#Unearthed: Christmas At Sunberry Dale

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month's 'buried treasure' is an excerpt from the 1870 book "Christmas At Sunberry Dale". Given the story's religious undertones, it is no surprise it was penned by Wesleyan missionary Rev. William Birmington Boyce under his pseudonym 'W.B.B.' This piece, another 'falling through the ice' cautionary tale, well expressed the intense desire to 'skate while you had the chance' during the Victorian era in England.


The Hadfields had been at the Dale nearly three weeks, and still the snow remained on the ground, frozen into a hard, crisp mass. The trees looked as though they were hung with jewels, and the icicles on the eaves of the house glistened like crystal pendants. The sparrows that chirped on the lime trees
looked thin and listless, and the red-breast grew bold enough to sit on the window-sill until a supply of crumbs had satisfied his wants.

The great pond in Leyoak Park had been frozen over nearly a fortnight, and many persons had been skating upon it for the last two days. The boys at the Dale had begged very hard to be allowed to go on the ice on the Tuesday after the party, but Mrs. Melville had been so opposed to it that all thought of it had been abandoned. On the Thursday the petition was renewed with greater vigour.

" It's quite safe, mamma!' said Charlie.

"How do you know that?" said Mrs. Melville.

"The keeper told me yesterday it was safe," replied he.

" What do you say about it, Mark?" said his mother.

"Well, I think it is alright," said he. "The Hardings were on the ice almost all day yesterday."

"Are you sure they were there?" said Mrs. Melville.

"Yes, mamma. I met Alfred Harding last night in the town, and he told me they had all been during the day."

" Very well then," said she. "I suppose you had better go, only be sure and take care of yourselves; and be back by two o'clock."

A loud " hurra" and a somersault turned by Charlie, were sufficient proof of the pleasure the permission gave them. There was a general rush after hats, caps, coats, and skates, and in less than ten minutes the whole group, with the exception of Kate, were eagerly walking towards the pond.

The fish-pond was a large piece of water covering many acres, and was pleasantly situated in a hollow near to one of the entrances to the park. Great beeches stood thickly clustered near the pond and stretched out their branches over the water, whilst sloping banks of green sward stretched down
to the water's edge. The banks were now all covered with snow trodden into dirty, irregular paths, by the tramping of many feet. On the west side the pond was bounded by a wide gravelled walk, in the centre of which stood a picturesque thatched building called the "boat-house." This building was
without doors or windows, and was simply a roof resting on ornamental pillars, with the side away from the water enclosed down to the ground. In this boat-house stood two or three old chairs and stools for the use of those who wished to put on skates.

The young people from the Dale soon reached the pond, and although early, a large number of persons were already engaged in sliding or skating upon its frozen surface. Mark was told by one of the keepers that the ice was quite safe except in one part near to the boat-house, where it had been
broken by the keepers a day or two previously, to supply the swans with water, and was now frozen over again. Mark pointed out this dangerous place to his brother and cousins, and desired them to keep away from it.

Two hours passed pleasantly by; the boys were expert skaters, and they thoroughly entered into the pleasure and excitement of the sport. Edith and Nellie had crossed the pond twice under the escort of Mark, and were standing near the boat-house laughing at the awkwardness and frequent falls of
those who were inexperienced in the use of skates. The Chesterton church clock struck twelve,
as Mark, meeting with one of the Glossops, stopped to ask him some questions about a Latin lesson. He had not been talking many minutes when, turning to look for his companions, he saw George racing with another boy near the spot he had been told to avoid. Mark at once turned towards the place, shouting to George to return.

The two boys were skating very swiftly, and George, who was in advance of his companion, tried to stop suddenly. It was too late, the velocity of his pace brought him on the thin ice. There was a loud crash, a fearful scream, and George slipped through into the water. He rose again almost immediately, and as he came to the surface, he caught at the edge of the ice, and grasping it firmly, was able to hold his head above the water.

The skaters came from all parts of the pond at the sound of the crash, whilst Nellie and Edith stood on the shore with hands clasped convulsively and faces almost as white as the snow around them. Mark immediately fastened a rope, which was lying near, around his waist, and telling the bystanders to hold it securely, crept softly towards his cousin, and kneeling as near as he could, stretched out his hand to him. George grasped it tightly and raised himself out of the water on to the ice. It was a time of intense anxiety; the ice was so frail that large pieces broke off several times as George succeeded in putting his knee upon it. Mark held him fast, however, and in a few minutes he had gained a firm foot-hold, and they were drawn to the shore amidst the ringing cheers of the excited crowd.

The strain and the fright proved almost too much for both the boys. George fainted and Mark seemed quite exhausted. As soon as they recovered a little, Rupert and Charlie threw off their skates and ran to the Bale for the carriage to convey them home.

Kate and Mrs. Melville were standing at the west window of Kate's room talking, when they caught sight of two lads running rapidly towards the house.

"Why, aunt, that boy without a cap is Rupert!"

" Surely not, my dear," said Mrs. Melville, looking earnestly at them for a few moments.

"It is, aunt; and the other is Charlie!"

"So it is dear, but why should they be running in that way?"

" I don't know, aunt; I hope there is nothing the matter."

