#Unearthed: January

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 a piece called "January" which appeared in "New Sporting Magazine" all the way back in January 1832... before Jackson Haines was even born! It was written by antiquarian John Hewitt, under his pseudonym Sylvanus Swanquill. At times verbose and rambling, at others succint and humorous, this piece offers a unique perspective of how skaters were viewed in England during the late Regency period.


Skating may justly be considered as the connecting link between man and the feathered creation; and if it be not flying indeed, it is at least something so closely resembling it, that to define the one is, in a great measure, to describe the other. Nay, it is better than many kinds of flying, - that of the ostrich, for instance, - and perhaps equal to most others. The swallow, I believe, is considered to be as expert in the use of his wings as any bird we have: and in what, I pray, consists the advantage of the swallow over the skater? Does he move more quickly? -No. Are his evolutions more graceful or more frequent than those of the skater? -No. Are his flights more loft? -Not often: and when they are, it is only for the purpose of resting on some chimney top; and to my mind, a style or a mossy bank offers quite as good accommodation. There is the eagle, to be sure,- he takes a somewhat wider range, and cools his brow in the clouds of heaven: but, for my part, I never could see any beauty in a fog, and deem clouds, like trumpet music, far best at a distance.

A skater is, of all sportsmen, the most independent. Grant him ice and health, and he requires no more: himself is his own game, and the only rivalry in the pursuit is between his right leg and his left. Skating has another great advantage, -it is within the compass of all classes of men. The peasant may enjoy this pastime as well as the peer, the poor apprentice  as well as the young squire. The hunter requires his stud of mettlesome steeds, the mere purchase of which would ruin nine-tenths of the community...

Winter is to the skater what spring is to the poet: nay, more - he is himself a poet, and, under the exhilarating influence of his pursuit, indites the most delicious May pastorals; for thought it may seem a paradox, it is an undeniable truth, that the flowers of spring never bloom so sweetly as in the blasts of December. So the pleasures of youth never show so brightly as in the decline of age. He is the only person that can keep himself warm this very weather; and while every body else is complaining, 'How excessively cold it is!' he affects to be terribly annoyed by the heat. Take a walk to the pool where he is skating, and he will pretend not to see you; but on the instant commences a series of his most elegant figures, - the outside stroke, the flying mercury, the spread eagle, and the figure three. Presently he discovers, as if by accident, that you have been observing him, and comes to receive your compliments; but protests that you know nothing about it, if you call him a good skaiter; and would not go through his manouevres again, while you are by, if you would give him the glaciers. The reason of this is evident: not, as he would wish you to believe, that his modesty forbids, but that he has nothing new to offer, and would not willingly have you go away with the impression that you have seen all.

In his motions the skater is frequently retrograde, like the sun in the sign of Cancer, and resembles a printer's compositor in no slight degree, for he can get on as fast backwards as forwards. He is like a magic square, for turn him which way you will, it is all one to him. He is a Peristrephic Philosopher, a living lecture on the centre of gravity; though he now and then indulges you with a digression on the centrifugal force. The fishes that sail beneath his feet, take him for a merman that has broken loose through the ice; while the birds of the air set him down as a species of roc, brought over by Sinbad the sailor. He distances the mail coach with facility, and leaves the steam carriages many lengths behind him. He is amphibious, leaving equally well on land or water. He is like a hero in battle, for he cuts away right and left. He is guilty of favouritism toward the north wind, and cordially hates the other side of the weather-cock. Indeed, all stiff gales are his aversion, as they destroy that nice equilibrium on which the neat execution of his figures depends. A snow-storm he dislikes only as it affects the ice, - for himself, he can shake off its feathers as easily as a horse rids himself of the flies in summer. But a thaw is to him the ne-plus-ultra of misery, and he rejoices to hear of his friends taking cold from it, as it seems to justify, if not to strengthen, the cause of his antipathy. He consults the thermometer every morning, and grows warm as the mercury approaches zero. He also makes a daily observation on the state of the wind; and as the four vanes on the church tower point in four different directions, always places his reliace on that which is most favourable to his wishes. Of Thomson's Seasons, the winter is his favourite, and all the skating part of it he has got by heart. He buys all books that treat of his favourite amusement, and will become a subscriber to the 'New Sporting Magazine' as soon as he hears of this article. His parlour is hung round with Dutch snow-pieces; and in the full-length picture of himself over the fire-place, he is represented skating. A cabinet in one corner of the rooms contains numerous specimens of skates, from the earliest ages to the present day; the most ancient pair, with blades of bone, being further preserved in a splendid case of Morocco leather. Over the cabinet is a figure of Mercury, his tutelar divinity, in whose praise he is over eloquent; assuring you that this God was the inventor of the noble art of skating, and that his heel-wings are but poetical types of the implements he used. In fine, the skater is a most amiable companion in a hard frost; and a kind friend while the wind remains northerly. As he approaches the winter of life, he gradually relinquishes the more dangerous manouevres of his art, and at length ventures only on the outside stroke, which, for the greater dignity, he performs with his arms folded. If you are desirous of obtaining his friendship, meet him on the ice; but when this cannot be done, let your letter of introduction describe you as an accomplished skater, - mind! rather as an accomplished skater than as a good man; for it is a favourite observation of his, that "There are many excellent men in the world, but very few tolerable skaters."

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.

From Art Cycling To Axels: The Adolf Windsperger Story

Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives

Adolf Windsperger was born in Vienna, Austria on April 30, 1886. Little is known about his youth, but by the time he was twenty-eight, he was a European bicycle polo champion, a motorcycling enthusiast, skilled engineer and many times champion at Kunstradfahren (art cycling). He emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island during The Great War, in September 1914 with his wife Elisabeth. The couple settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where Adolf took up figure skating at the New Haven Skating Club.

Though he had little formal instruction, Adolf took to the art of skating like a fish out of water, joining the cast of the College Inn's ice show in Chicago. On February 17, 1916, a competition for professional skaters was held at The Hippodrome after a matinee ice show... and votes were cast by ballot by the audience. With more than two hundred and thirty votes more than the second place finisher Gerald Bowden, the winner was Arthur Held. Adolf finished fifth and dead last.

