#Unearthed: Queen Barbara Of The Silver Blades

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 "Queen Barbara Of The Silver Blades", which first appeared in "Coronet" magazine in January of 1950. It was penned by Harry Henderson and Sam Shaw.


It took courage and hard work for a little Canadian girl to become Olympic champ and machine-gun fire in World War I helped to make Barbara Ann Scott the women's figure-skating champion of the world. Incredible bot if you know the determination, courage and inspiration behind this twinkling blonde Canadian girl who has captured virtually every skating honor in the world. Acclaimed as the greatest  spinner ever seen on skates, she is the first girl star to grip public imagination since Norway's Sonja Henie of a decade ago. 

Representatives of Hollywood studios camp outside her door. She numbers Presidents, Kings, and Prime Ministers among her friends. In Canada, she ranks with Princess Elizabeth in popularity. And when she won the Olympic title, the whole Dominion took a bow. 

"From one end of Canada to the other there is great rejoicing... at the high honor you have brought yourself and your country," cabled sedate Mackenzie King, then Prime Minister. The story of how this pretty young girl finally achieved the championship really begins 13 years before she was born, in April, 1915. A young lieutenant named Clyde Scott, leading his men in the battle of St. Julien, was caught by shrapnel and machine-gun fire, and left for dead on the field. A German patrol found him and carried him to their base hospital. It was two years before he got back to Canada, where he found his parents had held memorial services for him. But although he was badly crippled, Clyde Scott possessed indomitable spirit. As he gradually recovered strength, he went to work in the Canadian Department of National Defense. Presently he fell in love and married. Soon he was the father of a pretty little blonde- Barbara Ann. 

As she grew up, a tremendous attachment developed between the girl and her father. Because he could barely walk, he was determined that his daughter be able to do everything he couldn't do - and do it perfectly. Under his tutelage, she became an expert swimmer, horsewoman, and all-round athlete. Years later, because her father had been deeply interested in aviation, she even learned to fly. In learning to skate, however, Barbara Ann got off to a later start than most Canadian children, whose icy winters provide a long skating season. 

What delayed her  was a series of mastoid operations, which left her in delicate health. In the belief that cold winds would prove too rugged for their only child, the Scotts steadfastly ignored her pleas for skates. These pleas had begun, her mother says, virtually in infancy. But she was six years old before she got her first pair of skates - a present from Santa Claus. However, her parents had bought her the old-fashioned, double-runner type. "I was heartbroken," says Barbara Ann. "I had my heart set on the single-runner boot type. But they were skates... and I went to bed wearing them." 

She struggled on the double-runners until the following Christmas, when a wiser Santa brought her swift single-runners. Better still, her parents allowed her to join the Minto Skating Club, headquarters for skating in Ottawa. There she watched older people practice figure skating, and soon was begging for lessons. Her parents agreed - on two conditions. One, Barbara Ann had to stay among the first six in her class at the Ottawa Normal Model School. Two, she had to keep up her daily hour of piano practice. Now this was a big order. In order to do her homework, and practice skating and piano, Barbara Ann followed a rigorous schedule. arising an hour earlier than the rest of the family. But she met the conditions... and she skated. Like any novice, she got her bumps and bruises with painful regularity. "In fact." she says, "it sometimes seemed that I did nothing but fall. But I learned that if you're afraid to fall, you'll never make a figure skater. One winter I wore out a pair of heavy slacks falling - just learning one new jump." But gradually she learned to skate on the edge of the blade, and then mastered the first figures - eights, brackets and counters. 

