#Unearthed: Progress In Ice Dancing?

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 essay by Erik van der Weyden who (with his wife Eva Keats) invented the Rocker Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Westminster Waltz. His essay appeared in the January 1958 issue of "Skating World" magazine and discusses progress in ice dance at that point in history.


In the last twenty years, how far have we progressed in dancing on ice? For that matter, has dancing progressed or deteriorated? Those and similar questions have occupied my mind while considering what the ultimate goal really is, and what developments we may expect in the next decade. Will dancing become a purely technical achievement - figure skating to music, with accurate superimposed patterns, with a veto on all the subtle little variations, so that all dancers look alike - or will the pendulum swing back towards art, with less emphasis on pattern and the stilting effect it brings in its train?

Each younger generation tends to feel that it enjoys a new peak of achievement, and views the efforts of its elders with a degree of pity and even of condescension, whereas the older generation looks back nostalgically, and wishes that it could once again see dancing as an art and enjoyable pastime, rather than a grim business requiring such wooden determination, as exemplified by many whose dancing is governed by the yard-stick. Several times in recent years, when a test candidate has failed for manner of performance and has asked for the reason, he has been completely bewildered and not a little indignant when told that while time-keeping, correctness of steps and pattern were all in order, never-the-less the execution was below standard. Is it not likely that this very perfection of technique makes people look like automatons moving along a rail, completely artless and sexless?

The point at issue is, 'Is dancing an art or a science, and can the two be blended more happily?' My own feeling is that science is but a necessary adjunct to the art, with the accent on art. I think we may legitimately compare the ease of a painter (and I mean a real painter, rather than one of the modern extremists who specialize in puzzles rather than pictures) whose art cannot be complete without a sound knowledge of perspective, light and shade, and colour values, but in whom these purely technical achievements are of no avail unless directed by something stemming from the soul - it is this combination of inspiration and technique which enables the great artist to display a subject to the public, through his trained eyes, bringing out the points which need emphasizing, and softening others so as not to detract from the main theme.

We encounter a similar situation in photography - the inspired use of lighting, angle, pose and background can all make the difference between two treatments of the same subject - the one alive, and the other dead.

Of course, these two examples are of purely static arts, but in the case of skating (dancing and figures) it is permissible to make a direct comparison. Surely we may allow individual interpretations of such points as flow, suppleness, carriage, continuity of movement, and body-line, etc., without detracting from the basic correctness of performance - always remembering that in view of the numerous re-shuffles of steps, edges, timing and free leg positions, the officially approved method of today may be frowned upon in the future.

Jean Westwood and Lawrence Demmy at the 1955 European Championships

Of course, I do not think all dancers of today are wooden and bad. On the contrary, it is a fact that in the last few years we have seen a few top-notchers whose performance has been so superb that one cannot imagine anything better. Rather have I in mind the masses who comprise the backbone of modern dancing, and whose sole object is passing the next test in the shortest possible time, as opposed to the old school of pre-war dancers who danced for the fun and social enjoyment they got out of it. Of course, in the early 1930s, with practically no sort of standard to work to, we did see some most extraordinary interpretations of dancing - wildly swinging free legs, pump-handle arm movements, bodies swaying in all directions from the hips - but no authority could say who was wrong, and in terms of sheer exhilarated enjoyment, there was no doubt at all. The bolder skaters were at liberty to improvise steps without notice, and in the waltz made frequent use of rockers, mohawks, deliberate deep changes of edge and inside threes, quite impromptu. The general effect was frequently enchanting, while the ladies for their part really had to learn to follow, for they never knew what was coming. Today, let any man try to turn a rocker when approaching the end of the rink, and he will find himself looking for a new partner for the next waltz. Poor dear, it's not in the schedule, so spoils her dancing, in which the placing of every three on a more or less fixed point is pre-ordained.

It was all very jolly, but a change was inevitable, and no doubt what we lost on the swings we gained on the roundabouts when the advent of the third class test for ice dancing the whole atmosphere of the dance intervals began to change.

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.

Harvard, Houses And Half-Loops: The George Hill Story

Maribel Vinson and George Hill. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

"If figure skating could be mastered easily it might become dull, but there is little danger of that." - George Hill, "Skating" magazine, May 1945

George 'Geddy' Edward Bellows Hill was born April 24, 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, Edward Burlingame Hill, was a noted composer who taught music to Leonard Bernstein at Harvard University. His grandfather, Henry Barker Hill, was a professor of chemistry and director of the Chemical Laboratory of Harvard College. His great grandfather, The Reverend Thomas Hill, served as Harvard's President from 1862 to 1865. Allison Bixby, George's mother, raised her three boys with the help of two nurses, a cook, a waitress and laundress. The Hill's resided on historic Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts - a street that even today is considered one of the most prestigious addresses in America.