" I hope not, Kate. Let us go down into the hall and meet them."

In a few minutes the lads had rushed breathlessly into the hall, Charlie saying, "Don't be frightened, mamma; but we want the carriage for Mark and George."

" The carriage! What for, dear?" said Mrs. Melville.

"George fell through the ice, mamma, and Mark got him out," said Charlie, as well as hurry and excitement would allow him.

Kate clung to her aunt in terror.

"Don't be alarmed, aunt," said Rupert, "They are not drowned; only very exhausted."

Mrs. Melville breathed a sigh of relief, and at once gave orders for the carriage to go speedily to the pond, and for a fire to be lighted in the boys' room, and the beds to be made warm.

In less than an hour Mark and George were comfortable in bed; Mark explaining to his mother how it had occurred.

Many grateful tears fell that night at family worship, as Mr. Melville thanked God for his preserving care and for his goodness in averting from them so great a sorrow. Kate's little Bible lay open on the table as she entered her room at night, and looking down on its open page she saw these words:

"The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."

The words touched her heart and called forth her grateful feeling, and she went to sleep comforted by the loving promise.

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 1966 European Figure Skating Championships

The Luna 9 spacecraft made history as the first object to make a controlled landing on the moon. The deaths of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and silent film star Buster Keaton and the deadly crash of Lufthansa Flight 005 in West Germany were front page news. A pint of milk delivered to your door in England cost 4p and everyone was mesmerized by Simon & Garfunkel's hit "The Sound Of Silence". 

The year was 1966, and from February 1 to 6, the eleven thousand seat Zimný Štadión in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia played host to the European Figure Skating Championships. It marked the second time in history the picturesque city played host to the European Championships, the first time being in 1956. Three of the defending European champions managed to defend their titles that year.

Skaters from fifteen countries competed in Bratislava and the ISU celebrated an important milestone - the thirtieth women's event at the European Championships. History was also made on the technological front. Helmut Strohmayer's report of the event for "Skating World" magazine noted, "Results were issued from the computer centre of the Research Institute of Economics and Organization of Building Industry very promptly - the evaluation of each category was processed by the computer in less than one minute. This was the first time a computer had been used in connection with a sports event in Czechoslovakia. Printed and bound copies of the protocol were available less than fourteen hours after the completion of the competitions."

Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive

Eurosport provided coverage of the event to millions of viewers in twenty two countries. The BBC broadcasts commentated by Alan Weeks totalled about three and a half hours of coverage, including a repeat of the dance event. British viewers chuckled at the fact 'Towlerová' and 'Sawbridgeová' flashed up on their screens.

The competition was extremely well skated and full of fascinating stories and familiar names. Let's hop in the time machine and see how it all played out!


In the school figures, Wolfgang Schwarz pulled off quite the upset in defeating reigning European Champion Emmerich Danzer quite soundly, five judges to three. Danzer had led after the first three figures, but bumbled a counter and lost concentration. Czechoslovakia's Ondrej Nepela sat in third after the figures, followed by France's Robert Dureville and Patrick Péra.

Twenty two year old Emmerich Danzer rebounded with one of his stronger free skating performances, landing a triple Salchow and a novel double Lutz with arms folded. He earned two 6.0's for artistic impression. Wolfgang Schwarz landed a triple toe-loop, double Axel and double Lutz and received good marks, but lost the free skate to Danzer by exactly twenty points.

Overall, Emmerich Danzer bested Wolfgang Schwarz by a margin of just over six points and five ordinal placings. Fifteen year old Ondrej Nepela won the bronze - his first European medal - in his home city. In "Skating World" magazine, Howard Bass wrote, "Every time he skates, this slim Czech youngster looks better and tonight was no exception. Hardly marred by just one rough landing, double jumps of every kind abounded from his light frame and his cross-foot spin finale brought a well-deserved ovation from his delighted home rink crowd."

Emmerich Danzer, Wolfgang Schwarz and Ondrej Nepela with their medals

France's Patrick Péra and Robert Dureville followed in fourth and fifth, though they were both defeated by East Germany's Ralph Borghardt in the free skate. Future Olympic Medallist Sergei Chetverukhin of the Soviet Union placed twelfth in his second trip to the European Championships and Great Britain's representative, twenty one year old Malcolm Cannon, placed a discouraging fifteenth with two falls in the free skate.

The men's podium. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.

Enroute to Vienna following the event, Dick Button - who was there covering the event for American television - told sportswriter Howard Bass that he thought Emmerich Danzer would be the next World Champion. He was right.


With Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman having turned professional, the field of sixteen ice dance teams in Bratislava was wide open. Diane Towler and Bernard Ford, teenage students of Miss Gladys Hogg at the Queen's Ice Club in London, took a decisive lead in the compulsory dances over fellow Britons Yvonne Suddick and Roger Kennerson but the teams nipping at their heels couldn't have been closer. Brigitte Martin and Francis Gamichon, Jitka Babická and Jaromír Holan, Gabriele and Rudi Matysik and Janet Sawbridge and Jon Lane all received third place ordinals in the compulsories. The dances performed were the Foxtrot, American Waltz, Kilian and Tango.

Dance medallists. Photo courtesy "Skate" magazine.

