game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Maroons. Their exhibition, choreographed by Katie Schmidt, was one of the first figure skating performances at Madison Square Garden. Hans remained with the troupe in America that winter, taking the ice ballet 'on the road' to the Rhode Island Auditorium, where they received rave reviews.

Sonja Henie and Hans Witte. Photo courtesy Seán Moore.

Upon returning to St. Moritz, Hans crossed paths with Sonja Henie, who was preparing for the 1928 Winter Olympic Games. He came to England in 1929, where he married his sweetheart Hedwig 'Heta' Kaete Weber. 

Left: 1932 advertisement for "Lilac Time" at the Westover Ice Rink, Bournemouth. Right: Heta Witte skating in St. Moritz.

The two had skated together during the American tour three years prior and formed a pair act which they soon exhibited at the Westover Ice Rink in Bournemouth in an early British skating pantomime called "Lilac Time".

Howard Nicholson jumping over Hans Witte

During the thirties, Hans made several very important contributions to the skating world. He appeared in many of the early British ice pantomimes of the period, skating alongside skaters like Phil Taylor and Freda Whitaker in shows in Bournemouth and at the Hammersmith Ice Drome. He briefly acted as a trainer for the Victorian Ice Hockey Association, where he introduced an ice plough of his own invention to the skaters of Australia. His knowledge of rink management and designing ice surfaces led to jobs as a technical adviser at the Empress Hall, Earl's Court, Wembley and Melbourne Glaciarium. In 1937, he designed the ice at the London Coliseum for the famous "St. Moritz" revue, which he also performed in. He also taught skating for four years at Oxford University. Among his famous students were Lord Redesdale and the Earl of Airlie.

Hans Witte skating in "St. Moritz" at the London Coliseum

Just prior to World War II, there was a surge of interest in hockey in Scotland and Hans found employment as a technical adviser at the Falkirk and Dundee-Angus Rinks. After the War, he served as a refrigeration consultant and ice engineer for Tom Arnold's Ice Revue at Stoll Theatre and the Palace Theatre in Manchester, starring Cecilia Colledge and "Ice Pie", which was one of the first ice shows to be broadcast on BBC in 1949. 

Hans spent his later years in a conversion flat rented from a housing association in Chapel Road, Ealing. His neighbour and friend Seán Moore recalled, "Poor Hans ended up more or less alone and disillusioned... [He] was proud of his background and I remember in particular that he mentioned an uncle who had been part of a hunting party involving King George V of England. I recall that he reflected about engineering and seemed at the forefront of small bore copper pipe refrigeration which made the setting up of ice rinks possible. I seem to remember that he mentioned Richmond as a project... A neighbour, Mrs Muriel Frostick, who had been a friend of his late wife, Heta, seemed to be the only carer." He passed away at the age of eighty nine on May 7, 1979 in London, England, his contributions to the skating world largely 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.

The 1963 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

John F. Kennedy was President, Billy Fury's "In Summer" was a smash hit and a Baby Ruth chocolate bar went for a nickel. The year was 1963 and though America's figure skating community was still recovering from the tragic Sabena Crash that claimed the lives of an entire generation of skaters, coaches, judges and officials just two years prior, the show went on at the 1963 U.S. Figure Skating Championships held from February 7 to 10 in Long Beach, California.

Hosted by the Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club of Paramount, the event was held at the brand new, fifteen thousand seat Long Beach Arena. The rink was eighty five by two hundred feet with a capacity of eleven thousand. Not that anyone wanted to stay indoors anyway... at first. Early in the week, temperatures climbed to over thirty degrees, and skaters and coaches alike flocked to the nearby beach to take a winter swim in the Pacific Ocean.

Tommy Litz, Jerry and Judianne Fotheringill and Taffy Pergament. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

More than one hundred skaters competed in novice, junior and senior events. Practices were held at Iceland, Paramount and the official hotels were The Breakers International and The Lafeyette Hotel and Lanais. Social events included a 'Hawaiian luau' and dance at The Breakers International Hotel and day trips to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The competition was the first U.S. Championships held in Southern California since 1954.

George Jenkinson, Ron and Cynthia Kauffman, Tina Noyes, Johnny Moore, Carole MacSween and Ray Chenson and F. Ritter Shumway. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Despite a torrential downpour which led to flooding in some areas on the Saturday night of the competition, a new record was set for attendance. General admission was set at only two dollars, or a dollar more for a reserved seat, but the fact that audiences braved the poor weather to watch some fine free skating performances was a testament to their dedication to the sport. Among those in attendance were former U.S. Champions Dick Button, Yvonne Sherman, M. Bernard Fox, Robin Greiner and Barbara Roles Pursley.