"Stevensonia Suite No. 1" by George's father Edward Burlingame Hill

Educated at the Noble and Greenhough School in Dedham and New Preparatory School in Cambridge in his youth, George found time between lessons to join both the Cambridge Skating Club and Skating Club of Boston. Surrounded by a who's who of the Boston skating scene at a time when the Continental (or International) Style was first 'taking hold' thanks to the efforts of his mentor George Henry Browne, he dabbled in everything from figures and free skating to fours and ice dancing. 

Coached by Willie Frick, George claimed the Cambridge Skating Club's men's free skating title for the first time in 1925, when was eighteen years old. In the years that followed, he'd win the same title four more times, along with pairs titles with Clara Frothingham Rotch and Polly Blodgett and a Waltz title with his dear friend and future pairs partner, Maribel Vinson.

Maribel Vinson and George Hill

George's competitive record is quite frankly astonishing. He won the U.S. junior men's title in 1929, along with four bronze medals in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships. With Maribel, he won the North American title in 1935, along with seven medals at the U.S. Championships in senior pairs - four of them gold.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

George represented the U.S. at two World Championships and the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he competed in both singles and pairs. He also claimed the Original Dance championship at U.S. Championships in 1930 and 1932 with Clara Rotch Frothingham, defeating a who's who of U.S. skating at the time, including Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles, Beatrix Loughran and his own pairs partner, Maribel. When he won the 1930 Dance title, it was the first time Boston skaters had won an ice dancing title since 1922. His latter win with Clara moved Bedell H. Harned to proclaim that "it was the best combination of steps this contest has ever produced."

The Boston Twelve: Olivia Stone Holmes and Teddy Goodridge, Polly Blodgett and Richard L. Hapgood, Leslie Eustis and Bernard Fox, Grace and Jimmie Madden, Joan Tozzer and George Hill, Bunty McKaig and William Penn Gaskell-Hall. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

An impressive highlight of George's competitive career was the bronze medal he won at the 1934 U.S. Championships in Philadelphia. ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright noted, "Maribel was not there, having gone to England to train and also to compete in both the Worlds and Europeans (as an NSA member then), so she did not defend either her Senior ladies singles title or her Senior Pairs title with George, so he was left as a singles skater and actually got third in the senior men that year behind Roger Turner, the long time champion and Robin Lee, from Saint Paul, Minnesota who represented  the future. Hence the 'door was wide open' for Maribel's perennial rivals, Suzanne Davis in Senior ladies singles and Grace and James Madden in Senior pairs, to enjoy their 'moments of glory', which they did. Suzanne had also won the Senior original dance event with Goodridge in 1933, so competed in that again in 1934 and also in a Boston four consisting of herself, Theresa Weld Blanchard, Goodridge and Richard Hapgood. In the end the representatives from The Skating Club of Boston won seven out of the eleven titles in play. No other club to my knowledge has ever achieved that domination in a Nationals as in 1934, and yet it was in effect by the 'second string', a remarkable accomplishment."

Top: George Hill, Roger Turner, James Lester Madden, Maribel Vinson and Virginia Badger. Bottom: George Hill, Maribel Vinson, Robin Lee and Erle Reiter.

When Maribel went overseas to England to train, George, James Madden and Willie Frick followed suit for a time. They gave two 'All American' shows in London, in which George dazzled audiences with his free skating program, which included spread eagles and jumps in both directions.

Left: George Hill with Jimmie and Grace Madden. Right: George Hill, Robin Lee and Erle Reiter.

George and Maribel pioneered the Hope Chest Lift - a "lift in which the man raises the girl directly in front of him and 'hopes' he can get her at least as high as his chest." They also developed a spiral that became known for a time in the Western States as the 'Vinson-Hill spiral'. Maribel described it thusly:  "Skate fast, turn a left mohawk in reverse rotation onto a LOB edge, side by side, the girl on the inside track, the man's left arm around her waist, right hands clasped to the side, heads looking in toward each other - and there you have it. Speed and lean over a well-bent skating knee are of the essence." Maribel also had nothing but praise for her partner's signature move: "Geddy Hill...does without shadow of doubt the finest half-loop jump I have ever seen - and I have seen all the world's greatest skaters during the past dozen years. Ged gets his tremendous 'rise' by the fling of his free leg backward and upward as he takes off; the great distance his jump covers comes from the speed with which he goes into it. As he lands, his free leg passes close by his skating leg into a high extended position and he bends his skating knee very deep, by adding an arched back and well-checked arms held easily away from his body, Geddy sails away from his jump in a beautiful inside back spiral."