To the delight of British fans, Towler and Ford's fancy feet won them their first European title. Seven judges had them first, the Hungarian judge tied them with their training mates Suddick and Kennerson. The West German judge placed twenty year old Suddick and twenty one year old Kennerson first. Summarizing the event in "Skating World" magazine, Dennis Bird remarked, "As soon as Bernard Ford and Diane Towler started it was evident that we were about to see skating of a noticeably higher standard. Their carriage, precision, and harmony of line were impeccable."

Gabriele and Rudi Matysik. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

In the battle between the rest, the Austrian, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, Dutch, Polish judges all placed the Czechoslovakian team third; the French, British and Italian judges went with Martin and Gamichon and the West German judge opted for their entry, the Matysik's. The Czechoslovakians took the bronze, followed by the French and West German teams, Sawbridge and Lane, Lyudmila Pakhomova and Victor Ryzhkin and nine other teams. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Deftly timed tempo changes in [Towler and Ford's] free dance music accompanied traditional and original footwork and moves, such as Diane's head on Bernard's boot while lying parallel to the the ice... Jon [Lane] skated with a painfully infected foot. Gladys Hogg was able to attend, travelling over land, and the NSA officials, competitors, and Betty Callaway (there with the Matysiks) paid her tribute as the backroom star."


Gabriele Seyfert in Bratislava. Photo courtesy the German Federal Archive.

Twenty two year old Regine Heitzer, the daughter of a wealthy Austrian businessman, took a massive lead in the school figures with first place scores from every judge ahead of Diana Clifton-Peach, a talented twenty year old from Great Britain. Nicole Hassler of France, East Germany's Gaby Seyfert and Sally-Anne Stapleford of Great Britain rounded out the top five after the first phase of the competition.

Sally-Anne Stapleford. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

Eleven thousand spectators showed up to watch the women's free skate, which was decisively won by Seyfert, with Czechoslovakia's Hana Mašková second and Heitzer third. Seyfert's program included two double Axels, a double Lutz and a double loop. Dennis Bird reported that she was landing triple loops in practice. Mašková had suffered an injury in practice and skated with her left hand in a plaster cast. Heitzer had caught a virus so severe that she lost ten pounds, but her free skate in Bratislava was far from a disaster. She landed a double Axel and double Lutz.

The women's podium. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.

Adding the free skating totals with the figures, Regine Heitzer received overall first place ordinals from every judge and a score of 2244.4 points to Seyfert's 2168.5 and Hassler's 2136.1. Mašková, Clifton-Peach and Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy placed fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Clifton-Peach earned ordinals ranging from tenth through nineteenth for her free skate, but her low marks were loudly booed by the Bratislava crowd. Howard Bass said he'd "seldom seen her free-skate so well." Sally-Anne Stapleford dropped to seventh - and it was a miracle that she skated at all! Just hours before the free skate, she cut her instep with her skate blade. She performed her free skate with a bandaged foot and fell twice.


Emmerich Danzer, Ludmila Belousova, Viennese mayor Bruno Marek, Oleg Protopopov and Gabriele Seyfert. Photo courtesy German Federal Archive.

It's extremely rare when an entire panel agrees on the result of a competition but in Bratislava in 1966, every single judge placed Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov and Tatiana Zhuk and Aleksandr Gorelik first and second in the compulsory short program, free skate and overall. The same couldn't have been said for the rest of the field. Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Danne, Tatiana Tarasova and Georgi Proskurin, Irene Müller and Hans-Georg Dallmer and Gudrun Hauss and Walter Häfner all received third place ordinals in the compulsory short program. The East German team of Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz Ulrich Walther received ordinals ranging from fifth through seventeenth! The seemingly erratic judging perhaps had something to do with the fact there were nineteen pairs - a number that officials in the sixties simply weren't used to.

In the free skate, sixteen year old Glockshuber and twenty four year old Danne separated themselves from the pack with a fine performance that earned them the bronze over Tarasova and Proskurin seven judges to two. It was a redeeming moment for the West Germans, who had finished only third at their Nationals three weeks earlier. Twenty one year old Sonja Pfersdorf and twenty five year old Günter Matzdorf delivered an outstanding free skate that earned high marks. They perhaps the most unusual off-ice jobs of the field. She worked as a secretary at a biscuit factory in Nuremberg; he was a sports car driver.

The pairs podium. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.

After the event Rudi Marx, then President of the DEU, complained about the fact the judges chose to reward the balanced, artistic style of the Protopopov's and not the more rough and tumble West German pairs. "Where will it end? That's artistry without power," he bemoaned in the February 28, 1966 issue of "Der Spiegel". The article neglected to mention that the Protopopov's skated a clean and balanced free skate in Bratislava that received two perfect 6.0's. They also showed off their athletic side in an exhibition program to "Rock Around The Clock".

Sylvia Oundjian, Diana Clifton-Peach, Sally-Anne Stapleford, Malcolm Cannon, Diane Towler and Bernard Ford being serenaded at their Bratislava hotel. Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine.