Adolf settled in New York during the roaring twenties, keeping the lights on in his Manhattan apartment by performing his Kunstradfahren act in Vaudeville shows and giving skating lessons. In 1929, he performed in the Buffalo Skating Club's carnival at the Peace Bride Arena alongside Bobby McLean, Constance and Bud Wilson, Norman A. Falkner and the Weigel sisters. In 1930, he remarried to Caroline Lucgmayer, a fellow professional skater.

Throughout The Great Depression, Adolf worked as both a skating coach and performer. In addition to comedic and stilt skating acts, he skated adagio pairs acts with Sonia Garvan and Evelyn Chandler. He developed a 'Mutt and Jeff' routine with Stanley Jarvis that played on their height difference - Adolf was six feet tall; Stanley four feet if he was an inch. He taught skating in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, St. Louis and Baltimore during this period and even earned a mention in Robert Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" for "having fallen thirty five thousand times on the ice in three years without a single injury."

Yearning for a less nomadic life, Adolf settled near Woodstock Town, New York in the late thirties and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He continued to coach skating and enjoy motorcycling, but devoted considerable time to a new project - building his own farmhouse. The Windsperger House on Saugerties Road became something of a local landmark because - according to the "Kingston Daily Freeman" - it was "architecturally unique".

Tragedy struck Adolf's life in 1948. While milking a cow in a barn on his property, he discovered his house was on fire. He suffered burns while trying to save furniture and equipment. Despite the efforts of three fire departments, his house burned to the ground. That same year, his wife passed away. Despite the double tragedy losing his wife and nearly all of his earthly possessions, Adolf soldiered on. He passed away in Bearsville, New York on October 10, 1967 at the age of eighty-two, his unique story all but forgotten in the many years since.

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.

A File Of Forgotten Firsts At The Canadian Championships

For over one hundred years, history has been made at the Canadian Championships. From Kurt Browning's quadruple toe-loop at the 1989 Canadians in Chicoutimi to Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz's record-breaking tenth Canadian ice dance title in Saskatoon in 2003, the premiere figure skating competition in Canada is an event that has been full of firsts. In today's blog, we're going to explore some of the lesser remembered ones!

John Z. Machado. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

- The first time the Canadian Championships were covered exclusively on the sports pages instead of the 'Society' pages was the 1957 event in Winnipeg.
- The first time an American judge sat on a panel at the Canadian Championships was also in 1957. The judge was Arthur F. Preusch of St. Paul. John Z. Machado, a long-time judge at the Canadian Championships who was an official at the 1936 Winter Olympics, was perhaps the first American-born judge at Canadians, though he grew up in Canada.

Lewis Elkin. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

- The first female judge at the Canadian Championships was Mrs. A.G.E. Robbins of Regina, in Vancouver in 1951.
- The first Canadian Championships to be held in Western Canada was the 1930 event in Winnipeg. The first Western Canadian skater to compete and medal at Canadians was Fraser Sweatman in 1929. He finished third in the novice (junior) men's event. The first woman from Western Canada to place in the top three at the Canadian Championships was Frances Fletcher, in the novice (junior) event in 1931. That same year, Lewis Elkin became the first skater from Western Canada to place in the top three in a senior event.
- Until 1937, only six clubs were represented at the Canadian Championships - the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa, Toronto Skating Club, Granite Club, Montreal Winter Club, Calgary Art Skating Club and Winnipeg Winter Club. That year, two youngsters from the Quebec Winter Club became the first from their province's capital city to compete nationally. Louise Turcott and Pierre Benoit placed fifth and last in junior pairs; Pierre placed fifth and last in junior men's.
- The Open Marking System was used for the first time at the Canadian Championships in 1938. It was "met with universal approval," recalled Constance M. Raymond. "This system gives the skaters an idea of the standard they are reaching as the competition progresses, and certainly provides a very great interest for the spectators, a great number of whom are themselves ambitious young or older figure skaters." Back in those days, judges held up placards with their scores.

Dick Salter

- The first skater from Saskatchewan to compete at the Canadian Championships was Dick Salter of Regina in 1938. The first Albertan was Calgary's Eileen Noble in 1930. The first British Columbian was Roger Wickson in 1943. The first skater from Atlantic Canada was Halifax's Philip W. Fraser in 1949.
- The 1956 Canadian Championships in Cambridge, Ontario, hosted by the Galt Figure Skating Club, was the first to be televised. CBC did a nation-wide black and white broadcast of a portion of the event on a Friday night. Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, who withdrew from the event in the aftermath of the drama between Norris and the CFSA after the Winter Olympic Games and World Championships, skated an exhibition. Robert L. Gillies recalled, "The Saturday night stand-up crowd voiced its displeasure when veteran announcer Jack Hose told the people that the defeated World Pair Champions were no longer Canadian Champions by voluntary default, but stayed around to cheer them to the rafters after a daring, inspired and near perfect display." In 1965, Frances got to turn the tables and commentate the television broadcast of Canadians.

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden. Photo courtesy Guelph Museums.

- The short program was added to the junior singles events at the 1974 Canadian Championships in Moncton.
- One of the youngest ice dance teams to ever compete at the Canadian Championships were Susan Yarker and John Lynch of the University Skating Club and Granite Club in Toronto. They placed tenth out of eleven teams in the junior dance event in Ottawa in 1953. He was eleven; she ten.

- The first time the program for the Canadian Championships listed the compulsory figures skated was the 1945 event in Toronto. Milda Alten recalled, "For the first time... the compulsory figures, drawn in advance, appeared on the printed programs, which however were not distributed, nor were the figures made known until fifteen minutes before the start of the event. As the competitions for Senior Ladies and Senior Men were on different days, this meant two printings of the program. The program for the last day was complete in every respect. This innovation was greatly appreciated by the spectators each day."
- The first Canadian Championships where records were used instead of a live band was the 1944 event at the Minto Skating Club. Shortly after the event, Mavis Berry Daane and Naomi Slater Heydon remarked, "Some selections are difficult to play, and it is hard for the orchestra to make smooth transitions with only one rehearsal with the skater, so we understand why the skaters chose records. On the other hand, we feel they lack some of the lift which skating to an orchestra gives."