Maribel Vinson and George Hill. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

One of George's other signatures was a popular carnival act with James Madden... 'Pansy' the skating Russian pony. 'Pansy' had audiences in stitches all over the Eastern Seaboard. Richard L. Hapgood recalled how Joseph K. Savage's wife had told him "it nearly broke her heart" when an eighty piece symphony orchestra was asked to play "Horses" at the Skating Club of Boston's carnival for Madden and Hill. The black-tie orchestra had played Wagner in the first half.

Maribel Vinson and George Hill

Impressively, George followed in his father, grandfather and great grandfather's footsteps, graduating with a fine arts degree from Harvard College in 1933. While attending Harvard, he was a member of the Speakers' Club and the controversial Phoenix-S.K. Club. He attended Harvard Architectural School for two years but his studies were interrupted by the Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkichen.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In 1937, George transferred to the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, where he received an architectural degree. Quoted in the Harvard College Class Of 1933 Quindecennial Report in May 1948, he recalled, "After this I settled down to become the world's greatest architect only to have World War II and time alter this ambition. During the war I was a Naval Architect at Charlestown, Mass. - a good excuse for a 4 F'r. I survived thanks to my wife and children. At the end of the war I moved to California, an unheard-of-act for a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander. True to all expectations, California is wonderful and so is New England." By the fifties, George was well established in Marin, California with his wife Leslie (Eustis) and three children, running his own architectural office. In 1958, he admitted, "I am becoming a renovation expert and do any kind of work from dog-houses to palaces."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

George was devastated by the death of his dear friend and partner Maribel Vinson Owen in the 1961 Sabena Crash. The tragedy struck just a year after he'd buried his father. He attended a memorial for the Owen's held at St. Clements Episcopal Church in Berkeley, California. Many of Maribel's friends and former students were in attendance, and he was visibly moved by the service.
Photo courtesy HUD 333.25, Harvard University Archives. Used with permission.

Later in life, George played tennis and golf and held memberships with The Harvard Club and Lagunitas Country Club. A devout Episcopalian, he was a Life Trustee at Grace Cathedral of San Francisco and Vestryman emeritus at St. John's Church in Ross. As for his politics, he unapologetically proclaimed, "I am a strong Republican in an area dominated by strong Democrats who have little effect on me." His hobbies included collecting records and stamps, but he admitted, "One of my greatest pleasures is working in my garden of flowers and vegetables. It has a very stabilizing effect on my soul and body." 

George passed away on May 7, 1992 in Marin, California at the age of eighty five. He was inducted posthumously to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame 'along side' his partner, Maribel, who had already been inducted in 1976.

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.

Tensteps And Torches: The Frederick Goodridge Story

"Everything that is skating - good form, sureness, rhythm, and music." - Frederick Goodridge, "Skating" magazine, 1932

Frederick 'Teddy' Goodridge was born September 2, 1906 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Susan Blake McPherson hailed from Nova Scotia and his father Dr. Frederick James Goodridge was a physician and Harvard graduate. 

Frederick and his younger sister Elizabeth grew up in the family home on Appian Way, just around the corner from Brattle Street, where George 'Geddy' Hill lived. Like Geddy, Frederick attended Browne and Nichols school, where he was mentored by George Henry Browne, who played an instrumental role in bringing the Continental or International Style of skating to America.

Frederick, George and Elizabeth all became regulars at the Cambridge Skating Club, where Freddy won his first competition - the club's Tenstep competition - in 1922 with partner Rachel Winlock. The Club's President was Freddy's uncle Arthur. Rachel and Frederick defended their Tenstep title the following year, and he took home top honours in the club's men's free skating competition as well. Those were just the first of his many competitive achievements.

Left: Ten year old Frederick Goodridge, Right: Group of young skaters at the Cambridge Skating Club, circa 1919. To the right is Elizabeth Goodridge.

Three years after he graduated from Harvard University himself, Frederick claimed the U.S. junior men's title in New York City. In the years that followed, he claimed eleven more gold medals at the Cambridge Skating Club's Championships in singles and ice dancing events and twice finished second in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships behind Roger Turner. He also won a fourteenstep contest with a fourteen year old Maribel Vinson.

James Lester Madden, Frederick Goodridge and Roger Turner at the 1929 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Frederick also finished third at the 1929 North American Championships in Boston behind Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson and Roger Turner. His biggest successes arguably came in 1933 and 1934, when he won the Original Dance event at the U.S. Championships twice with Suzanne Davis and the fours title with Davis, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Richard L. Hapgood.

