#Unearthed: Origin Of The Ten-Step

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 article called "Origin Of The Ten-Step", which first appeared in "Ice Skating" magazine in June of 1947. It was penned by skating instructor Elsbeth Muller, who with her brother George invented several ice dances, including the Dutch Waltz, Fiesta Tango and Willow Waltz.

"ORIGIN OF THE TEN-STEP" (ELSBETH MULLER)

In an article on the "Evolution of Ice Dancing" by E. van der Weyden in the "Skating World" of January, 1945, it was mentioned that the author had been unable to find out who was the originator of the ten-step.

When reading this I immediately felt inspired to clear up by the mystery and write my story of the ten-step.

It was on one afternoon during the first winter of the Eispalast in Berlin, 1908-09, when my brother George watched Herr Hirsch, from Vienna, showing new dances to Ludovika Eilers, (now Mrs. Walter [Jakobsson] of Finland).

He remembered the steps so well that he was able to teach me my part, and we danced the ten-step the same evening with a large crowd around. The name was the dance was 'Schöller-Schritt', we are told.

Schöller-Schritt pattern from 1889. Photo courtesy ""Kunstfertigkeit im Eislaufen" by Robert Holletschek.

In the same year, another visitor from Vienna, Herr Schwarz, showed me the additional four-step with a short outside roll on the fourth step. The long roll of four beats developed much later in New York.

From the Eispalast in Berlin the Schöller dance, mostly done to waltz time, spread all over the world under the more convenient name of the ten-step or fourteen-step.

In "Kunstfertigkeit im Eislaufen" by Rob Holletschek, I have on my desk the 6th edition of 1904. Franz Schöller is credited with four dances marked 1889, one of them is the original ten-step with man's and lady's steps diagrammed.

The only difference from the ten-step we know is that a three-turn was used by the man on step 3, followed by ROB.

The lady's steps 8 and 9 are marked LOF-ROB. On step 1 the left foot was crossed over the right on LIB.

I agree with E. van der Weyden that the habit of doing 8 and 9 on inside edges by many lady skaters was due entirely to lack of ability to execute an outside mohawk.

Tenstep pattern from Ernest Law's "Dancing On Ice", 1925

George and I always taught outside mohawks, although many years back, while discussing these steps, I was told that I was all wrong - that in Austria they were done on inside edges.

We also preferred bringing our feet close together at transitions instead of the original way of XF and XB chassé, or taking wide steps, with the result that we were complimented frequently on the smoothness of our dancing.

I possess a list of nine compulsory dances (Pflichttanze) from Vienna. The first one is named the 'Schoellerschritt' or 'Zehnschrittwalzer' (ten-step waltz), No. 5 is the 'Mejstrikschritt' with a rocker for the man on 4, 5, 6. All other steps are the same as in the ten-step. No. 6 is another variation, the 'Mondwalzer' (Bohatsch). The man, on step 7, goes into LIF-RIB spread-eagle changing to ROB on 8, the lady does a XF-ROF on step 7.

Unfortunately, no timing is given. I remember, however, that steps 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9 were short and 3, 6, 7 and 10 held longer. Mostly, men wrongly shortened 7 and 8, which did not help team-work, until short steps of equal length, with the exception of 3 and 10, became standardized.

Tenstep pattern from 1932. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In my article in "Skating" (January, 1932) I mentioned that I prefer at the end of step 9 to slide the left foot down, not crossed over but alongside the right foot, lifting it in front, thus matching my partner's free leg on step 10.

When standardization of ice dancing was going to be discussed in New York in 1936, I pointed out the neatness of the open position on 8 and 9, with the free foot trailing on step 10, to Maribel Vinson, who was the chairman of the USFSA Dance Committee and had asked me for help and advice.