On February 6, 1966, a four hour gala was held that was attended by eleven thousand spectators. At the very end, the skaters lined up down the center of the rink, the lights went out and the audience lit up thousands of sparklers... Because that's safe, right? Alan Weeks wrote, "The building was a mass of flickering lights and the skaters lapped round the rink in this memorable fairyland. Unfortunately, our television transmission had ceased before this quite moving moment. Otherwise, it would have been as dramatic as the closing day of the 1960 Olympics in Rome." The good news is that the people of Bratislava didn't burn down their rink that day.

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.

Rockers And Railroads: The Martin Stixrud Story

Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive

The son of Christian and Martine Stixrud, Martin Stixrud was born on February 9, 1876. He grew up in Oslo's Grønland district, a short distance from the Norwegian capital's downtown area. His father was a mechanic and his mother had him when she was thirty eight years old. His only sibling, a brother named Albert, was two years older.

As was common at the time, the Stixrud brothers lived in their family home well into their twenties, both working as Arsenalarbeiders (Arsenal Workers), manufacturing warheads in a Norwegian arms factory. In their thirties, they both followed in their father's footsteps, taking jobs as mechanics for the Norwegian State Railways. In their free time in the winters, Martin and Albert could be found at the Oslo Skøiteklubb, carving out school figures outdoors in all manner of weather.

Gösta Sandahl, Ivan Malinin and Martin Stixrud at the 1912 European Championships. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande.

Martin's first appearances in major ISU Championships were nothing to write home about. He placed dead last at the 1910 European Championships and second to last at the 1911 World Championships, both held in Berlin. He took the bronze medal at the 1912 European Championships in Stockholm, but as there were only three entries, he was actually third and last. His first great success really didn't come until 1913, when he bested Andreas Krogh and his brother to win his first of ten Norwegian men's titles. He was thirty seven; his brother thirty nine. Krogh was eighteen.

In retrospect, we may marvel at Martin's age but at the time, it really wasn't uncommon for men over thirty to enter international competitions. What was perhaps moreso remarkable was the fact that early in his career, Martin was a working class man from a working class family who somehow managed to finance trips to competitions all over Europe on modest wages.

One might think that a disastrous eleventh place finish at the 1914 World Championships in Helsinki would have discouraged Martin, but that simply wasn't the case. Both he and his brother Albert were active in competition for the duration of The Great War. At the 1917 Nordic Games, Martin placed a creditable second to a young Gillis Grafström. He went on to win that event in 1919 - his first of three Nordic titles. His free skating performances were typically described moreso as powerful and athletic than elegant. He routinely included the Axel jump in his programs and was a fine spinner.

After The Great War, Martin was promoted to a management position at the Norwegian State Railways. Perhaps owing to the fact that he managed to find off-season ice at the Finse Skøitehallen, a remote indoor rink in the mountains, his skating improved as he got older. He famously claimed the bronze medal at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, defeating 1908 Olympic Gold Medallist and ten time World Champion Ulrich Salchow. At forty four, he became the oldest man to win an Olympic medal in men's figure skating. Edgar Syers and Geoffrey Hall-Say, who won medals in pairs and special figures at 1908 Olympics, were older by a (gray) hair. Following those Games, Martin competed at two more European Championships and two more World Championships. His best finish was second at the 1923 European Championships, fittingly held in his home city. Two judges (both Norwegian, of course) had him first in free skating at that event.

Retiring from competitive figure skating two years shy of his fiftieth birthday, Martin balanced his work at the Norwegian State Railways with a side gig as a figure skating coach in the thirties. He also served on the board of the Norwegian Skating Federation. His brother Albert was also a skating instructor, and between them they worked with almost every Norwegian skater of any note in the twenties and thirties. Martin's students included Arne Lie, Erna Andersen and Sonja Henie. In her book "Wings On My Feet", Henie (whom he coached for three years) recalled, "I wanted more than anything else to make my free skating program a blend of dancing and figure skating. I wanted it to have the choreographic form of a ballet solo and the technique of the ice. Martin Stixrud helped me with this, suggesting the jumps and spins I should incorporate into the number to show the judges my skill, while I arranged them in a sequence that would have something of the patterned continuity and mood of dancing."

Martin passed away on January 8, 1964 at the age of eighty seven. A short notice of his death in a Norwegian newspaper made no mention of his successes in the figure skating world... yet to date he is still arguably his country's most successful male figure skater ever.

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.

It's Wirth Reading About Max Wirth

"The most wonderful thing to think about is to fly over the glittering ice on a beautiful evening in the face of the mountains of the Höggaus bathed in the glow of the sun." - Max Wirth, "Die Gartenlaube", 1867

The eldest son of Regina Magdalena (Werner) and Johann Georg August Wirth, Max Wirth was born January 27, 1822 in Wroclaw, Prussia. He had a rather dramatic childhood. Max's father was a well-known lawyer, writer, economist and politician and one of the leaders of the Liberal movement in Southern Germany in the early 1830's. In 1833, his father was sentenced to a two-year prison term in Kaiserslautern for insulting domestic and foreign authorities. Max's mother fled to an Alsatian commune with her children and Max and his brother Franz took up studies at the French Lyceum. After his father was released from prison, he fled to France to join his wife and children. The family later settled in Constance.

Max's father

As a young man, Max returned to Germany to study economics at the University Of Heidelburg. After graduating, Max began working at the stenograph bureau of the German National Assembly after his father's election as a representative for Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg. Just two months into this arrangement, his father passed away of lung disease and Max turned to journalism.