James and Grace Madden, Frederick Goodridge, Maribel Vinson and Geddy Hill

Interestingly, the 'Boston four' (with Geddy Hill replacing Hapgood) was invited to skate in a carnival in Baltimore during this period. When Geddy (who was to act as Susie's partner) was unable to attend, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Frederick were forced to come up with a pairs act at the last minute. They stole the show, performing an eerie number in a darkened arena where the carried flaming torches as props.

Frederick Goodridge and Suzanne Davis' "A Bicycle Built For Two" act. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Frederick also excelled as an ice comedian in carnivals and performed a duet in shows with Suzanne Davis set to "A Bicycle Built For Two" where they "gave their interpretation of skating as it was done in the Gay Nineties."

Suzanne Davis and Frederick Goodridge's winning Original Dance in 1933

Frederick retired from competitive skating in the mid-thirties, but remained incredibly active in the skating world, mentoring many skaters including a young Benjamin T. Wright. He taught Wright the loop jump, spread eagle and grapevine. Both he and his father acted as Incorporators of the Cambridge Skating Club, and he served as both Secretary and Treasurer of the other club he held a membership with, the Skating Club of Boston. He also served as a member of the USFSA Executive Committee from 1933 to 1938 and as the chairman of the Competitions and Rules Committee from 1934 to 1935. By the early forties, he was certified by USFSA as National, International and World Judge and Referee. Unfortunately, he never got to test his judging mettle due to the cancellation of ISU Championships during World War II.

The Boston Twelve: Olivia Stone Holmes and Frederick Goodridge, Polly Blodgett and Richard L. Hapgood, Leslie Eustis and Bernard Fox, Grace and James Lester Madden, Joan Tozzer and Geddy Hill, Bunty McKaig and William Penn Gaskell-Hall. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In August of 1952, Frederick married Meriale Catherine Lund in Boston. Though he had remained active 'behind the scenes' in U.S. figure skating following the War, much of his later life was devoted to taking care of his mother and working as a statistician for an investment firm. He passed away on November 3, 1967 in Haverford, Pennsylvania at the age of sixty-one, never losing his love of skating for one minute.

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 1971 European Figure Skating Championships

The third manned lunar landing, achieved by the Apollo 14 mission, was a top news story. A carton of eggs cost sixty cents and bacon a pound of bacon was less than a dollar. The film "Love Story", starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, was number one at the box office. Lynn Anderson's "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden" topped the music charts.

The year was 1971 and from February 2 to 7, the Hallenstadion in Zürich, Switzerland played host to the European Figure Skating Championships. The historic city had only played host to the competition once before, exactly twenty years prior. However, the 1951 event had been held outdoors on the Dolder Kunsteisbahn, a massive open-air ice rink atop the city's biggest hill, surrounded by a forest. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

How did things pan out in Zürich that chilly February? Let's take a look back at the stories and skaters that shaped the event.


Pairs medallists

In 1969 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Soviet pairs had swept the pairs podium at the European Championships for the first time. In 1970 in Leningrad, the East German pair of Heidemarie Steiner and Heinz-Ulrich Walther had taken the bronze - putting a wrench in the hopes of the Soviets repeating their 1969 feat on home soil. In Zürich, Steiner and Walther stood at the boards as coaches, hoping that their efforts teaching in East Berlin would propel another East German team to the European podium. 

Left: Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov. Right: Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Two-time and defending European Champions Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov took the lead in the compulsory short program. Despite an uncharacteristic tumble from Ulanov in the free skate on a side-by-side double Axel attempt, they managed to best their teammates Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrei Suraikin both in the free skate and overall. Both teams received huge ovations from the Swiss crowd. In a dramatic battle for the bronze, Soviets Galina Karelina and Georgi Proskurin completed the Russian sweep of the podium. They outranked East Germans Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann by just three points and one ordinal placing. 

Manuela Groß and Uwe Kagelmann

Fourteen year old Groß and twenty year old Kagelmann completed side-by-side double Lutzes in their free skate, which were just as rare as Rodnina and Ulanov's planned side-by-side double Axels at the time. 


 Left: Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov. Right: Angelika and Erich Buck. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Twenty couples representing eleven countries competed in Zürich, but the two most talked about were Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov and Angelika and Erich Buck. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted that at that event, "Gossip and publicity brought about prejudging in the case of the Bucks. The judges marked them higher than both British teams who, many believed, had programs of equal technical merit but richer in style. The Bucks, however, were well-matched and smooth in their free dance to 'Music of the Mountains' and Kaempfert's 'Swiss Polka'... Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov brought to Zürich a free dance to real dance music that displayed their athleticism. Their Spanish theme blended tango ['Jalousie'] and paso doble rhythms.'" 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

However, as would happen at several events in the next couple of years, Angelika and Erich's strengths versus those of Pakhomova and Gorshkov's divided Communist and Western bloc judges. Both teams ended with same total of place ordinals and only a 0.4 difference in points. The Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, Soviet and Polish judges voted for the Soviets, while judges from West Germany, Austria, Great Britain and Switzerland voted for the West Germans. The deciding vote in favour of Pakhomova and Gorshkov was made by France's Lysiane Lauret. 

Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Skating to "Oye Negra", "Hernando's Hideaway", "A'Agapo" and "Millionaire's Hoe-Down", Britons Susan Getty and Roy Bradshaw took the bronze, besting Soviets Tatiana Voituk and Vyacheslav Zhigalin by a comfortable margin. In fact, the fifth place British couple - Janet Sawbridge and Peter Dalby - were only two points and ordinals behind the second Soviet couple. 


Men's medallists

Patrick Péra and Günter Zöller, medallists at the 1970 European Championships in Leningrad, were both absent from Zürich. Zöller was recovering from a foot operation and Péra slashed his foot only three days before the competition. These absences would have somewhat taken the pressure off of Ondrej Nepela, the two time and defending champion. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

After racking up a solid lead over Soviets Sergei Chetverukhin and Sergei Volkov in the school figures, Nepela delivered a steady and confident free skating performance that was enough for him to coast to victory. He actually outranked Chetverukhin, the silver medallist, by a margin of almost sixty three points. 

Sergei Chetverukhin. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

That said, the star of the show was Great Britain's Haig Oundjian. Skating to "Carmen", Oundjian landed a triple Salchow and triple toe-loop on the way to becoming the first British man since Michael Booker in 1956 to win the free skate at the European Championships. He earned the bronze overall, climbing all the way up from sixth after figures. At the time, he was ranked second in Great Britain to John Curry.


John Curry had been training in Switzerland prior to the competition with Arnold Gerschwiler, and managed a comeback of his own. He moved up from eleventh to seventh with a fine free skating performance, marred only by a tumble on a triple loop. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Places fourth through sixth were filled with Eastern bloc skaters - East Germany's Jan Hoffmann and Soviets Yuri Ovchinnikov and Sergei Volkov. With his high flying jumps and unique style, Ovchinnikov was a favourite of the Swiss crowd.


With the retirement of defending European Champion Gaby Seyfert, little stood in the way of nineteen year old Trixi Schuba of Austria finally winning the competition she had medalled at but not won the previous three years. In true Trixi Schuba fashion, she amassed an astonishing one hundred and nineteen point lead over Italian Champion Rita Trapanese in the school figures. In the free skate, Trixi struggled on two jumps but managed marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6. On the strength of her figures, she managed to best Hungary's Zsuzsa Almássy and Trapanese to win her first European title. 

Zsuzsa Almássy. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Interestingly, all three of the medallists were criticized for their free skating efforts... among other things. Almássy, the showgirl of the bunch, was called out on her dramatic weight loss. A report in "Skating" magazine noted, "The dynamic champion's chances of winning the European title this season were real, and to jump higher, she went on a strict diet. The successful results were very evident when she appeared for training the first day; a journalist at the usual press conference asked her about her diet. The gay Zsuzsa said, 'I went to the doctor, who gave me pills. I asked him if I had to take them before or after meals. He replied, 'Instead of the meal.'"

Sonja Morgenstern. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The women who earned the most praise were a pair of Frau Jutta Müller's students, sixteen year old Sonja Morgenstern and fourteen year old Christine Errath, and Zürich's own Charlotte Walter, who was skating on home ice. 

Video courtesy Frazer Ormondroyd

Sonja Morgenstern won the free skate, landing a triple Salchow and moving all the way up from eighth to fourth overall. Christine Errath leaped from tenth to seventh with a technically demanding performance of her own. Charlotte Walter placed an impressive fifth, the highest finish ever in singles skating by a Swiss woman at the European Championships at that point in time.

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

Canadian Skating Carnivals Through The Years

Antoinette Margaret Echlin and Cavin Atkinson appearing 'At The Mardi Gras' in the 1948 Toronto Skating Club carnival

"Lions and tigers and bears... oh my!" The famous line from "The Wizard Of Oz" describes three animals you'd likely find at any zoo... as well as three costumes that you'll be bound to see at any skating club's annual club carnival or ice show. These annual fundraising efforts have been staples of Canada's figure skating scene for well over a century and truth be told, the general format hasn't differed all that much. The club's best skaters typically perform solos and duets, while the up-and-comers are relegated to the lion, tiger and bear costumes. Guest skaters might be brought in to fill up seats; the club's professionals might even dust off an old standby and get in on the fun. Yet, when we go back through the accounts and pictures of these shows, we sense just how much skating clubs have evolved through the years. Hop in the time machine and I'll show you just what I'm talking about!


Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

A pair of igloos served as the backdrop for Montreal's skating carnival in 1939, a joint venture of the Montreal Figure Skating Club and Rotary Club Of Westmount. The show was held at the Montreal Forum, site of the World Championships seven years prior. 

Hazel Franklin. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet, who won the pairs event in 1932, served as the show's stars, alongside Hazel Franklin, Freddie Trenkler, Otto Gold and Donald B. Cruikshank. The Montreal Figure Skating Club's own Denise and Pierre Benoit were also prominently featured. There were twenty-two numbers in all, mostly solos and duets, but a "Rust" ballet group number was also an attraction. The show attracted seven thousand spectators, raised a small fortune for the Montreal Children's Hospital and featured a cast of over one hundred skaters. The Quebec newspaper "L'illustration nouvelle" called it "un brillant succès".


The Toronto Skating Club held its first skating carnival at the turn of the century and smack dab in the middle of World War II, things looked quite different than they did some forty years prior. While many of the club's male members were overseas on the front lines, those at home were engaged in War work. Skaters volunteered at Red Cross blood clinics and scrimped and saved by sewing their own skating dresses, so that there was money left over to send cigarettes and care packages to their loved ones in Europe. 

Yet, the show went on in 1942 with J. Wilson Jardine conducting the Toronto Symphony Band for a lengthy show featuring twenty one acts. The opening number was a "Masquerade Ball" replete with Harlequins and Columbines and the closing number choreographed by Boris Volkoff, "Let Freedom Reign", offered a message of peace. 

A group of skaters in the "Let Freedom Reign" ice ballet

The carnival's program stated, "In a world of peace and freedom, Evil appears surrounded by his cohorts of symbolic creatures, which swoop menacingly around the cringing peasants. The people strive vainly to drive back the evil forces until Youth appears and the demons flee. The laughing throng forget the threat of doom in the gaiety of the dance. The legions of Evil make a last attempt to banish Freedom and enslave Youth. Their dire peril brings forth an inner fire which fills the people with a great strength. Winter deals the final blow, and the loathsome horde is frozen rigid. The untarnished might of Youth overcomes Evil and hope is born anew. Children were featured in an elaborate "Easter Fantasy" while more senior skaters performed in group numbers with ballet and military themes. Featured performers from the Toronto Skating Club included Norah McCarthy, Donald Gilchrist, Eleanor O'Meara, Sandy McKechnie and Michael Kirby. Special guests from abroad included Freddie Tomlins, Bobby Specht and Edi Scholdan.


Andrea Kékesy. Photo courtesy Oshawa Public Library.

In 1950, the Oshawa Skating Club presented its tenth annual ice show, "Ice Frolics". Choreographed by the club's professional, Nan Unsworth from Scotland, the show was made possible through the hard work of dozens of local volunteers who did everything from prop and set design to ice painting, make-up and costumes and selling tickets and programs. Olympic Silver Medallist and World Champion Andrea Kékesy was the show's big name. She skated a duet with 1945 Canadian Champion Nigel Stephens

Photo courtesy Oshawa Public Library

Group numbers included a "Garden Wonderland" of roses, daffodils, daisies, butterflies and gardeners and a trip to Grand Central Station, featuring a cast of characters such as a policeman, hobo, travelling salesman, shoe shine boy, drunk and soda jerk. A group demonstration of the Swing Waltz dance was another highlight. The finale, in tribute to His Majesty King George VI, was set to "God Save The King". 


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In mid-April of 1961, the Capilano Winter Club in North Vancouver, British Columbia held their annual carnival "Around The World In Eighty Days", choreographed by club professional Alex Fulton. The show had one of the more elaborate, showy openings of the decade when the star, Joey Summerfield, descended to the middle of the ice in an aerial balloon basket! The club's younger members were put in groups representative of different locales - France, Holland, South America, Hungary, the United States... even outer space. Future Olympian Shirra Kenworthy and future Canadian Champion Louise Lind (Soper) were part of the cast "before they were stars". A report of the show in "Skating" magazine noted that the show "was a sellout both nights and groups of retarded children and wheel-chair patients were brought in to witness the dress rehearsal." It was a different time.


Louise and Barry Soper being thanked at the St. Albert Figure Skating Club in 1975. Photo courtesy University Of Alberta Digital Collections.