Educational training video on the modern Fourteenstep

Standardization was very successful. Ever since, the fourteen-step to march music has become one of the most popular dances on ice and rollers.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Frida Segerdahl-Nordström: An Unlikely Swedish Figure Skating Pioneer


"Away with book and embroidery! Do not preach the glorious spring days in four walls, without hurrying into the free nature of God! Enjoy greenery, aromas, colours and life, in the thousands of shapes, where they are now revealed! Listen to the multitude of music from the air and the crowns of the trees, which fill the whole space with sweetheart and harmony." - Frida Segerdahl-Nordström, 1898

Frida Göthilda Segerdahl was born February 20, 1845 in Vänersborg, Sweden, a chilly, damp seaside city on the shores of lake Vänern. She was the daughter of Anna Catharina (Olsson) and Gustaf Segerdahl. Her father, a well-respected author and teacher, worked as the director of the Swedish Forest Institute. The family home was situated between a picturesque lake, a lighthouse bordered on three sides by a deep forest and Hunneberg Mountain. From a young age, Frida and her younger brother could often be found trundling through the forest with their father on his many hunting trips.

Frida was educated by her father in regular school subjects and music as a young girl. At the age of thirteen in 1858, she was permitted to skate on a frozen pond in an area of land owned by the Swedish Forest Institute with her friend, the Forest Institute's janitor's daughter. The Stockholm press got ahold this news and reported with disdain that two young women dared practice a "man's exercise".

Six years later, Nancy Fredrika Augusta Edberg - the owner of the first female bathhouse in Stockholm - began offering skating lessons to women. At the time skating was considered so undignified for women in Sweden that a fence was constructed to "hide the women". When Queen Lovisa herself dared attend, the wall came down. It is probable that Frida attended Nancy Edberg's classes, as they would have been the only means of skating classses for women at the time in Stockholm.

In 1866, Jackson Haines made his first trip to Sweden to give both roller and ice skating exhibitions.
Frida acted as Haines' partner in his several of his performances in Stockholm during this first visit. She received a gold brooch in the form of a skate for her efforts, pinned to her breast by Prince Oscar II himself. She was hailed after her death as the first woman in Sweden to skate in front of an audience. A Viennese chorus girl and dancer, Leopoldine Adacker, performed with Haines at the Maskinisten Bergsten i Teaterhuset in Sweden in 1869. Despite Frida, Nancy Edberg and Leopoldine Adacker's pioneering efforts, the February 5, 1897 issue of "Idun: Praktisk Veckotidning Kvinnan Och Hemmet" noted, "It may well be... that [skating] never will become more common within that gender, which we rightly or wrongly denote as 'The weaker'."

Frida married Karl Jakob Bernhard Nordström on November 10, 1874 in Upsala. Bernhard was the director of Haddorp's agricultural school in Östergötland County. The couple moved to Margretelund and later Lännäs, where Frida became far more well-known for a second passion - hunting - than she ever did for her skating. She shot her first elk in Södertörn in 1868, two years after she skated in Stockholm with Haines and wrote about hunting in several Swedish magazines. She even penned a diary called "Jakter och minnen" in 1898, which is considered the first Swedish book about hunting penned by a woman. She passed away on December 10, 1900 in Stockholm at the age of fifty-five, her role as a Swedish figure skating pioneer never really taken into consideration until her final years.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Silver Linings: The Svea Norén Story

Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive

At the turn of the century, Amanda Kristina (Hallberg) and Johan Ferdinand Norén Karlsson welcomed an adopted daughter named Svea Placida Mariana Norén to their family. The Norén's lived in Stockholm, where Johan worked as a merchant trader. The family rented two rooms in their home to boarders to help supplement their living costs. Census records state that Svea was born on October 5, 1895, but it's not a stretch to consider that she may have been actually been born on May 2, 1895 in the ancient agricultural village of Nora in Västernorrland to Per Olof Norén and Marta Kajsa Jonsd. Per Olof Norén was a farmer with many, many mouths to feed and he and Johan were related. 


Svea received a formal education but was clearly far more interested in carving out eight's on the ice then adding them up in her arithmetic class. She started skating as a youngster at the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb, sharing the ice with great champions like Ulrich Salchow and Bror Meyer. She entered her first competition at the age of twelve, placing third in her class in a club event. Two years later, she made her debut in the senior women's class, placing second. In the years that followed, Svea would win the Swedish women's title four times and finish second once in pairs with partner Harald Rooth. Each time she claimed her country's women's crown, the runner-up was her friend and training mate Magda (Mauroy) Julin.