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

- When fifteen year old Collin Thompson won the Canadian novice men's title in Hamilton in 1993, he made history as the first black skater to win a Canadian men's title at any level.
- In 1979 and 1980, there were two interesting firsts at the Canadian Championships. In Thunder Bay in 1979, a computerized Honeywell system was used for the first time to tabulate results almost instantly. In 1980, a digital marking display was used for the first time so spectators could see skaters' marks as they were announced.

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.

Long Shots From Le Locle: The Elyane Steinemann and André Calame Story

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

Hailing from Le Locle, a tiny municipality in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, Elyane Steinemann and André Calame didn't exactly grow up in the epicenter of the Swiss skating 'boom' of the first half of the twentieth century. Davos was a four hour drive; St. Moritz nearly five. Elyane started skating at the age of eight after seeing Karl Schäfer perform in Neuchâtel. Her family moved to Lausanne shortly thereafter and she joined the Club de Patinage Artistique Lausanne, passing her first skating test at the age of twelve in March of 1941. As a singles skater, she placed seventh in an international junior competition in Davos in January of 1943, but rising through the ranks during World War II meant that competitive opportunities were limited early in her career.

Maja Hug, Eliane Steinemann and André Calame and Kurt Sönning

André Calame was the son of a pastor and came from a very athletic family. His brother Emil was on the Swiss national football team; his brother Henry was a boxer. As a sixteen year old, he made the hour long trip from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Bern to practice skating on artificial ice. He would skate for twelve hours a day and then return home to attend business school. He claimed the Bernese men's title in 1943 and 1944. In 1946, a skating professor from Montchoisi named Miss Oetker paired the young skaters. With little guidance, they practiced alone in Lausanne for three to four hours a day. The conditions were less than ideal. André complained, "It is evident that we need room to execute our program, and that it is difficult to work seriously when you have to sneak in between the skaters. The participants of the Swiss Championships were fortunately able to get the skating rink every day for five precious minutes." These conditions, coupled with the fact the fact that Lausanne's skating season was short, meant that the young team were forced to leave the double Salchow and loop jumps they hoped to include in their program on practice ice. Despite this, they finished second to Luny Unhold and Hans Kuster at both the 1947 and 1948 Swiss Championships.

Elyane and André made their international debut at the 1948 World Championships in Davos. In a February 11, 1948 interview in "Gazette de Lausanne et Journal Suisse", they said, "We are delighted [to be selected]. We will go to Davos with joy, without nourishing the slightest hope. We will do our best, that's all. Because, there we will probably be the couple whose technical training is the most recent." They had a poor skate and finished dead last. In jest, Mr. John Nicks called André 'André Calamity'.

Shortly after that event, Elyane and André began working with Austrian coach Inge Solar and travelling to England in the summers to train under famed Swiss coach Arnold Gerschwiler. With proper training, their skating improved drastically over a very short period of time. From 1949 to 1951, they reigned as Switzerland's pairs champions. In both 1950 and 1951, they finished fourth at the World Championships and second at the European Championships, making history as the first pairs team from Switzerland to medal at the European Championships. They defeated some pretty accomplished teams in their brief time at the top too, including World Champions Jennifer and John Nicks and their Swiss successors, Silvia and Michel Grandjean.

André Calame

Their partnership ended when Elyane accepted an offer to turn professional following the 1951 World Championships in Zürich. André retained his amateur status long enough to win the 1952 Swiss senior men's 'B' title before joining suit. The duo skated in ice pantomimes in Wembley, the Wiener Eisrevue in Austria and Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier's Eisrevue in Germany from 1952 to 1959. Elyane moved to Canada and taught at the Riverside Figure Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, the Noranda Figure Skating Club in Quebec and the North Shore Winter Club, Burnaby Winter Club and Vernon Figure Skating Club in British Columbia.

Jiřina Nekolová, Susi Giebisch, Willy Petter, Emmy Puzinger, Sissy Schwarz, Kurt Oppelt and André Calame. Photo courtesy Dr. Roman Seeliger. 

André returned to the Neuchâtel Mountains as a coach at the Locle Skaters Club. During the early sixties, France's top skaters flocked to the club to train. From 1963 to 1967, he coached the Italian skating team. Among his students were Giordano Abbondati and Rita Trapanese. In 1967, he formed an international skating school in St. Gervais, where he worked with skaters from all over Europe, including Austria's Claudia Kristofics-Binder, France's Jean-Christophe Simond, Switzerland's Mona and Peter Szabo, Belgium's Katrien Pauwels and Hungary's Jenő Ébert. He married to Simond's mother, whose first husband had died on a mountain climbing expedition. From 1968 to 1970, he served as the Swiss Skating Federation's Secretary and from 1976 to 1981, he taught in Megève. He was a much sought-after coach and turned down offers to teach in Paris, Basel and Moscow in order to stay in Switzerland. He sadly passed away suddenly of a heart attack at the Orly airport in Paris at the age of fifty five on November 26, 1982. Elyane passed away on October 25, 2009 in Hinton, Alberta.

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 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Americans were mourning the loss of seven astronauts in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and crowding around television sets to watch "Cheers", "Family Ties" and "Who's The Boss?" Acid wash jeans, friendship bracelets and hanging earrings were all the rage and record players blared Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin's hit duet "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves". Apple had nothing on Aqua Net.

The year was 1986 and from February 4 to 9, a who's who of American figure skater gathered in Uniondale on Long Island, New York for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Figures were skated at the chilly, dimly lit Newbridge Road Park rink in Hempstead; free skating events at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In addition to the one hundred and thirty eight entries, many former skating champions were in attendance including Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Hayes and Carol Heiss Jenkins, Scott Hamilton, Lisa-Marie Allen, Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert, Elaine Zayak and Doreen Denny.

The Long Island Nationals weren't entirely a success story, to say the least. The organizers had a hard time getting sponsors and coaches were pretty annoyed that the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the Nassau Coliseum could only house a small number of guests. Skaters, judges and coaches were scattered in hotels throughout the area making transportation to and from practice rinks and scheduling a challenge. One of the practice rinks, home to the Nassau High School hockey team, had paint and plaster falling from the ceiling. Todd Waggoner recalled, "We couldn't lift because the ice was so cut up. Sometimes the paint would fall from the ceiling during session. By the time it was over, it was all over the ice." 