Throughout his life, Max wrote, edited and published for several German newspapers while toiling away at his own writing projects - a series of important economics textbooks. The most famous of his books, "Geschichte der Handelskrisen" (a history of economic crises) went through four editions. He married fellow writer Bettina Greiner, a novelist who later acted as the Viennese correspondent for the "Daily Times" in London.

Max's work as a writer offered him numerous opportunities to travel throughout Europe. His work as a war correspondent during the Second Italian War Of Independence might have been his most perilous assignment, but the time he spent in Austria and Switzerland introduced him to a life-long passion... figure skating.

Photo courtesy Dr. Matthias Hampe

Though he'd first enjoyed 'touring' on skates as a young man at Lake Constance and skated on frozen rivers and lakes throughout Europe for many years, Max was formally introduced to figure skating at the rinks in Bern and Engelberg, Switzerland in the mid-1850's. In 1861, he served on the founding committee of the Frankfurter Schlittschuh-Club with his brother Franz - perhaps Germany's first formal skating club. Dr. Matthias Hampe recalled, "The club was very popular, so that after only a few days, the 'number of members already approached the second hundred'. These paid then an annual contribution of three marks. At appropriate temperatures, the club set up an ice rink... above the old Main Bridge, ensured the visitors' safety from ice break-ins and 'ice rink amenities', organized ice festivities such as torchlight rides, ice races and, above all, sociable tours on the frozen Main." 

Max went on to help organize a public skating society in Bern while working at Switzerland's National Statistics Office. In 1868, he  teamed up with a Stuttgart hardware manufacturer named Albert Stotz to develop three new models of skates - one for pleasure, one for figure and one for speed. These models were based on already existing American styles, using brackets instead of straps to attach them to the boot.

A chance viewing of one of Jackson Haines' performances in Vienna led him to join the Wiener Eislaufverein. Max played a very powerful role in generating interest in figure skating in Vienna in the 1870's and 1880's. At the same time he sat on the executive of the Wiener Eislaufverein and judged and organized its competitions - including The 1882 Great International Skating Tournament - he was the editor of the "Neue Freie Presse", one of the city's leading newspapers.

An avid reader, Max regularly pored over news clippings mentioning figure skating from as far away as Nova Scotia, England, Russia and Norway. He marvelled at George Anderson's accounts of the Glasgow Skating Club and stories telling of new covered artificial rinks in Canada. He also devoted considerable time to researching the early history of skating, dating back to accounts of bone skates being used in Scandinavia and Holland. He uncovered a skate made from a horse bone at the city library in Bern in 1871 and later fashioned over a dozen pairs of skates based on antiquarian illustrations to conduct experiments on the ice. If you read translations of Max's writings on skating, it's clear that he approached the sport with an inquisitive mind and a great affection for all aspects of the art.

Max's daughter Stephanie, who was also a skater at the Wiener Eislaufverein

Max frequently contributed articles regarding the sport and its history to German and Austrian newspapers. In 1881, he joined forces with Demeter Diamantidi and Dr. Carl von Korper von Marienwerth and wrote "Spuren Auf Dem Eise", a book that was considered one of the most important texts in terms of popularizing the Viennese School of figure skating at the time. The book built upon the tradition of Jackson Haines and introduced the school of compulsory figures that was later used by the International Skating Union.

As a sportsman, Max was no slouch either. He was a strong swimmer and back in his university days, he joined the fraternity Corps Rhenania Heidelberg, where he qualified as a master of fencing. He later was one of the founders of the first fencing club in Vienna. As a figure skater, he was credited with introducing the 'doppelspiral' with a change of edge to the Viennese School. In 1867 he remarked, "One of the most beautiful movements, which I learned after many hardships only two years ago, as a result of a friend's question whether the spiral could be wound up again, is the double spiral drawn on one and the same foot. It is actually a spirally elongated S on both sides and is done in the same way, only it requires more effort. At the S, as soon as you draw an arc outward, I want to suppose that you have thrown forward the merely floating foot as far forward as possible. In this way, the force of turning away comes out into the inner arc to complete the S. In the double spiral one cuts first outward, then inwards a snail and in the middle meets the S-Schwenkung. Of course, you can not make a fourfold circle in each of the two spirals without interruption. But a double spiral with two circles outwards and three inwards can be carried out with certainty, and I had complete control of the movement after the practice of a winter." In 1887, he competed in a figure skating competition at the Wiener Eislaufverein and placed an impressive fourth of the nine men who entered. He was sixty five at the time. He skated well into his seventies and his obituary in the "Neue Freie Presse" noted, "He was a sportsman in all circles of the Viennese Society who became known and popular, and on the ice all the young ladies swarmed for the old Worth, the most elegant and chivalrous skater."

Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein

Sadly, in 1900 Max suffered from a fall from a carriage that left him paralyzed. He suffered a fatal stroke on July 18 of that year, passing away at the age of seventy eight, twenty six years before his wife Bettina. Though rightfully better remembered for his efforts as a journalist and economist, the German and Viennese Schools of figure skating likely wouldn't have flourished as they did during his era had he not come around at the right time.