On January 18, 1975, the St. Albert Figure Skating Club just northwest of Edmonton showed just how excited a tiny skating club could be over a bit of star power. In what was great 'get' for the mostly recreational club, they snagged Canadian Champions Louise and Barry Soper for "An Afternoon With The Sopers". Fourteen guest skaters from Edmonton complemented the skaters from St. Albert, which only numbered forty. The show played to a packed house and helped generate interest in ice dancing in the area.

What are your favourite memories from your skating club's carnival? Reach out on social media and share your best stories!

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 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.

Rollers And Ice: The Gloria Nord Story

Photo courtesy "Ice Skate" magazine

"It's quite odd. I opened in the roller show when Harold Steinman had never seen me on wheels, only on ice. Then, I opened as a top star in London on ice, and they'd never seen me on ice, but on wheels!" - Gloria Nord, "Roller Skating For Gold", David H. Lewis, 1997

Born August 2, 1922 in Santa, Monica, California, Gloria Louise Nordskog was the youngest of Arne and Daisy Nordskog's five children. Born and raised in Iowa, where he met his wife, Arne Nordskog was a successful concert tenor and politician of Norwegian descent who co-founded the Hollywood Bowl and established one of the first opera companies in Los Angeles. Around the same time as his daughter's birth, his short lived Nordskog Records company produced the only recordings of Canadian vaudeville singer Eva Tanguay. Little did he know at the time that his infant daughter would grow up to become perhaps the most famous roller skater of all time.

Young Gloria got her start as a dancer, performing professionally in Vaudeville style shows in nightclubs at the tender age of nine and using the money towards ballet classes. As a teenager, she attended Miss Long's Professional School. Having received her first pair of ice skates at the age of four, she took a break from her studies and headed to the Polar Palace and took the ice to do her best impression of Sonja Henie

A producer named Harold Steinman spotted Gloria on the ice with none other than actress Betty Grable and offered both girls spots in his "St. Moritz Express" revue at the Tropical Ice Gardens in Westwood. Grable declined Steinman's offer as she was under contract; Gloria accepted. After a few rehearsals, she got an earache, decided ice rinks were too damp and cold and dropped out of the show. Much more at home on roller skates than flashing blades, she was spotted by impresario Sid Grauman at a roller rink he'd converted from an old Warner Brothers sound stage on Sunset Boulevard. Recognizing her appeal, he invited her to give daily exhibitions in exchange for free skating time and a modest paycheck. After touring to promote "Skating Review" magazine, Gloria (who by then had dropped the 'skog' from her last name for stage purposes) was offered a spot as the leading lady in a roller skating tour Grauman created called "Skating Vanities". Basically a roller skating equivalent of the "Ice Follies", the tour was a glamorous spectacle and would kickstart what would prove to be a legendary career.

Right photo courtesy "The Skater" magazine

The tour opened at the Baltimore Coliseum on January 7, 1942 with a cast of one hundred roller skaters from thirty-one states. Bottle blonde Gloria, skating opposite U.S. novice figure skating champion Douglas Breniser of Highland Park, Michigan, wasn't exactly an instant hit with audiences. In that first show, cracks between the sheets of masonite laid over the floor caused her to trip and fumble around. A prop malfunction in a "Cinderella" routine (her skate failed to come off at the stroke of midnight) left critics pondering why she'd even landed the starring role. Soon enough, she proved her mettle and gained the admiration of audiences.

Travelling throughout North America and even to Cuba with mother Daisy in tow, Gloria was hailed by reporters as "Sonja Henie on rollers". Her style was heavy on showmanship. In the "Fabulous Ice Age" documentary, Gloria recalled, "The first time I met [Sonja] she came and watched me. In her next movie, I saw some of my arm movements. But that's okay... I copied her. I didn't know anything about skating until I saw her. So that was fine... I was flattered."

Gloria was by all accounts an incredibly hard worker, and despite numerous tumbles and mishaps, American audiences embraced her glamorous style. Tour life wasn't without its tribulations though. At one show in Duluth, Minnesota, her roller skates were stolen. When she arrived in the next city, the police were called and a car was dispatched to the nearest sports outfitter to fetch her a new pair. Dennis Holman, writing for "The Newcastle Sun" on July 22, 1954, claimed, "The car, escorted by motor cyclists, and with sirens screaming, rushed a new pair to Gloria with five minutes to spare." After that, she carried two extra pairs of roller skates with her to every show. At another show, a stuffed lamb mounted on skates used as a prop in one of her numbers was stolen and placed among a flock of real sheep. Neither Gloria nor the police called in to look for Gloria's Little Lamb were amused.

Gloria suitably impressed film scouts at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1943 and was, along with her "Skating Vanities" cast, brought in to roller skate in the 1944 Twentieth Century-Fox film "Pin Up Girl" which starred her old friend Betty Grable. Her appearance in publicity materials surrounding the film earned her a following with U.S. soldiers.