She made her first public appearance when she was eight in the Minto Follies as "The Spirit of the New Year." The Ottawa Journal called her "the darling of the show." The following year, Barbara Ann announced her goal: she wanted to become the world's greatest figure skater. "We encouraged her in her ambition," says her mother, "but I told her that if she ever displayed signs of temperament, her skating was finished." Soon Barbara Ann made her competitive debut in the annual Canadian skating tournament. When the tiny girl darted out on the ice, a gasp of surprise was followed by gales of prolonged laughter. There was no mistake. Waves of laughter were sweeping the crowd, people were pointing at her and roaring their amusement. Biting her lips, even forcing an occasional smile, she glided on unevenly until she had completed her last figure. Then, with tears streaming down her face, she sped off the ice and buried her head in her mother's shoulder. "Oh, Mother," she sobbed. "they're laughing at my skating!" It took days for her parents to convince Barbara that people had merely laughed at her tiny size - and at her audacity in competing against bigger girls. Once convinced, she began to overcome flaws in her skating. 

A year later, when she was ten, she became the youngest skater ever to win the gold. medal test, awarded for passing eight tests in basic school figures. But that is also when she got what Barbara still calls her "worst bump." As she came off the ice. she was met by her coach, Gus [Lussi], the Swiss expert who has become America's No. 1 champion-maker. Instead of congratulating her, he said: "Now we'll go back to the beginning and really learn how to skate." Barbara Ann gasped as Gus, with brutal frankness, pointed out her weaknesses and insisted she still needed intensive training in figure skating. But she paid heed. "He taught me humility," she says today. "I went back to fundamentals as if I had never seen skates." [Lussi] drilled her relentlessly. She spent up to eight hours a day on ice. Sometimes she skated the equivalent of 11 miles a day in figure eights. But no sooner had she mastered one aspect of a figure than [Lussi] was pushing her toward correcting another fault. She fell, she says, thousands of times. 

Often, she came home from the Minto Club in tears. The cause was nearly always the same: "flats." A "flat" is caused by skating on the flat of the blade rather than its edge. "It took me years to get the flats out of my figures," she says. "I'd think I had done a figure perfectly and go back and look at my track on the ice. There would be those awful flats. Sometimes the only thing that helped was tears." In the summertime, Barbara Ann swam, rode horseback and lived an active social life. But when skating season rolled around, she had to pass up the parties. She couldn't go to dances or movies with friends because it would interfere with her studies or skating. Another discouragement was the fact that her goal seemed to recede as she neared it. 

For instance, at 11, she won the Canadian junior championship; but by so doing, she put herself into the tougher senior division, competing against much older and more experienced skaters. Then, in 1941, something happened which made Barbara Ann even more determined to succeed. Her father died from overwork as a confidential secretary of the Department of National Defense. 

"I used to practice eight hours a day and think I was working very hard." she says, "and then I would come home and find him still working, sometimes long after midnight. No matter how tired he was, he never stopped." After her father's death, expenses became a big problem. Barbara Ann and her mother economized in every way to pay for instructors and travel to distant competitions. All of this had to come out of a pension of about 83,000 a year. But now her tireless practice began to pay off. That year and the following one, she was runner-up for the Canadian championship. 

In 1944, she won the title, and defended it successfully the following year. In 1945, she came to New York and won the North American title by topping graceful Gretchen Merrill of Boston and six other contenders. And now a group of Ottawa businessmen came to the Scotts' financial aid. They raised thousands of dollars to make it possible for her to compete for the European championship in Switzerland. She won, and two weeks later went on to capture the world championship tournament in Stockholm. 

The victory was celebrated all over Canada, and the welcome she received on returning home surpassed that which greeted the British royal family in 1939. Business firms bought newspaper space to congratulate her. Prime Minister Mackenzie King welcomed her in person. Toronto suspended the anti-noise ordinance for 20 minutes upon her arrival. And in Ottawa, the City Council appropriated 83,500 to buy a cream-colored convertible as a present. Nobody had prepared Barbara Ann for the welcome in Ottawa. Thousands of people were milling about the station: the rotunda was crowded with government officials and members of Parliament The cream-colored convertible, however, set off an uproar that rocked Canada for weeks. Avery Brundage, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, protested her acceptance of the car on the grounds of "professionalism." Canadians were infuriated at this interpretation of their gratitude. For days no other subject was discussed in Canada. However, the Canadian Olympic Committee regretfully suggested that it would be best for Barbara Ann to give the car back if she wanted to continue skating as an amateur. What was at stake was her chance to win the Olympic title. Tearfully, she gave the car back... and prepared to defend her European and world titles, and win the Olympic crown. She returned to Europe early in 1948 and outskated contenders for her [European title].