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.

Tibor von Földváry, The Father Of Hungarian Figure Skating

"Földváry's posture is completely correct and elegant; his school [figures] also meet the [standards of] the most pedantic English and Swedish skating textbooks." - "Vadász- és Versenylap", January 19, 1888

Tibor von Földváry was born July 5, 1863 in Öttevény, a tiny village in Győr-Moson-Sopron, Hungary. As a young man, he studied science in Budapest. He penned the thesis "The Evergreen Plants In Winter Coloration" at the age of twenty. As talented an athlete as he was an academic, he excelled in several sporting pursuits including the high jump but it was his rise to prominence as a figure skater in the latter two decades of the nineteenth century that brought him respect and honour in his home country.

In his youth, Tibor rubbed shoulders with the elite class of Hungary on the ice, regularly skating with Count Béla Széchenyi, the son of famous politician and writer Count István Széchenyi de Sárvár-Felsővidék as well as members of the aristocratic Nádasdy family. 

By the early nineteenth century, Tibor was widely regarded as his country's best figure skater by a mile. The January 11, 1891 issue of the "Vadász-és Verseny-Lap" noted, A few days ago in Vienna, the daughter of a rich industrialist, accompanied by her father and brother came down and unconditionally seized [the audience's attention] with her calmness on ice. However, our own Tibor Földváry absolutely dominated the ice with his elegance... It was beautiful to see." At a competition later that month in Budapest, he defeated János Ehrlich, Adolf Palkovits and Károly Raichl. The "Vadász- és Verseny-Lap"  raved, "Competitors cannot doubt his skill. The movements and exercises he presented eclipsed all others and reaped deserved applause. Földváry is already the best skater in many years." That same winter, he translated a Csárdás dance to the ice which caught the attention of the Viennese skating community.

Pattern for a Csárdás dance adapted for the ice by Tibor Földváry

In 1892, Tibor travelled to Vienna to compete in the second European Figure Skating Championships ever held. He placed an impressive second but the competition could not have been more stacked against him. Number one, he was the only skater not from Germany or Austria participating in a competition Vienna in number and number two... there was only one Hungarian judge versus six Austrian and three German judges on a panel which consisted of an even number of judges.

To add insult to injury, when free skating was included in the European Championships the following year in Berlin, one judge had him first in that phase of the competition but he placed fourth and off the podium behind Engelmann, Henning Grenander and Georg Zachariades. The results of that particular competition were later ruled invalid by the ISU Congress and then reinstated. Undeterred, he returned and won the bronze medal in Vienna in 1894 and won the first international figure skating at Davos the same winter, defeating Fuchs, Zachariades and Germany's Fritz Rehm.

Gilbert Fuchs, Georg Zachariades, Tibor Földváry and Fritz Rehm in Davos in 1894

When the European Championships came to Budapest in 1895, the home ice advantage paid off for the thirty one year old skater. Earning first place ordinals from every judge in figures and from all but one judge in free skating, Tibor soundly defeated Gustav Hügel and Gilbert Fuchs at the Városligeti Műjégpálya, won his first and only European title and promptly retired from the competitive skating world.

Photo courtesy Fortepan

Perhaps inspired by his negative first impression, the young Hungarian set to work to improve the sport. He sat with Robert Holletschek and others on the ISU's first Figure Skating Committee, formed to draft and submit regulations on the governance of the sport. He also judged numerous competitions in Hungary and Vienna as well as several European and World Championships, among them the 1903 World Championships where Ulrich Salchow defeated Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin in Russia and the first World Championships for women in 1906, won by Madge Syers.

Ulrich Salchow and Tibor von Földváry on the ice in Davos during the 1906 European Championships

Sadly, Tibor passed away on March 27, 1912 in Budapest at the age of forty eight. We may not know his name, but in Hungary he's considered the father of figure skating.

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 1899 European Figure Skating Championships

The public rink in Davos

They broke out against Victorian conventions and danced the march to "Whistling Rufus" by ragtime composer Kerry Mills. In newspapers, they read of Spanish rule ending in Cuba, the man-eating lions of Tsavo and Marie and Pierre Curie's discovery of radium. As the world moved towards the twentieth century, they worried of predictions from spiritualists and the likes of Viennese astronomer Rudolph Falb, who warned that 'the end of the world' was coming... and on January 14 and 15, 1899, they gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the European Figure Skating Championships.

To make it to Davos, skaters could travel via St. Moritz via train or cross the Flüela Pass in Graubünden by sleigh. The Alpine town played host to three ice surfaces: an enormous public rink, the rink constructed by the English solely for English Style skating and a curling rink. English Style skater Edward Frederic Benson later recalled that the valley in Davos was "gloriously free from wind, and extraordinarily healthy with its very dry cold air and abundance of sun." As that year's World Championships were set to be held in the same town less than a month later, several skating aficionados who didn't participate in the Europeans were in attendance, including Great Britain's Edgar Syers.