Svea Norén and Harald Rooth

In a competitive career that began in the first decade of the twentieth century and spanned The Great War and early roaring twenties, Svea amassed an impressive collection of medals and trophies. At the 1913 World Championships, she earned the bronze medal behind Zsófia Méray-Horváth and Phyllis (Squire) Johnson. At that event, the Swedish judge had her first in figures and the Hungarian judge had her first in free skating. She tied for ordinals with Phyllis Johnson, but lost the silver on points. She was able to win the World silver medal ten years later in 1922 when the ISU resumed holding World Championships. At that event in her home country, she was the only woman who competed at the Worlds prior to the War to enter. The following year in Vienna, she claimed a second World bronze medal. Svea also won international competitions in Stockholm, Helsinki, Berlin and Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via during and after the Great War and placed several times in the Nordic Games. Strong in both figures and free skating, one account of her skating in the "Hufvudstadsbladet" stated that she had "a beautiful program with soft, pleasant movements." She was particularly popular in Finland, where she gave numerous exhibitions.

Magda (Mauroy) Julin and Svea Norén. Photo courtesy Swedish Olympic Committee.

Svea is perhaps most famous for controversially winning the silver medal at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp behind Magda (Mauroy) Julin. Late ISU and USFSA historian Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "The day after the ladies event, a re-tabulation of the marks showed that Theresa Weld had in fact earned more points than Svea... and deserved the silver medal. The judges had approximated her points and awarded ordinals and the medals accordingly. A protest was never made and the results stood as originally announced. It was a commentary on the fact that the ISU did not participate in the conducting of the events."


Though named to the 1924 Swedish Winter Olympic team, Svea did not ultimately compete in Chamonix and this marked the end of her competitive career. A history of the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb published the year prior to those Games noted, "Svea Norén is perhaps the most talented of all our skating ladies. Unfortunately, she is equipped with a rather weak health, which makes her vulnerable to physical stress, and she also has difficulty in gaining control of her nerves at competitions... Her obligatory figures are first-rate, clean, well-drawn and executed in an elegant style... Had Svea Norén always performed her [figures] equally well in competitions, as during the training, she would certainly have been able to add another number of victories to the already won successes."



Five years after her retirement from skating, Svea married Per Oskar Källström. The following year, she gave birth to her only child, a son named Åke. She lived out the rest of her life quietly on an island in the inner Stockholm archipelago called Lidingö. Decades after her death on May 9, 1985 at the age of eighty-nine, a figure skating club in Huddinge was named 'Svea' in her honour.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1953 North American Figure Skating Championships

The Hungarian Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park in Cleveland, Winter 1953. Photo courtesy Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.

Patti Page's "The Doggie In The Window" topped the music charts and Walt Disney's animated film "Peter Pan" was a month old. A postage stamp was three cents and a loaf of bread sixteen. On March 6 and 7, 1953, Soviets were celebrating Georgy Maksimilianovich Malenkov's succession as leader of the Communist Party but across the ocean on the flip side of the Cold War coin, Canadians and Americans were gathering at the Cleveland Skating Club to compete in the 1953 North American Championships. 


Interestingly, the 1953 North American Championships were held after the World and Canadian Championships but before the U.S. Championships. To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the event, J. Howard Morris, Jr., the President of the Cleveland Skating Club went all out. He and his wife hosted a dinner for the judges and organizing committee at his home. 

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

In addition, there were numerous dinners, a brunch, Club Dance Session, cocktail party, informal dance and a party with a live orchestra. With four hotels within two miles of the Club and most of the skaters staying in the same hotel, the social aspect of this competition was like a grand reunion. Considering the only major figure skating event held in Cleveland prior to these Championships were the 1940 U.S. Championships, the success of this event also sent the message to the USFSA that Cleveland was a perfectly capable host city. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE PAIRS COMPETITION

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Two time and defending North American Champions Karol and Peter Kennedy had retired the year prior, paving the way for a new couple to strike gold in Cleveland. The heavy favourites were Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden who had recently won the silver medal at the World Championships in Davos and the gold at the Canadian Championships in Ottawa. A performance marked by its speed, unison and precision earned 'Frannie and Norrie' first place ordinals from all six judges. Carole Ormaca and Robin Greiner of Fresno (a last minute entry) skated first and managed to best Tulsa's Margaret Anne and Hugh Graham by just one ordinal placing to take the silver. 