In the early fifties, Gloria traded in her rollers for figure skates and found fame in Tom Arnold's ice pantomimes in Great Britain. On her shift to the ice, she said, "I always wanted to be an ice star. Though rollers give a dancer more variety - tap rhythm can be inserted and things like acute angled arabesques can be done on four wheels that would be impossible on a blade - there is more glitter and glamour about ice."

The queen of roller skating meets the queen of the ice - Gloria Nord and Barbara Ann Scott. Photo courtesy "The Skating Times" magazine.

Gloria practiced for three months until the wee hours of the morning before making her big debut in the winter of 1952, and it wasn't all smooth sailing. There were numerous tumbles but Tom Arnold told her, "Don't worry, Gloria, you look better on your bottom than most girls do standing up."

Daphne Walker and Gloria Nord

Gloria ultimately made her big figure skating debut alongside Daphne Walker at Wembley's Empire Pool in Arnold's production of "Sleeping Beauty". The show, which was in direct competition with Claude Langdon's "Jack And The Beanstalk On Ice" at Empress Hall starring none other than Belita, was a success. The two years, she appeared in "Chu Chin Chow On Ice" and "Ice Circus Of 1952" at Wembley. She said, "I have skated on rollers so much for so long at a time that I find when I go ice skating that it sharpens me up, is just enough different to keep my wits about me, and because I do not feel quite as much at home, the 'existence' of hands, arm movements and free-leg position becomes more conscious and I become less careless."

On November 2, 1953, Gloria was selected to appear before Queen Elizabeth II in a Royal Variety Show produced by Gerald Palmer at the London Coliseum. In his book "This Skating Age", writer Howard Bass recalled, "Gerald's own commission was to devise and prepare a production number for her to appear in which would also be worthy of Her Majesty’s approval as a closing scene to the first half of the show. Refrigeration pipes were specially cut for the decorated ice tank, built to revolve in full sight of the audience, to reveal a nineteenth-century ballroom scene with a static, posed group of eight pairs of skaters and, simultaneously on the outer revolving ring, twenty-four dancing couples, the men attired in Ruritanian military uniforms and the girls in large hooped crinolines. What began with the official choice of one artiste culminated with a specially selected corps ale ballet, led by the former British professional ice dance champions, Len Liggett and Pamela Murray, Waltzing to [Tchaikovsky's] 'Eugene Onegin', followed by a 'Blue Danube' octette of four pairs. A formation group in suitable positions then 'dressed' the stage for the entry of Gloria for her specially prepared solo to incidental music and Terry's theme from the film Limelight, composed by Charles Chaplin. Yes, it was certainly fit for a queen and delightful to know that the ever-rising status of theatrical skating had been thus acknowledged." Gloria later admitted that this performance before The Queen could have easily been marred by an errant bead that she spotted on the ice: "But I didn't care. I wanted to give the Queen all I've got. The bead was there when I finished. I skated around it."

Left: Gloria Nord and Charles Hain. Right: Gloria Nord. 

In 1953 and 1954, Gloria appeared in two more Tom Arnold pantomimes, "Humpty Dumpty" and an ice adaptation off Ivor Novello's musical "The Dancing Years" at Wembley. The latter show was in direct competition with Claude Langdon's "White Horse Inn On Ice" starring Belita, and attendance suffered somewhat as a result of the two productions running concurrently. It would prove to be Gloria's final appearance in a major ice production.

Returning to America in October of 1954, Gloria appeared in the "Hippodrome" tour that succeeded "Skating Vanities" alongside figure skater Nancy Lee Parker. On returning to rollers, she told reporters from "The Milwaukee Journal" on October 18, 1954: "It felt really crazy! It was almost the same yet somehow there was a difference. But I skated for nearly three-quarters of an hour. It was a real workout and I didn't slip or fall once. It was wonderful!"

Gloria Nord and Douglas Breniser

On January 7, 1955 at the age of thirty, Gloria married her twenty-seven year old roller skating partner Edwin Delbridge at a Presbyterian chapel in Los Angeles and returned to "Skating Vanities" as a special guest, performing in South America in what would be her final tour. By the early sixties, she'd hung up her skates permanently. She later remarried and had two hip replacements and surgery on her toe, but according to her Washington Post obituary, "She continued to dance socially and wear high heels." 

Gloria passed away at the age of eighty-seven on December 30, 2010 in Mission Vieho, California. Although best remembered today - and rightfully so - for her accolades on rollers, her brave transition to the ice is an often overlooked footnote from skating history that is absolutely worthy of recognition.

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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