Billy Chapel, Lorraine Hanlon and Sally Schantz and Stanley Urban. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The competition boasted the claim of being the first U.S. Championships 'in Technicolor', with blue dye being added during the ice making process to add an aesthetic appeal to both live and audiences watching Bud Palmer and Dick Button's ABC coverage at home on television. The audiences loved it; some skaters and coaches hated it. One unnamed internationally known coach, according to reporter Jerome Hall, called "the condition of the ice a disgrace." Pierre Brunet quipped, "That's very pretty, but will they make the ice pink for the girls?"

The Long Beach Arena. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The annually awarded Harned Trophy - given to the skating club who amassed the most points throughout the event - changed hands in a most remarkable way. In 1961, the Skating Club Of Boston had taken the trophy, but the following year the Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club had snatched it in Boston. In 1963, the Skating Club Of Boston reclaimed the trophy on the Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club's home turf.

How did the event play out? With great thanks to Michael Martin, librarian at Long Beach Public Library, I'd like to invite you to hop in the time machine with me as we take a look back at this fascinating competition from decades past!


Photo courtesy Long Beach Public Library

To the delight of the Californian audience, thirteen year old Johnny Moore of Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) took such a strong lead in the novice men's figures that Robert Schwarzwaelder, John Dystel and seven others were unable to catch him. Moore was an eighth grade student at Carmenita Grammar School who enjoyed coin collecting and horseback riding.

The novice women's title went to a talented young skater from the other coast. New York City's Taffy Pergament may have impressed many by winning, but the press was busy going gaga over the youngest competitor in the event, nine year old Janet Lynn of Rockton, Illinois, who had already dropped the Nowicki. Local reporter Jerome Hall called her "a cute little dumpling". She placed dead last in figures and tenth overall but had a blast competing and got to meet Dick Button.

Cynthia and Ron Kauffman. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Siblings Cynthia and Ron Kauffman took the junior pairs title ahead of Yvonne Littlefield and Peter Betts of Los Angeles, the reigning U.S. senior ice dancing champions. Following in the footsteps of another talented pair from Washington state - Karol and Peter Kennedy - the brother and sister team both attended the Ann Graves School, where they were one year apart. Ron enjoyed swimming, while Cindy was a dog lover.

The junior men's event was rather anti-climactic, with the top three remaining the same in figures, free skating and overall. Los Angeles' Billy Chapel decisively won the gold with first place ordinals from four of the five judges, ahead of Richard Callaghan of Rochester, New York and Tim Wood of Detroit. Sixteen year old Chapel attended the Hollywood Professional School and enjoyed bowling and swimming in his spare time. He hoped to attended California State and study biology, history or engineering. Betty Sonnhalter and Janet McLeod praised him for his "devil-may-care execution of his most difficult moves."

Photos courtesy Long Beach Public Library

The junior women's event was quite interesting, with first place ordinals split between five of the ten competitors in the figures. Every different judge may have had a different skater first, but fourteen year old Tina Noyes of Boston was the leader ahead of Peggy Fleming of Pasadena and Pamela Schneider of Ashbury Park, New Jersey. In one of the very few instances she was able to best Fleming, Noyes took the crown.

A young Tina Noyes and Peggy Fleming

The biggest surprise of the junior women's event was the last place finish in the figures of Maidie Sullivan of Colorado Springs. The eighteen year old had won an international junior women's competition in Davos the previous year and held the Midwestern title.

Photo courtesy Ingrid Hunnewell

Eleven teams vied for gold in the junior dance event. In the initial elimination round, teams skated the European Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Fourteenstep and in the final round, the top four teams skated the American Waltz, Rocker Foxtrot, Tango and Fourteenstep. The second and third place teams, Darlene Streitch and Charles 'Bucky' Fetter, Jr. of Indianapolis and Sally Crook and Edward Smith, Jr. of Boston, swapped places from the initial to final round, with fourth place going to Margaret A. Gerrity and Dominick Malevolta. Dennis Sveum, who would claim the U.S. senior title two years later with Kristin Fortune, placed sixth with partner Barbara McEvoy. The winners were twenty one Carole MacSween of Glendale, California and twenty seven year old Ray Chenson of Encino. Carole was a senior at UCLA and Ray was a blond haired, blue eyed construction foreman who had previously skated with Diane Sherbloom, who was killed in the Sabena crash.


The Fotheringill siblings

In their third year as seniors, siblings Judianne and Jerry Fotheringill of Tacoma, Washington finally capitalized on the U.S. junior title they had won in 1959 in Rochester by winning their first and only U.S. senior pairs title. At five foot seven and five foot eleven, Judianne and Jerry were quite tall for pairs skaters and had a striking look on the ice that commanded attention.  They trained at the Broadmoor and both attended Colorado College. Judianne was a freshman who enjoyed swimming and water skiing, while Jerry was a sophomore who studied political science and psychology.