At the time, Frances Dafoe was a twenty-three year old graduate of Branksome Hall and the Central Technical School Art Department who was interested in commercial art, costume design and cooking. Norris Bowden had studied engineering at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Applied Science in 1950 and Masters of Commerce in 1951. He worked as a life insurance salesman at the Great West Life Assurance Company.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

The ice dance competition consisted of four compulsory dances - the American Waltz, Rocker Foxtrot, Blues and Quickstep - and a free dance. As the free dance hadn't yet been adopted at the Canadian Championships, the two Canadian couples entered were at a major disadvantage... to put it mildly. However, when the three American couples took the top three spots after the compulsories, this disadvantage became even more pronounced. Earning first place ordinals from all six judges, Carol Ann Peters and Danny Ryan of the Washington Figure Skating Club took the gold, followed by Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby of Philadelphia and Carmel and Ed Bodel of California. The Bodel's were the 1951 North American Champions.

Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Canadian Champions Frances Abbott and David Ross placed fourth, defeating Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, who had skipped the dance event at Canadians. Daringly for the time, Dafoe made a fashion statement in the compulsories by wearing a black dress trimmed with white at the neck, complemented by a bright red jacket every second dance. The other couples wore the same costume for all four dances. Dafoe and Bowden also included a daring element of their invention - the leap of faith - in their free dance, which may have cost them marks from the judges. 

Carol Ann Peters and Danny Ryan. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Carol Ann Peters was the Vice-President of her sophomore class at St. Lawrence University and was studying English and Radio. Danny Ryan, a former roller skater, had recently spent two years as an Army Corporal stationed at Fort Knox, Anchorage and Camp Drum in New York. The couple first met at the Washington Club in 1949.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Two time Olympic Gold Medallist and defending North American Champion Dick Button had turned professional the year prior. Hayes Alan Jenkins, the bronze medallist at the previous two North American Championships and reigning World Champion, was of course the heavy favourite in Cleveland at his home club. 

Dudley Richards

As expected, Jenkins took an early lead over Canadian Champion Peter Firstbrook in the school figures. With an outstanding free skate, Jenkins finally won the title that had eluded him with unanimous first place votes. Firstbrook held on to the silver, while Ronnie Robertson - only fifth in figures - moved up to take the bronze. Dudley Richards, Peter Dunfield and Charles Snelling rounded out the six man field. Recalling the event in "Skating" magazine, Maxton R. Davies remarked, "In the Men's Singles, not the costumes, but speed and daring were the features. Smiling Peter Dunfield led off, skating with a freedom that almost took him into the judges stand. Dudley Richards, whose manner is somewhat reminiscent of Dick Button, followed in an exciting program that brought several near-falls. The Canadian Champion, Peter Firstbrook, skated smoothly, capably and crisply, with many intricate steps. He was followed by Ronnie Robertson, whose dazzling speed and sensational triple loop jump and double Axel had the crowd roaring and raised his rank from five to three. Excellent as Charles Snelling's performance was, it suffered by comparison with the preceding dazzling exhibition. The final skater was World Champion Hayes Alan Jenkins, who soon showed that his World Title was no flash-in-the-pan. Skating smoothly, he unleashed a series of daring and complicated steps, including a double Axel, which brought spontaneous applause."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Sonya Klopfer, the future wife of men's competitor Peter Dunfield, had won the 1951 North American title and turned professional in 1952. Tenley Albright, the bronze medallist at those 1951 Championships, was fresh off a win at the World Championships in Davos. After the school figures, Albright held a unanimous lead over Canadian Gold and Silver Medallists Barbara Gratton and Dawn Steckley. Though Tenley Albright's free skate was by all accounts the performance of the night, thirteen year old Carol Heiss - dressed in a Valentine's inspired red and white outfit - brought the heat with an exceptional performance. Ultimately, Albright took the gold medal with unanimous first place marks and Heiss jumped from fourth to second overall. Barbara Gratton, with a seventh place ordinal from one of the American judges, settled for bronze ahead of Vevi Smith, Steckley, Carole Jane Pachl, Margaret Anne Graham and Miggs Dean. Dean's costume - a sparkly pink tunic and ruffled skirt - was one of the event's biggest showstoppers.