Attendance was poor - with less than twenty nine thousand tickets sold over nine sessions. Peter Alfano, a reporter who covered the event for "The New York Times" cited "suburban apathy and the drawbacks of an arena that is accessible primarily by automobile." A snowstorm on the Friday night of the competition didn't help matters, nor did the fact that the evening sessions started at quarter after seven. Those travelling from New York City and Westchester County had to make their way to Long Island in rush-hour traffic. To top things off, the Ice Capades were playing across town at Madison Square Garden. European Medallist and British Champion Peter Dalby, who coached Renée Roca and Donald Adair, feared that the glitzy ice show's run may have accounted for the miserable attendance of three thousand, two hundred people for the free dance. "I thought it was a pity," he said. "I've been here nine years, and at every Nationals I've been to, free dance fills the place."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Though the event itself may not have been a roaring success, the skating in Uniondale was quite exciting. There were comebacks, upsets, surprises and close contests - and with special thanks to the good folks at the Uniondale Public Library, we'll be looking back at them all!


Cameron Birky

Fifteen year old Cameron Birky of Danville, California rose from third after figures to win the novice men's title over Montana's Scott Davis, landing two triple toe-loop's in his free skate. Twelve year old Damon Allen, the winner of the figures, placed a disappointing fifth overall but earned the prize for the gutsiest young skater. She skated with his arm in a plastic casing after breaking it during a competition that December.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Thirteen year old Liane Moscato of Peabody, Massachusetts won the novice women's title. She'd amassed a very strong lead in the figures but elected to try a triple Salchow in the free skate anyway. Though she fell, she was praised for taking a risk she certainly didn't need to. She told reporters that she "wouldn't have felt right not trying it."

Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Fourteen year old Kristi Yamaguchi and sixteen year old Rudy Galindo took top honours in junior pairs in a five-four split over Ashley Stevenson and Scott Wendland, while twenty year old Colette Huber and twenty two year old Ron Kravette struck gold in junior dance. Kravette had returned to skating two years prior after a five year hiatus. At the time, there weren't age restrictions in junior dance. Teenagers Elizabeth Punsalan and David Shirk, who placed sixth, were the highest ranking team that were age-eligible for Junior Worlds.

Todd Eldredge

The junior men's event was chock full of future champions. Seventeen year Mark Mitchell placed only fourth in figures but won the short and long to take the gold. Second was seventeen year old Erik Larson, a former World Junior Champion. Rudy Galindo, who won the figures, took the bronze. Fifth was fourteen year old future World Champion Todd Eldredge, who had also placed fifth at the World Junior Championships in Sarajevo in December.

Rory Flack. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Kristi Yamaguchi was second in the junior women's short program and third in the long, but just missed out on a medal because of a disappointing eleventh place finish in the figures. Fourteen year old Cindy Bortz of Los Angeles, who was fifth in figures, won the gold ahead of Julie Wasserman and Rory Flack, the talented niece of famed singer Roberta Flack. Fifth and seventh were Tonia Kwiatkowski and Jeri Campbell.


Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert, who had been U.S. Champions since 1981, had turned professional leaving the dance crown up for grabs. Wilmington's Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory and Michigan's Renée Roca and Donald Adair, the number two and three teams the year prior, both had momentum entering the competition. Semanick and Gregory had defeated Roca and Adair at the U.S. National Sports Festival the summer prior, and had won the International Morzine Trophy the prior spring. Roca and Adair had bested strong Russian teams to win gold at both Skate America and Skate Canada.

Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory

Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory won the first compulsory dance, the Kilian, but Gregory got cut in a rut and fell in the Starlight Waltz. With wins in the Starlight and Tango Romantica, Roca and Adair won the compulsories with first place marks from all but one judge. Semanick and Gregory won the Polka OSP by one judge and one tenth of a point, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown in the free dance.

Hoping for an edge with the judges, Roca and Adair had reworked their "Valentino" program just before Nationals, adding brief Charleston and Tango sections to liven up a program that had been critiqued as overly dramatic. Semanick and Gregory took theatre and mask classes to up the expression in their lively Russian inspired program, set to music specially composed for them by the
seventy piece Delaware Symphony Orchestra.

In a five-four split of the judging panel, Roca and Adair took the gold. The bronze went to Lois Luciani and Russ Witherby, crowd favourites who used "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" as the slow part of their free dance. Fourth were Susie Wynne and Joseph Druar. Wynne and Witherby would compete against each other for years and later, of course, form a delightful partnership of their own. Fifth were Kristan Lowery and Chip Rossbach, an innovative team who ditched their controversial Hallowe'en inspired "Night On Bald Mountain" free dance (dressed in black and orange and performed against Ron Ludington's advice) after finishing ninth at both Skate America and Skate Canada in favour of more traditional, dancey program. In the gala following the competition, Scott Gregory performed an exhibition with Sandy Lamb's daughter Shannon, an ice dancer in the Special Olympics.


Gillian Wachsman and Todd Waggoner. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Defending U.S. Champions Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard had suffered a serious setback just two weeks before the U.S. Championships. While training in Detroit with coach Johnny Johns, Oppegard slashed Watson in the face on a side-by-side camel spin. She suffered a broken nose and contusions under her eye and had to have stitches. Their bad luck continued in the short program with a miss on the side-by-side jumps, allowing Gillian Wachsman and Todd Waggoner, the bronze medallists in 1985, to move into the lead.

Despite a crash into the boards early in their free skate, Wachsman and Waggoner rebounded to deliver an otherwise strong free skate. Watson and Oppegard missed both throws and were forced to settle for silver. 

Wachsman and Waggoner's training mates Natalie and Wayne Seybold moved up to take the bronze. They had been fourth in the short after getting dinged by the judges for a missed spin. Wachsman and Waggoner had been together for only fourteen months. They trained in Wilmington, Delaware with Pauline Williams. The Seybold's were coached by Ron Ludington, who had guided Kitty and Peter Carruthers to an Olympic silver medal in 1984.

Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard

The dangers of pairs skating were featured in "The New York Times" as the result of a practice accident in Uniondale. Jerod Swallow, the only senior skater to compete in two disciplines in 1986, and his partner Shelly Propson had a serious fall on a lift in practice. "I was watching and my stomach dropped," recalled Todd Waggoner. "It felt terrible. Jerod had her in a lift when his skate hit a rut and she fell. That can happen to anyone." Propson was rushed to the Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, where it was revealed she had a slight skull fracture and the team was forced to withdraw.


Brian Boitano

The path to Uniondale wasn't an easy one for twenty two year old defending U.S. Champion Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, California. With a serious case of tendonitis in his ankle, Boitano was in excruciating pain. He missed practice sessions in the lead-up to the event, there was talk of him withdrawing. "I tried everything I could to help the pain," he said. "Acupuncture, ultrasound, chiropractors, icing my ankle and then giving it heat treatment." In the end, he opted to push through the pain and compete, winning the figures over eighteen year old Christopher Bowman of Los Angeles. He won the short program as well, landing a solid triple Lutz/double loop combination and earning five 5.8's for composition and style.

Christopher Bowman was also injured, suffering from a bone bruise on his landing leg. The injury was the result of breaking new skates at the Prize Of Moscow News event in the Soviet Union the December prior. After finishing third in the short, he withdrew. He quipped to reporters, "My heart ached but my leg ached a lot harder."

In the free skate, Brian Boitano pushed through the pain with a gutsy performance that featured the only clean triple Axel of the Championships, performed in combination with a double toe-loop.
Though he fell on a triple flip attempt, he still received marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.8 and managed to defend his title. His coach Linda Leaver said, "He's a very courageous young man. This was really a mental struggle. I felt he could do it, if anyone in the world could do it. On that basis, I encouraged him to skate if he could stand the pain. He could have dropped out, but it shows his own desire to be the U.S. Champion again. He'll be glad all his life he didn't let this one go because it hurt."

Scott Williams. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The silver went to twenty year old Scott Williams of Redondo Beach, California, who was coached by his stepmother Barbara Roles Williams, the 1960 Olympic Bronze Medallist. Daniel Doran, who trained in Colorado Springs won the bronze. Angelo D'Agostino, Paul Wylie and Jimmy Cygan rounded out the top six.

Despite his withdrawal, Christopher Bowman received a bye to Worlds. The rules at the time allowed an 'exemption' for any skater who finished in the top four at the previous year's Nationals and officials were impressed both by his showing in the figures (a previous weakness of his) and the fact he'd earned a 6.0 at the U.S. National Sports Festival the summer prior. Ultimately, his injury didn't allow him to compete and Daniel Doran, who was originally named first alternate, got the third spot anyway.


The women's podium

Like Brian Boitano, Toluca Lake, California's Tiffany Chin had a rough road to Uniondale. Tests following the 1985 U.S. Championships revealed that several of her leg joints were out of alignment and she was suffering from an extreme muscle imbalance. "At a certain point, I couldn't move my knee, and the motion was limited," she explained. "I had thought that was normal. And when they pushed on some muscles I thought were strong, my leg went right down. I was told, 'you're supposed to be jumping off those muscles.'" She spent several months off the ice, undergoing physical therapy to rebuild her leg muscles. Her training was limited in the lead-up to Nationals and she admitted that she lacked consistency on some of her triple jumps. The December prior, she'd began working with Scott Hamilton's former coach Don Laws and doing three hour daily exercise sessions devised by the International Sports Medicine Institute. Many were surprised she even planned to compete.

Stanford pre-med student Debi Thomas took top honours in the school figures six judges to three, but it was Tiffany Chin who won the second figure. The short was won by Erie, Pennsylvania's Caryn Kadavy, who trained with the Fassi's in Colorado Springs. Kadavy performed a triple loop/double loop combination, while Debi Thomas did the double loop/triple toe-loop. In the warm-up for the free skate, Thomas kept falling on the triple loop. Tiffany Chin drew first to skate in the final group and skated surprisingly well. The ice was littered with flowers after her performance and Thomas actually collided with one of the flower girls before she performed her program.

Debi Thomas' performance was outstanding. She landed two triple toe-loops, two triple Salchows and the triple loop to earn first place marks from seven of the nine judges. Kadavy skated right after Thomas and landed her opening triple loop but almost fell on the triple toe-loop and doubled a planned triple Salchow to settle for silver over Chin. Tracey Damigella, Jill Trenary and Tonya Harding rounded out the top six.

Debi Thomas

In winning the gold, Debi Thomas made history as the first person of colour to win the U.S. senior women's title. The most remarkable fact is that she almost didn't compete out of frustration. After getting two B's and a C for chemistry in her first exams at Stanford, she tore up her entry form to the competition.  

Debi later admitted, "I talked to my mother and taped it back together and we sent it in." At the time, twice a week Thomas had what she called 'suicide days' with six and a half hours of skating after lectures and classes in the morning. Studying kept her up until three in the morning on those days. "It was the most exhilarating thing I've ever experienced in my life," she told reporters. "I hadn't been skating worth beans all week and I amazed myself. I'm speechless... I went through a lot to get here and it feels good. This is the pot at the end of the rainbow but it was a bumpy rainbow."

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.

Connecticut Catalyst: The Heaton R. Robertson Story

Heaton Robertson during his time at Yale University. Photo courtesy Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives.

"Being too young to further engage in the senile sports of chess or yacht racing, or sitting in my chair (though I do love that one), I spend all my leisure time in going about the country for figure skating events. Pretending to myself that the writing of tracts on judging is doing a lot of good, but in reality in order to play around on the ice with a lot of very young people. Grow old with me!" - Heaton Robertson, "Fortieth Anniversary Record Of The Class Of 1904 - Yale College", 1947

Born November 23, 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, Heaton 'Heat' 'Robbie' Ridgway Robertson was the son of Abram and Graziella (Ridgway) Robertson. His father was a prominent judge and his grandfather Dr. John Brownlee Robertson a former mayor of New Haven.  His great-great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Charleston, South Carolina in 1765.