Ernst Fellner, Edgar Syers and Martin Gordan at the 1899 European Championships

The 1899 European Figure Skating Championships were held as part of a Winter Sports Weekend in conjunction with the European Speed Skating Championships, an ice hockey game between two Swiss teams and several toboggan races. Trondheim's Peder Østlund won the fifteen hundred, five thousand and ten thousand meter races and took the overall speed skating title. He held the world record for the five hundred meter distance but failed to best Jaap Eden's records for the five and ten thousand meters. Østlund was a twenty six year old head of a cycle factory who previously worked as a mechanic. In the toboggan races, a Mr. B. Day won the Simonds Shield and a Miss Turner won the Freeman Trophy.

Peder Østlund

An interesting footnote from this Winter Sports Weekend surrounded one of the speed skating races. According to "Sporting Life" magazine, [W.C.] Edginton, a fen skater representing the Oxford University Skating Club "twice met with a strange accident at Davos. First he fell and put his shoulder out, but sticking gamely to work notwithstanding fortunately fell and put his shoulder back in place, much to the surprise and pleasure of all." Mr. Edginton failed to place in any of the races.

The European Figure Skating Championships drew four competitors from Sweden, Austria and Germany, along with three judges from Switzerland, one judge from Sweden and one from Great Britain. It marked the first time that 1897 World Champion Gustav Hügel and 1898 European Champion Ulrich Salchow competed against each other at the European Championships. In the school figures, two judges had Salchow first, one had Hügel first, one had Austria's Ernst Fellner first and the British judge tied Salchow and Hügel. With Salchow being the only skater with a judge from his country on the panel, the panel would (in theory) have been quite neutral.

The British judge and two of the three Swiss judges tied Salchow and Fellner in free skating. The third Swiss judge had Hügel first and the Swedish judge predictably voted for Salchow. Three judges had Salchow first overall, while one of the Swiss judges voted for Hügel and the British judge for Fellner. The fourth competitor, Germany's Martin Gordan, was marked a distant last on every judge's scorecard both in free skating and overall. In winning his second European title, Ulrich Salchow defeated Gustav Hügel for the first time in his career. They'd go on to compete against each other four more times. Hügel won three of those events.

An account of the Championships from the "Deutsches Volksblatt" stated, "The opinions in the audience about the order of finish was very divided. Salchow, the winner, skates all the figures big and his turns are amazing. Unfortunately, the positions are a bit ungraceful. In the free skating he produced the Engelmann star magnificently, followed by a jump that was a bit dull... Hügel was not as steady in the school figures as Salchow was but in [the free skating] he had the audience to thank for the stormy applause. There is nothing good to report about Fellner. His three week training in Davos was downright scandalous. We only noticed the bent stance that he always had. He was more graceful in the [free skating] than Salchow but he also had a very simple program with many poses. Too bad that the lovely pair of Bohatsch siblings from the Wiener Eislaufverein did not skate. They would have been victorious we are sure." An engrossing point from this Austrian newspaper account was how Salchow's namesake jump was referred to as "a bit dull". When Axel Paulsen performed his own jump at the 1882 Great International Skating Tournament the reception was equally chilly. While it's what skaters do in the air that counts today, back in 1899 the figures they carved on the ice were paramount and jumps were still considered quite gauche by some.

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.

On The Blue Danube: The Idi Papez and Karl Zwack Story

"It was a wonderful time. I wouldn't have wanted to miss it." - Idi Papez, "San Francisco Examiner", August 28, 1966

Ida 'Idi' Papez and Karl Zwack were born in Vienna, Austria three years apart - he on September 11, 1906 and she on February 7, 1909. Their upbringings couldn't have been any more different. Idi grew up in a middle class Roman Catholic family, while Karl came from a wealthy Jewish family that emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Austria. He grew up in Leopoldstadt, a predominantly Jewish suburb of Vienna. One of his ancestors was Dr. József Zwack, the Royal Physician to the Habsburg Court, who had invented an alcoholic health tonic that the royalty and nobles were all wild over. Genealogist Roy Grant noted, "The Zwack's prospered and their families followed the social scene by migrating to nearby capital cities. One side went into banking and moved to Vienna, another stayed with producing the tonic on a commercial basis and settled in Budapest. Either way, from then on the Zwack's and their descendants were always comfortably off."

Idi and Karl were playmates as children and started skating together as youngsters at a neighbourhood rink when she was six and he was nine. They didn't begin pursuing competitive skating seriously until they were in their late teens, their first big win being the Austrian junior pairs title in Innsbruck in 1929. After finishing second to Lilly (Scholz) Gaillard and Willy Petter in the senior pairs event at the Austrian Championships in 1930, they made their debut at the European Championships, placing a creditable fifth. That same year, they placed second at an international competition in Opava behind Olga Philipovits and Rudolf Dillinger.

Karl Schäfer, Idi Papez and Karl Zwack

In 1931, Idi and Karl again finished second at the Austrian Championships but managed to claim the bronze medal at the World Championships in Berlin ahead of Gaillard and Petter and Americans Maribel Vinson and George ''Geddy' Hill. The following year, they won their first of three Austrian titles and claimed their first medal at the European Championships, also a bronze.

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Arguably, Idi and Karl's greatest success was their win over Gaillard and Petter at the 1933 European Championships in London. In the years that followed, they disappointingly finished second at two European and two World Championships. All but one of those losses was by the narrowest of margins. Two were three/two splits of the judging panel and at the 1933 World Championships, they also lost by a mere tenth of a point. Hungarians Emília Rotter and László Szollás won three of those four titles; the 1935 European title win going to Germans Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier.