Taught by skating greats like Maribel Vinson Owen, Willie Frick and Eugene Turner, Tenley Albright had started skating at the age of nine, using the sport as therapy to overcome a bout of non-paralytic polio at the age of eleven. Her younger brother was a speed skater who won the juvenile New England Indoor Championships. During the competition, she could be found studying for school between school figures.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Worth The Waite: The Eric Waite Story

Photo courtesy City Of Vancouver Archives

Eric Lancaster Wait was born May 18, 1915 in Calgary, Alberta. His parents, Walter and Helen (Norton) Wait, had emigrated from Great Britain just four years before he was born. Eric and his older brother Norton grew up in a strict Presbyterian family. His father was a debt collection manager for a trust company.

Eric learned to skate as a very young boy, but showed more interest in playing hockey as a youngster than his brother, who excelled in figure skating and won singles and pairs skating titles at the Calgary Art Skating Club in his youth. Both Eric and Norton had a great sense of humour and spent considerable time clowning around on the ice. They were both inspired by the comedic stylings of Buster Keaton.

Fifteen year old Eric gave an impromptu comedic skating performance in Calgary that was such a hit he was asked to do ten encores. He figured he was "on to something with this skating business" and packed his bags and set out on the road. Skating, he thought, might be his ticket out of a depressing existence in the prairies during The Great Depression.


Eric travelled overseas to England where he found great success performing his comedy acts in the production "Marina" at the Empress Hall, Earl's Court. In autumn of 1937, he made history as the first ice comedian to be presented to royalty, following a command performance of the show in London. It was such a big deal that his fiancée at the time, a young woman from Memphis, Tennessee, made the long voyage over on the Queen Mary just for the special occasion. Eric's success in "Marina" paved the way for a job as a stunt skating double in the 1938 George Formby flick "I See Ice". 


Following his efforts in England, handsome five foot six, brown-haired, blue-eyed Eric returned to North America to appear in Shipstad and Johnson's Ice Follies and the short film "Zero Girl" with Evelyn Chandler and Bruce Mapes. He changed the spelling of his last name from 'Wait' to 'Waite', his widow claimed, because bank tellers didn't believe that 'Wait' was his real last name.


In 1941, Eric became one of the original cast members of the Ice Capades, a gig he continued off and on for over two decades. Whereas his brother Norton mostly confined his own comedy skating acts to occasional carnivals as he taught figure skating full-time in Niagara Falls, much of Eric's life was nomadic, though he called Hollywood home.

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

Over the years, Eric was billed as 'The Clown Prince Of The Ice' for his hilarious and varied comedy acts. Two of the themes he recycled again and again in his acts went on to become standards in the world of professional skating - the parody of the beginner skater and the drag act. Though he was hardly the first skater to perform either of these acts, he really made them his own. Audiences got a huge kick out of his hijinks.

Left: Eric Waite. Right: Eric Waite and Elizabeth Szalay. Photos courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive

There was a lot more to Eric than his comedic antics. He had an eye for the ladies and was married three times. While touring with the Ice Capades, he carted along a portable workshop with him, which included a radial arm power saw and drill press. He used his tools to fix sets and props for the show but also for his own unique hobby - making educational children's toys. One, a building block train he had originally designed for his son Wally, was sold to a a toy company for a handsome profit.

Photos courtesy City Of Vancouver Archives

Eric parlayed his success with the Ice Capades into several other high profile gigs. He appeared in Holiday On Ice, several of Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revues and wowed crowds at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago.

Photo courtesy Ingrid Hunnewell

In the fifties and sixties, Eric also appeared in a string of ice pantomimes in England, including "Humpty Dumpty", "Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves" and "Puss In Boots". One of his final performances was in the 1972 production "The Peggy Fleming Show - A Concert On Ice". He was fifty-six at the time.


Perhaps the most incredible part of Eric's story were the accidents he overcame. In 1941, he was involved in a serious automobile accident, suffering several bone injuries. Medical professional told him he'd never walk again, let alone skate. He got "his limbs wired together" and returned to the ice despite the doctor's orders. In 1950, he received a broken rib "when a lurching train banged him against a washstand" and in 1965 he skated in excruciating pain on the opening night of an ice pantomime in Wembley after tearing a thigh muscle. This was a man who took "the show must go on" to a new level.