Heaton's father, Judge Abram Heaton Robertson

As a young man, Heaton attended Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He later earned a B.A., Ph.B. and E.M. at Yale University. While at Yale, he served as an assistant instructor in mining and metallurgy. The Yale College Class Book 1904 noted, "He chose [Yale] because the college was a near a place where he could get good food - namely, home... Robbie's grievance seems to be the lack of a smoking-room."

After his graduation, Heaton taught mathematics at Yale, mined in Cripple Creek, Colorado and served as the chief construction engineer for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company. From 1916 until his retirement, he served as the chief engineer of the Connecticut State Shellfish Commission. While serving in that position, he revised all of the state charts for Long Island Sound and developed a system for locating and preserving oyster beds in Connecticut. When he wasn't focusing on the delicious treasures that lied below the ocean waves, he was busy playing chess, winning races in his sloop, the Varuna, attending the Trinity Episocopalian Church or showing his support for the Democratic Party. He had two children with his first wife Emily, who passed away in 1915, and later married Myrtle Dean DeLancey, the widowed daughter of a prosperous Chicago advertising executive. His son Heaton II graduated from Yale and taught flying during World War II.

Heaton R. Robertson, Doris Shubach and Walter Noffke. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In addition to his many accomplishments off the ice, Heaton was one of the biggest movers and shakers in the figure skating world. A three time winner of The Hobbs Trophy in Lake Placid, he was a perennial competitor at the U.S. Championships in the roaring twenties and one of the more prominent members of the New Haven Skating Club. He was third in the junior men's event at the U.S. Championships four years in a row (from 1923 to 1926) and finished second with partner Mrs. John T. Sloan in the first junior pairs event at the U.S. Championships in 1923. At the same time he was competing, he was active as a judge, referee and accountant.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In addition to serving as President of the U.S. Figure Skating Association from 1940 to 1943, Heaton held various positions on the organization's executive including Treasurer, Chairman of the Competitions and Rules Committee, Eastern Committee, Judges And Judging Committee and Standards And Tests Committee. He served as a national and international judge, accountant and referee and sponsored and assisted with the USFSA's first Judges Manual in 1942. He later authored the books "Evaluation Of School Figure Errors" and "What Judges Are Looking For In School Figures And Free Skating". Despite the effects of World War II, during his presidency of the USFSA subscriptions to "Skating" magazine nearly doubled and efforts were made to improve judging and education for skaters and coaches alike.

Heaton, who was registered for the draft during World War II, recalled the USFSA's efforts to keep figure skating alive during the War thusly: "The competitions were continued all through the war, as were most of our other activities. This was at first considered to be impractical and perhaps not even quite patriotic. It was later agreed that competitions should be run wherever there were suitable entries, and other activities followed a similar course. As it turned out, there were plenty of entries in all but the Men's Senior class, and the wartime competitions were otherwise remarkably successful. Our organization deals very largely with the young people who like to take tests and to compete, and a somewhat older group fond of dancing. This healthy and absorbing recreation was a distinct asset to those whose war efforts entailed long hours and unusual responsibilities. For the young, whose impressionable years were lived under changed conditions, the concentrated effort of long hours spent in skating did very much for them, too."

Top: Heaton Robertson presenting a trophy to Arthur Vaughn Jr. Bottom: Heaton R. Robertson presenting a trophy to Jane Vaughn Sullivan. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Benjamin T. Wright, the late ISU and USFSA Historian, recalled, "Robertson made a substantial contribution to the development of judges' education in addition to standardizing the methods of instruction for judges' schools. An excellent teacher himself, [he] worked long and hard on a one-on-one basis with many candidate judges... He made a comprehensive revision of the judges lists, weeding out many who were inactive, over age or otherwise incompetent... He was a truly versatile and intellectual person, serving as a competitor, judge, accountant, referee, club officer, Association officer, committee chairman and author... A remarkable intellect, he was perhaps best remembered for his 'nurturing' and teaching of new young judges... He was a skilled mathematician, and one story about him reflects that. At a competition he was judging, at the end of the free skating, he asked for a few moments to transcribe his marks. It was found that he had started out with too high a range, so he had just kept right on marking above the then maximum mark of 10.0, and after the event, in virtually a few seconds, he transposed his entire set of marks down to within the maximum permitted. Fortunately for him, the modified open system was being used!"

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

After being named an Honorary Vice-President of the USFSA in 1951, Heaton passed away at the home of his son in Branford, Connecticut on May 9, 1953 at the age of seventy two, having suffered from a serious stroke two years prior. He was inducted posthumously into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1977 and his name was attached to the U.S. novice women's trophy.

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.

Reader Mail: Every Three Months Is Still Faster Than Canada Post

It's once again time to unpack the mail bag, answer some of your questions and share some of the interesting e-mails and social media messages that have come my way over the last few months. As always, if you have a question you'd like me to tackle or feedback on a blog please reach out via e-mail.


From Margo (via e-mail): "What was the first TV broadcast of skating?"

A: In pre-War England, the BBC regularly aired radio broadcasts of commentary from major figure skating competitions, including the 1937 World Championships, 1937 British Championships and 1939 European Championships. Television broadcasts of figure skating began in the autumn of 1946, with an exhibition of waltzing on ice and short snippets of performances by Muriel Roberts, Eva Nyklova and Jimmy Macauley filmed at the Empire Pool, Wembley. In October of 1948, BBC viewers were treated to a performance by the reigning Olympic Gold Medallist, Barbara Ann Scott. The first skating production to be broadcast at length was "Ice Frolics Of 1949", directed by Miss Gladys Hogg, which aired in February of 1949. The cast included Jennifer and John Nicks, Michael Carrington, Marion Davies, Peri Horne, Toni Congden and Bernard Spencer. Two months later, the BBC filmed the Manchester Ice Dance Trophy, and broadcast part of the event, as well as an interview with winners Sybil Cooke and Bob Hudson. That same winter, American television audiences had their first tastes of the sport. In his column in the February 1949 issue of "Skating World" magazine, Harry Hirsch recalled, "The National Broadcasting Company scored a revolutionary 'first' on televsion, when it televised the first ice show from one of its studios in Rockefeller Center. A 20 ft. X 20 ft. tank was installed the night before - the twenty-feet pipes had to be cut in half before they could be handled by the elevators - and the Ballards, Chet Nelson and Alice Farrar, all from thee Hotel New Yorker ice show gave exhibitions that became the talk of the industry twenty-four hours later. The show was so well-received that it will be repeated in February and there is talk that a large industrial firm will sponsor a weekly ice show for thirteen weeks. Christmas Eve, as part of a Christmas Show presented by the Chevrolet Dealers Of America, another ice sequence was televised. Again real ice was frozen in a studio of the Columbia Broadcasting System and this time it was the Prestons and Trixie, the juggler, who gave television audiences a thrill with their acrobatic feats. A new and wonderful medium for exhibiting ice shows has been created and due to the fact that ice shows do not have any spoken words and all action is visual, television will win new friends for this glorious sport and profession."