Judianne and Jerry Fotheringill. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Another sibling pair, Highland Park's Vivian and Ronald Joseph, took the silver ahead of Patti Gustafson of Lynn, Massachusetts and Pieter Kollen of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Vivian and Ronald Joseph. Photo courtesy Ingrid Hunnewell.

Pieter Kollen had won the U.S. pairs title in 1962 with Dorothyann Nelson, but their partnership had dissolved when she turned professional and joined the Ice Capades. As Kollen was the reigning U.S. senior pairs champion, he was granted special permission from the USFSA to compete with his new fifteen year old partner, as the rulebook at the time made them ineligible for both junior and senior pairs.


Tommy Litz

After finishing a disappointing fourth on the first figure, Denver's Monty Hoyt rebounded to win the first phase of the senior men's event ahead of Smoke Rise, New Jersey's Scott Ethan Allen, Hershey, Pennsylvania's Tommy Litz and seven other men. In the free skate, the reigning champion's luck ran out. Hoyt took an uncharacteristic tumble, while Litz skated lights out, performing "effortless triples" to earn the only standing ovation of the entire competition. He moved up to claim the gold ahead of Allen, Hoyt, Gary Visconti and Buddy Zack.

Tommy Litz, Scotty Allen and Monty Hoyt

Eighteen year old Tommy Litz was a senior at Hershey Junior College. The five foot six skater with brown hair and blue eyes was coached by Felix Kaspar and skated out of the Hershey Figure Skating Club. His father Floyd was a supervisor at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation but Tommy had dreams of studying medicine... but not before he won the U.S. title. Quoted in Patricia Shelley Bushman's book "Indelible Tracings", Litz recalled, "I wanted to be a national champion so bad that it was indescribable. It was a magnificent honor to win."

In his book "Falling For The Win", Gary Visconti recalled his first year as a senior at Nationals thusly: "It was my first time in California and I reached a remarkable fourth place, unheard of for your first try... We were elated by the result. No one there knew I was performing on a severely sprained right ankle... All went great and somehow I won fourth in figures for a real victory, both personal and in that elite group of athletes. The next event, final free skate, was 24 hours later. Another shot [of cortisone], and no pain or feeling whatsoever. Weird ... an ice skater with no feeling in his foot. Wow! The triple toe-loop was my hardest jump in the opening of my routine; should we do it? Yes or no? Mr. Don [Stewart] said, 'Why did we come here? Let’s go for it, boy.' Well I performed fantastic and became an alternate for the World Team, a real earned honor."


Ten teams weaved their way through the steps of the Paso Doble, Foxtrot, Argentine Tango and Viennese Waltz and their free dances in hopes of claiming the gold medal in the senior (Gold) dance event in Long Beach. In a three-two split, Boston's Sally Schantz and Buffalo's Stanley Urban managed a huge upset in defeating Yvonne Littlefield and Peter Betts, whose free dance - according to "Skating" magazine - was "rich in content and showmanship".

Yvonne Littlefield and Peter Betts (left) and Lorna Dyer and John Carrell (right). Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Schantz and Urban had first skated together the summer previous at a training camp but didn't actually team up until the November before the competition. Schantz hadn't yet passed her Gold Dance test; Urban had never been to the Nationals before. He was a graduate of Canisius High School, captain of his high school track team and played hockey in Buffalo. Future U.S. and North American Champions Lorna Dyer and John Carrell took the bronze in their first Nationals together, ahead of Mary Ann Cavanaugh and King Cole and Jo-Anne Leyden and Robert Munz, Shortly after the event, Littlefield and Betts eloped.


Photo courtesy Long Beach Public Library

As the event was hosted by her home club, there was a lot of talk in the local media about the absence of Barbara Roles Pursley, the young mother who had made a comeback the year previous to win the 1962 U.S. senior women's title. In her absence, seventeen year old, five foot seven Lorraine Hanlon of Boston - a student of Cecilia Colledge - took a strong lead in the figures ahead of Seattle's Karen Howland. However, it was fifteen year old Christine Haigler of Colorado Springs - the youngest woman in the senior division - who won the free skate. Only fourth after figures, Haigler's free skate was the talk of Long Beach and proved to be enough to move her into second overall behind Hanlon, who faltered in her final performance, falling on a double Salchow and struggling on the landings of two other jumps. Hanlon had spent considerable time training in Switzerland the year prior after graduating from The Winsor School.

Lorraine Hanlon

Twenty one year old Karen Howland settled for third. After narrowly missing a spot on the 1961 World team - and thus saving her life by not getting on Sabena Flight 548 - she was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome. The fact she was even able to compete in Long Beach was no small feat. In Patricia Shelley Bushman's book "Indelible Tracings", she recalled, "I skated very well but a judge came up to me afterwards and said she basically screwed me; it was a political thing."

A lot may have changed in figure skating in the last fifty seven years, but these stories from the 1963 U.S. Championships in Long Beach remind us just how exciting skating in the sensational sixties was.

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.