Sadly, Eric's show ended on October 13, 2000 in Tucson, Arizona, when he passed away at the age of eighty-five. Though his name is largely unknown today, he was one of Canada's most successful ice comedians.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Axels At The Apollo Theater: The Joseph Vanterpool Story

Photo courtesy Akbar Vanterpool

The son of Eleanor and Edward Vanterpool, Joseph Alexander Vanterpool was born February 28, 1920 in Harlem, New York. Joseph's parents, who were immigrants from the Dutch West Indies, struggled to raise seven children. Sadly, Joseph's siblings were separated and put into foster homes in different states. Joseph ended up as a ward of the Colored Orphan Asylum and Association for the Benefit of Colored Children in the Bronx. He and his brother were adopted by a kind family and he began studying at the Textile High School and found work as a sign painter. 

Joseph was drafted into the United States Army at the age of twenty-one. During World War II, he served as a G.I. in Europe, fighting in The Battle Of The Bulge and playing with the military's marching band. It was in Europe, near the end of and after the War, that he had his first exposures to figure skating. 

While on a Tour Of Duty in England, Joseph saw an ice pantomime in London. Then he attended an ice show featuring German skaters on a makeshift rink at a Red Cross pavilion on the outskirts of Nuremburg. His son Akbar recalled, "When he saw the shows he said, 'Wait a minute... I enjoyed myself so much that maybe I'll teach myself how to skate.' He made a promise to himself that when he got back to the States he'd purchase some skates. When he got back, he got a job with the United States Postal Service. During his lunch time, he would go to Rockefeller Center and Central Park. He would basically carve out an hour or an hour and a half out of his day during his lunch time to train. He got so good at it that he began to develop somewhat of a following at Rockefeller Center."

Photo courtesy Patrice Goody-Coleman

Joseph was one of a small but diverse group of trailblazing skaters of colour that took to the ice regularly at the Rockefeller Center rink in the post-War years. One of the skaters he toiled alongside was Sterling Bough, a member of the Norma Miller dance company who later headlined with a European tour of Larry Steele's Smart Affairs show with another member of the group, Jimmy McMillan. Sterling was the son of Juanita (Boisseau) Ramseur, a legendary Cotton Club performer who danced with Lena Horne in the early thirties. Journalist Jack McMahon recalled that Joseph "quickly lost whatever traces of stage fright he'd had by skating impromptu solos before the ever-present crowd of spectators that clusters around the rim of the rink."


In 1947, Joseph and Sterling were part of a short-lived tour staged by Stewart Seymour and John Brett, who was responsible for the ice shows at the Hotel St. Regis. "Harlem-On-Ice" was the realization of an all-African American skating troupe, an idea first conceived (but never realized) by Elizabeth and Fritz Chandler, who had invited Mabel Fairbanks to return to New York to headline in a similar show the year prior. 


Joseph's 'big break' came in January of 1952, when he was invited to give an exhibition during the Finals of the Silver Skates Derby, a popular annual professional speed skating race held at Madison Square Garden. The December 20, 1951 issue of the "New York Daily News" noted, "Van, as he is known in skating circles, is grace and rhythm personified. Completely self-taught, he has mastered spectacular skating maneuvers that many soloists fail to develop after years of coaching. To top it off, Van has a distinctive style that is certain to delight the Garden crowd." 


In the years that followed, Joseph was invited back to perform during the Silver Skates Derby again, and gave an exhibition at 1953 New York State Indoor Speed Skating Championships in the City Building at Flushing Meadows, alongside Carol Heiss and Andra McLaughlin. In 1956, he and Sterling Bough joined the cast of "Rhythm On Ice", an ice revue starring Mabel Fairbanks that was staged at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. They, along with Jimmy McMillan who had headlined in "Harlem-On-Ice", were among the first African American men to be featured in ice shows. 

Photo courtesy Lisa Fernandez

Like Mabel Fairbanks, Joseph simply wouldn't have the same opportunities white skaters had professionally because of the colour of his skin. No Ice Follies, no Ice Capades, no Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue... The big skating tours might not have taken an interest, but Ed Sullivan - one of the first talk show hosts to feature performers of colour - had him on his show. 