From Artyom (via e-mail): "First Master of Sport to skate to music Carmen?"

A: Great question, Artyom! It's hard to definitively say who was the first, but one of the earliest skaters I've found that used it was Willy Böckl, the World Champion from 1925 to 1928. He performed to Bizet's "Carmen" in the famous "Land Of The Midnight Sun" carnival in New York City in 1930. Donald Jackson started using "Carmen" for his free skating music in 1958, and famously used it when he won the World title in Prague in 1962. Manfred Schnelldorfer used it to win Olympic gold two years later in Innsbruck.

From Ashley (via Facebook): "I enjoy reading your blog! I am always learning something new. I'm curious about some of the weirdest things you've encountered in doing your research."

A: Thank you for your kind words, Ashley! I encounter some pretty crazy stuff, but some of the crazier stories that first spring to mind are Isabella Butler, the circus daredevil who toured America doing ice shows at the turn of the century and the one on Sonja Henie's wild party with the elephants. I'm sure there are a ton I'm forgetting. Two bizarre things I've never covered that stand out in my mind are the time part of the roof caved in when Lynn Nightingale was doing her free skate at the Richmond Trophy and what happened to the Belgian pair, Contamine and Verdun, at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. It was their turn to skate soon and they brushed past the S.S. Guards. As a result, they got locked up until right before it was their turn to skate.

Ann Johnston. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

From Sara (via e-mail): "Who was the first Canadian woman to do a double Axel?"

A: The first woman to do a double Axel at the Canadian Championships was Ann Johnston in 1956. Even though she had a more difficult program, she lost the free skate and title to Carole Jane Pachl that year. What's interesting about Ann being the first to do it is the fact that she preferred spinning to jumping and was known as being particularly stronger in the figures.

From Cheryl (via e-mail): "Can you help me identify who entered the U.S. professional skating ranks after the plane crash? I know about John Nicks and Carlo Fassi. Any others you know of? I found an article about Nicks that states there were 12 rinks with open positions in 1962 so he had opportunities."

A: Great question! European pros had been coming to teach in North America since the early twentieth century. There would have been a handful of new opportunities as a result of coaches shuffling around after the Sabena Crash, but there would also been openings because of new rinks, the popularity of studio skating schools etc. Some would have been filled by European pros, but the majority were filled by North Americans who were already professional and were seeking new job opportunities. New professionals in 1961 included Doreen Denny (two-time World Champion with Courtney Jones) and Tim Brown (three-time World Medallist). Doreen taught in Villars, Switzerland with her husband (Italian Champion) Gianfranco Canepa and Tim taught in Squaw Valley and the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club. Bill Kipp, Danny Ryan, Edi Scholdan, Maribel Vinson Owen, Bill Swallender and Linda Hart Hadley were the six coaches that were killed in the Crash. Bill Kipp taught at the Arctic Blades Figure Skating Club, which was based at Paramount Iceland. In early 1961, the coaches there were Bill, Joan Zamboni, Dori-Ann Swett, Don Berry, Hubert Sprott and J.J. Bejshak. Mr. John Nicks took over Bill's position. Edi Scholdan taught at the Broadmoor Skating Club. In early 1961, he and Gerry Tapper were the club's professionals, with Susan Sebo teaching in the summers. Carlo Fassi and Walter 'Red' Bainbridge took over for Edi in Colorado Springs, and were assisted that first summer by Clarice Dillon and Geraldine Tapper. Bill Swallender ran a studio rink with his wife Genevieve and taught at the Detroit Skating Club with Ronnie Baker and Mimi Pong Page in the winter and at the Michigan State University Ice Rink in East Lansing with Pierre Brunet, Bud Wilson, David Spalding, Beryl Williamson and Jean Arlen Jordan in the summer. The next season, Ronnie Baker and Mimi Pong Page remained as the head pro's at the Detroit Skating Club and Jack B. Jost and Eugen Mikeler joined the staff in East Lansing. Ginny Baxter ran the Swallender's studio rink for a period of time after his death. Danny Ryan and his wife were the head professionals at the Winter Club Of Indianapolis. Ron Ludington and Marilyn Meeker Durham were added to the teaching staff at the Club in 1962, joining Danny's widow Rose Anne who also taught in Lake Placid. Linda Hart Hadley and Ila Ray and Ray Jr.'s father taught at the Seattle Skating Club with Clarence Hislop and Carol Mittun and ran the Hadley & Hart studio rink. The next season, Carolyn Smith was hired to teach at the studio rink. The studio rink was still going in 1965, with Lois Hadley, Carol Mittun and Sharon Morrissey as head pros. Carol and Clarence Hislop remained at the Seattle Skating Club. They were joined by Dean Dyar, Marsha Deen, Helen Killoran and Sharon Constable. Maribel Vinson Owen had ties to the Skating Club Of Boston, the Phillips Academy Rink in Andover and the Tabor School Camp Rink in Needham. The teaching staff in Boston in early 1961 included Cecilia Colledge, Willie Frick and Marion Proctor. Five years after the Crash, the professionals in Boston were Cecilia Colledge, Bud Wilson, Marion Proctor, Tom McGinnis and Frank Muckian.


Back in 2017, I did a blog on the Barney & Berry skate manufacturing company in Massachusetts. A man named John reached out asking, "I have a fishing pole Barney and Barry. All I know is it older than 1930, even early as 1910. I found nothing on it. Can you give me any information?" I don't know thing about the Barney & Berry company making fishing poles - but if anyone can help, by all means send me a message and I'll pass it on to John.