Karl Zwack, Ernst Baier, Idi Papez, Vivi-Anne Hultén and Maxi Herber. Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein.

As one might predict, the Austrian press more than once stated Idi and Karl were underscored and received "the widest applause". It was an injury - not the frustration over finishing second time after time - that ended Idi and Karl's competitive career. Idi broke her arm in the months leading up to the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and another talented Austrian team, Ilse and Erich Pausin, won the silver medal that by all intents and purposes should have been theirs.

At only five foot six, Karl wasn't the typical 'pair guy', even for that era. Yet he and Idi developed a reputation from Paris to Prague as one of the more athletic couples of the period. Idi once told an American reporter, "We invented adagio on ice, were the first to put acrobats on ice, created a great controversy in Europe as newspapers demanded, 'Is that dance skating or circus?'" While Idi's claim wasn't exactly true - there were a number of professional pairs who had performed adagio lifts earlier - she and Karl were certainly one of a handful of pairs who played an important role in making amateur pairs skating more athletic in the thirties. They showcased their 'big tricks' in exhibitions in Austria, Germany, Holland, France, Great Britain, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Idi Papez, Karl Zwack, Vivi-Anne Hultén, Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier in America in 1935. Photos courtesy Fulton History, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

From 1935 to 1937, Idi and Karl made three trips to the United States to appear in carnivals at Madison Square Garden and the Chicago Stadium. While abroad, they sent postcards and letters to the "Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung" detailing their American adventures. Neither Idi or Karl knew any English at this point and relied heavily on English-German dictionaries, so Ernst Baier and Vivi-Anne Hultén acted as interpreters for the group of European skaters who participated. The first of these trips resulted in a minor scandal, when the British delegates to the ISU alleged that Idi and Karl, Maxi Herbert and Ernst Baier, Vivi-Anne Hultén and Sonja Henie had violated 'Rule 3, Section 2' of the ISU rulebook, which stated "that no visiting skater may receive more than second-class fares and incidental expenses not exceeding 20 Swedish kroner." At the ISU Congress in Stockholm, the powers that be dismissed the charges.

On their final trip to America, Idi and Karl met the Shipstad brothers, who were busy organizing their brand new tour - the Ice Follies. Idi recalled, "We had hardly returned home and unpacked when they sent us a wire asking us to join the show. We decided to accept." Skiing champion Sepp Ruschp remembered meeting Idi and Karl on an express train through Hamburg, when they were enroute to America: "I went to the first class car (I was travelling third class) and was introduced to the two skaters - beautiful girl and young man. We quickly became friends, and spent much of the train ride chatting. Because we were three nationally known sport figures, we were allowed to travel together. I got out and walked when the train stopped at Regensburg and other cities, but I noticed they never left their car. Finally I went back in and asked, 'Don't you want some fresh air?' 'My dear friend,' Karl said, 'I'm Jewish. Ida is not but I am and I'm scared stiff. I won't take one step out there until I am on my way to the boat.' He said he would feel more at ease once the boat departed."

Idi and Karl arrived in America safely and toured with the Ice Follies throughout World War II. They were the first European skaters to join the show. Idi recalled, "I remember our first visit to San Francisco. We were all so excited, and so were the people here. Some came to see that first show five or six times." Impressed by her legs, one reporter dubbed Idi "The Marlene Dietrich Of The Ice". Their theatrical number "The Moth And The Flame", where she wore wings, was a big hit with American audiences and they were lauded for their 'Old World charm' in their signature number to Strauss' "Blue Danube" waltz.

Though their smiles never gave it away to the audiences in the Ice Follies, life off the ice for Idi and Karl wasn't all roses. Prior to leaving for America, Idi had married Adolf Eder, then Secretary of the Wiener Eislaufverein. The plan was for her to go America "to smooth the way for Karl's possible escape." The couple ultimately divorced and Adolf went on to serve as Secretary of the Österreicher Eislaufverband from 1947 to 1958 and manager of the Karl Schäfer and Wiener Eisrevues. Idi remarried to San Francisco's Gordon Horatio Chick, owner of Chick's Bootery, on April 24, 1945. Karl had married a New Yorker named Gertrude Goldie Milstein who moved with her family to Vienna in June of 1934. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in the summer of 1939. Along with countless other Jewish people living in Vienna, Karl's parents were rounded up by the Nazis. They were both sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Terezín, northwest of Prague - a transit station on the way to the extermination camps. His mother Olga didn't survive Theresienstadt; his father Gustav didn't survive the final leg of his journey - the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Left photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein

Retiring from the Ice Follies in 1945, Idi and Karl both stepped away from the skating world. Karl settled in New York and raised a family and Idi lived out her days in a two million dollar home in Twin Peaks, San Francisco with her husband and chihuahua Brunnhilde. In 1966, Idi told a reporter from the "San Francisco Examiner", "I haven't skated since I was married. I always thought: when you quit, you quit. You can't hang on to something." Karl passed away in August of 1984 at the age of seventy seven; Idi on October 12, 1997 at the age of eighty eight. 

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.

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