Photo courtesy Akbar Vanterpool

Joseph stopped appearing in shows in the mid-fifties after marrying his wife Thelma. He told a "Newsday" reporter, "I'm proud of being the father of two little rascals, my sons. That was the most enjoyable thing for me. Just being able to be with them, doing wonderful things, like skating. Being with your kids keeps you young and I haven't gotten over it yet."

Photo courtesy Akbar Vanterpool

Joseph's son Akbar recalled, "He skated all the way up until the time he was about seventy-nine or eighty. My brother and I, he taught us how to skate. We kind of kept him enthused about skating as a family. We'd go to Central Park or Rockefeller Center or what used to be Sky Rink. My Dad just really loved to see us skate and skate with us. He was a total showman. He loved dance, loved skating, loved art - he was a very accomplished artist and taught art. He was a Renaissance man."  

Joseph passed away on December 4, 2013 in Calverton, New York at the age of ninety-three. It's really quite incredible that his pioneering efforts in the figure skating world have gone largely unrecognized and hopefully that will change.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The 1958 British Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

Back in the forties and fifties, British skating titles weren't all decided at one event as they are today. Different competitions were decided at different rinks, often with combined bills we would consider quite out of the ordinary today. As an example, it wasn't unheard of for a junior pairs competition to be on the same bill as a professional women's competition. Today we'll take a quick look back at the (many) British Championships of the 1957-1958 season!

June Markham and Courtney Jones

On November 23, 1957, seven couples gathered at the Nottingham Ice Stadium to compete for top honours at the Amateur Ice Dance Championship of Great Britain. After the four compulsory dances - the Foxtrot, Westminster Waltz, Kilian and Rhumba - defending champions June Markham and Courtney Jones managed a ten and a half point lead over their closest challengers, Kay Morris and Michael Robinson. They convincingly won the free dance by ten points as well, to easily defend their title.

Kay Morris and Michael Robinson as winners of the Tomlinson Trophy in the autumn of 1957. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Though defeated by Barbara Thompson and Gerry Rigby in the free dance, Morris and Robinson managed to take the silver by one ordinal placing. Bunty Radford, bronze medallist at the 1955 World Championships with Raymond Lockwood, finished fourth with new partner Terence Orton. Reginald J. Wilkie recalled, "I found the free dancing most interesting. The highlight of the evening was Jones-Markham's programme, skated at speed to fast music, changing through to a tango, beautifully in character, and then a waltz. A magnificent programme and wonderfully executed. I cannot remember seeing a finer performance anywhere." All seven couples were accompanied by Douglas Walker on the Stadium's new organ.

Left: Anne P.M. Reynolds, Barbara Conniff and Gillian Thorpe, medallists in the Martineau Bowl. Right: Kay Morris and Michael Robinson, June Markham and Courtney Jones and Barbara Thompson and Gerard Rigby, British dance medallists. Photos courtesy BIS Archives.

Held in conjunction with the Amateur Ice Dance Championship of Great Britain was the ladies' amateur free skating competition for the Martineau Bowl. This event didn't include school figures, nor did it determine the British women's title. Of thirteen entries, Richmond's Barbara Conniff came out on top.

Keith Kelley, Michael Booker and Rodney Ward, 1958 British men's medallists. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine, BIS Archives.

The British Amateur Figure Skating Championships for men, women and pairs were held on December 4, 1957 at Streatham Ice Rink. Former Royal Air Force pilot Michael Booker trounced the competition in the men's event, winning his sixth consecutive British title. T.D. Richardson recalled, "I think his service in the RAF has strengthened him - his skating seems more mature, that of one who commands the ice... Booker's [free skate] was an outstanding performance, with speed, sureness and accuracy in the highlights of an exhibition which becomes more masterly every time we see it." One hundred and sixty four points back in second was another member of the Royal Air Force named Keith Kelley. Unlike Booker, who had finished his service, Kelley was on leave and was not well prepared. Rodney Ward took the bronze, ahead of Peter Burrows and Australia's William Cherrell. At the time, skaters from Commonwealth countries were more than welcome to vie for British titles if they so desired."