I also wrote about The Burling Triplets, a sister act from Toronto, back in 2017. Laura reached out to me in November: "I was reading your Skate Guard blog about the Burling triplets and I would like to know if you have anymore information about them like their training their childhood etc. I am trying to write about them and there are some things I can not find like their lives before skating and after skating marriages deaths. Their skating training, individual personalities and more." If anyone knows more, reach out and I'll pass your message on to Laura.


Photo courtesy "Ice Skate" magazine

In December, J.D. reached out on Facebook to share his memories of World Champion Graham Sharp, who was featured on the blog back in 2015: "H. Graham Sharp was my first skating pro in the late 1960’s in Tulsa OK. He was a fine gentleman, and made figures look easy. He still sported the dashing mustache. Good chap!"


In October of 2020, I had a lovely phone call with Wayne Ayre, who now lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Wayne was a survivor of the 1949 Minto Skating Club Fire and the son of William Ayre, the rink attendant. Wayne shared his memories of the fire and the Minto Skating Club's most famous member in the forties - Barbara Ann Scott: "It was early in the morning - very early. Mom came into the room and she said, 'The Minto's on fire! Get up!' There was four of us kids and kids and a cousin. Mom said, 'I want you to take them downstairs and across the street and go to Mr. Davies house.' Well, it was starting to get smoky and I was a boy scout -  the cubs. They taught us at cubs that you never walk in a fire in the middle of the steps. As soon as Mom told me to go down the stairs, I told the others. Our cousin Shirley - poor Shirley - she started screaming and carrying on. Mom just went over and whacked her and said, 'We don't have time for that.' Anyway, we went down the steps no problem. I also knew from cubs that doors will jam once they get heated. I got the door open easily and we walked across the street to Mr. Davies' house and he took us all in. Now, if you picture a triangle, that would be the Minto. It was on 151 Waller Street. Next to the Minto, going towards Laurier Avenue, which would be the first street you come to, there was a double house. Around the corner, there was a barber shop and another little place and a fire station. Now, Dad used to let the firemen come in the side door, about halfway down the building. He'd leave that door open so the firemen could come in and watch the skaters. When the guys were working there at the holidays, they'd bring in a turkey or something and the women that ran the skater's canteen would cook their turkeys for them. Her name was Tilley. Well, she had a boyfriend named Cecil... When there was a fire, Cecil and Tillie packed up everything and would take hot coffee, sandwiches, things like that to a fire so that firemen could have something while they were working... and no recognition for that, no money to help pay for it. That's just something they did... Now, we were across the street at Mr. Davies' house and the firemen, when we went in, they said, 'Oh my goodness - the family!' so they came running up the alley way and then they went back and got the trucks. By that time, they found that we were there and we were counted, to make sure we were all present. Then, the fire trucks got into place and started pouring their water on and so on. An aluminum ladder they had put up to get to the top melted... that's how hot that fire was. Dad had these tanks that were twelve, fifteen feet long... maybe twelve inches in diameter. These were steel tanks that contained hydrous ammonia in gas form or liquid form. He was worried that they might blow, with the heat. So he said, I've got to go in and release the pressure on those tanks. The fire chief said, 'Take this guy - this fireman - to go in.' Dad only had only lung. When they went in, the fireman passed out, overcome by the smoke. So Dad had to drag him back out. So the fire chief says, 'Wait a minute, Bill, I'll get another person for you.' He said, 'I don't have time.' and he went in and released the valve so the ammonia could escape. Well, for a man with one lung... and then he came out and then the police showed up. The first thing they wanted to know was, 'Where's the family?' so they got us out of bed and they counted us. Every time we turned around, we were being counted. Dad, for some reason, said, 'No photographs.' We were taken away to a friend of his, you know - a couple, who lived in an apartment building not far away. It was a three story apartment story, and this was on the third floor. It was one of those ones where the stairs went around and there was a big hole in the middle. We got in to share a bed with her son and there was a knock on the door. It was a reporter. Mrs. Jacobs said, 'No, their father said no pictures.' We got up to see what was going on and at that point, he jammed his camera in through the crack of the open door and she leaned on the door and she was a woman of considerable size. It hurt his arm, so he let go and he dropped the camera. She scooped it up, threw it over and it went down that center area below three stories. He said, 'You're in a lot of trouble!' She said, 'I don't think as much trouble as you are.' Then we stayed there that night. Somebody got us clothes because everything we had was gone. Dad didn't have much insurance - six hundred dollars. I think we went to our grandparents place the next day... They drove us by and there were the bunk beds, fused to the wall. That's how intense that heat was..."

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

"So, Barbara Ann Scott was much unlike her Mom - she was a really nice person. My parents got me skates so that I could learn and we got in some kind of a disagreement and I said, 'I'm not going to learn to skate.' A child rebelling... Well, Barbara Ann Scott taught me to skate... Now, when Barbara Ann was contending in '48 for the Worlds and Ottawa, she would come in around five or five thirty in the morning to practice skating. My Dad had to get up, open the building, turn on all the lights. She went [through the management] and came back and said, 'I've spoken to the President and they're going to give me my own key.' She told my Dad, 'Bill, you don't have to get up anymore. They've given me a key. You just have to show me how to turn on the lights.'... Her mother was more, 'Do you know who I am?' She was kind of full of herself, the mother. She was kind of hard to deal with, but Barbara herself was lovely. Now, moving forward... When Barbara Ann was at the height of her career, she had dress shops called Barbara Ann's Dress Shop or something and there was one here [in Halifax] on Spring Garden Road. It was in the paper that she was going to be in the store. Our daughter Dawn wanted to borrow the car and I said, 'I was going to go over to Halifax because I'd love to stop into the store and see Barbara Ann Scott.' After, I changed my mind and said to Dawn I wasn't going to go. She said, 'No Dad, you're going.' She agreed to drive me over there. When I went in, there were a number of people, of course, around her. I waited for a chance. When I saw the opportunity I stepped up and said, 'Hi Barbara Ann, I'm Wayne Ayre'. She said, 'Bill Ayre's son! How's your parents?' I thought that was pretty good for her to remember that after all those years. She was just a really nice person and my claim to fame is that she taught me how to skate."

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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