Miss Gladys Hogg and Dianne C.R. Peach. Photo courtesy BIS Archives.

Miss Gladys Hogg's student Dianne C.R. Peach wracked up such a commanding lead in the women's school figures that all that she had to do in the free skate was skate conservatively, and that's what she did to win the title that had been left undefended by Erica Batchelor, who had turned professional. 


Patricia Pauley held on to take the silver ahead of another (unrelated) Peach, Diana Clifton-Peach. Carolyn Krau, the only woman to land a double Axel, placed fifth, just two spots ahead of future World Champion in ice dancing Doreen Denny.

Carolyn Krau and Rodney Ward, Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles and June Markham and Courtney Jones, 1958 British pairs medallists. Photo courtesy BIS Archives.

T.D. Richardson reported on the pairs event in Streatham for "Skating World", while his wife Mildred sat on the judging panel. The Richardson's had represented Great Britain at the 1924 Winter Olympics. Mollie Phillips, another Olympian who won the British pairs title in 1933, also served as a judge, as did A. Proctor Burman, a six time pairs medallist at the British Championships. The winners of the title and Johnson Trophy (donated by another famous British pair, Phyllis [Squire] and James Johnson) were Joyce Coates and Anthony Holles of Liverpool. It was the pair's third consecutive British title. Carolyn Krau and Rodney Ward took the silver, just one ordinal placing ahead of British dance champions June Markham and Courtney Jones. Considering the NSA's Gold Dance Test required couples to perform a pairs free skating program as well as a free dance, Markham and Jones' entry wasn't considered at all unusual. At that point in time, couples often used the same program and simply added or subtracted elements as necessary.

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

The British Amateur Junior Figure Skating and Ice Dance Championships were held on March 12 and 13, 1958 at Westover Ice Rink, Bournemouth. Barbara Conniff, who had won the Martineau Bowl in the autumn, was the unanimous winner in the junior women's event, winning both the figures and free skate by more than twenty points. Christopher Robin Jones won the junior men's free skate, but finished his third place finish in the figures kept him behind David Clements. Jacqueline Pinto and John Anderson were the unanimous winners of the junior pairs event, while Jane Gray and Tony Berresford took the junior dance title despite earning less points than silver medallists Mary Walsh and David Clements. T.D. Richardson recalled, "In the daytime, during the skating of the school figures, something went wrong with the ice, making the task of both skaters and judges extremely difficult - especially for juniors. Seasoned, hard-baked competitors might have known how to hope, but as it was the same for all of them the result was probably not affected, and this despite some of the widest discrepancies of marks ever seen - with a British panel." Richardson wasn't exaggerating. Valerie Carter, who finished fourth in the junior women's event, had ordinals ranging from second through twelfth, and Clements and Walsh had ordinals ranging from first through sixth in junior dance... these from highly experienced judges.

Dianne Peach and Michael Booker. Photo courtesy Michael Booker.

The Championship of Great Britain for figure skating in The English Style was held at the Sports-Drome, Richmond, on March 16 and 17, 1958. It was only the third (non-consecutive) time the event had been contested since World War II ended. S.P. Jordan, who had been runner-up in both of the other post-War Championships, finally won the title with three hundred and ninety out of a maximum of six hundred points. 1957 Champion F.C. Lowcock finished second. The Challenge Shield for combined figure skating was won by Manchester's J. Wilson, F.C. Lowcock, N.G. Darrah and Kay Johnstone. Kay also won the Junior Competition for a cup donated by Humphry Cobb. The Bear Cup event for combined figure skating (teams of four) was one by N.G. Darrah, N. Darrah, B. Wilde and J. Wright.


Top photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

The final British Championships of the 1957-1958 season were the (World's and) British Open Professional Championships, held at the Nottingham Ice Stadium on May 31, 1958. As was the custom at these events, the highest ranking British skater in each discipline was named the British Open Professional Champion and the winner the World's Open Professional Champion. Americans Ronnie Robertson and Catherine Machado won the World singles titles. British immigrants to Canada Rosina and Raymond Lockwood won both pairs and dance. The British winners were Martin Minshull, Patricia Edwards, Peri Horne and Basil Cudlipp-Green and Joan (Dewhirst) and John Slater.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.