By the time the Olympic competition rolled around, Barbara Ann's record book showed that she had put in - during her career - more than 20,000 hours of practice. At the Olympics, all this practice equaled perfection, which, in turn, equaled the championship. But instead of hustling off to her dressing room, she stayed to applaud the other skaters. This lack of temperament and her ladylike manners create friends for her among competitors. But the latter are also made uneasy by the fact that behind that politeness is the determination of a champion. 

Like most champions, Barbara Ann is slightly superstitious. She believes that No. 13 on her arm band will help her win. At the Olympic matches, she drew No. 13. A competitor's coach, thinking she would be upset, was dumfounded to discover she was delighted. In the summer of 1948, with all the world's most important skating titles in her grasp, Barbara Ann turned professional. She says it was the hardest thing she ever had to do. 

When she finally agreed to turn professional, it was with the stipulation that part of her earnings were to support institutions for crippled children. As a result, she has one of the most unusual contracts in show business. The St. Lawrence Foundation to Aid Crippled Children pays her a salary and expenses. To them she refers all Hollywood offers, skating promoters, and manufacturers seeking endorsements. There have been other benefits. The cream-colored convertible, which she once had to give up, has been returned to her by grateful Canadians. The Scotts' financial problems are at an end. And to her own surprise, Barbara Ann even shows signs of liking show business. 

After years of wearing modest costumes, she takes delight in flashy and bespangled outfits. Yet she re-mains her polite, considerate self. During an appearance at New York's Roxy Theater, she shocked blasé autograph seekers, who are accustomed to being brushed off, by leaning from her dressing-room window and yelling: "Hi, gang! I'll be right down." Although her name has recently been linked romantically with several young men, Barbara Ann says she has no serious matrimonial plans at present. "I won't get married until I have finished my career as a professional skater," she says. Then she adds: "And that is something I have barely begun!" 

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.

The 1951 North American Figure Skating Championships

In late March of 1951, Calgary's Glencoe Club had the honour of hosting the North American Figure Skating Championships. Though the club had recently hosted the 1948 Canadian Championships, a skating club west of Ontario had never before had the privilege of hosting North Americans. Spectators came to the Alberta city's brand new Stampede Corral from as far away as Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg, excited to have the opportunity to see world-class skaters in the flesh.

Organizers from the Glencoe Club made sure the skaters and officials were entertained too. A trip to Banff was arranged so that skaters could take in the Olympic Ski Trials. Luncheons and a buffet supper were held at the Club, and CFSA President Alf Williams and his wife held a special dinner at their home. Olympic Gold Medallist Barbara Ann Scott even made an impromptu visit on her way home from an exhibition performance in Edmonton.

ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright recalled, "It is a historical note that the panels of judges [in Calgary] were all men, with one exception, Mary Louise Premer of St. Paul, who judged all four events. Actually, in the prior two North Americans since the War, there had only been one woman on the panels of judges each year."

For once, visitors to the Prairies weren't treated to an icy blast; temperatures were unusually seasonal. Let's take a look back at how the competition unfolded!


Mary Diane Trimble and David Ross. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The ice dance event was the only competition in Calgary with an odd number of entries. U.S. Silver Medallists Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby were unable to attend, stacking the odds in favour of the three Canadian couples. The judges had a tough task eliminating one team in the first round of competition, but Canadian Tenstep Champions Mary Diane Trimble and David Ross didn't make the cut. U.S. Champions Carmel and Ed Bodel took the gold with first place ordinals from four judges. The one holdout, Ottawa judge Donald B. Cruikshank, had them dead last.

Carmel and Ed Bodel. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Americans Carol Ann Peters and Danny Ryan and Pierrette Paquin and Canadians Donald Tobin tied in ordinal placings, but the Americans took the silver with a majority of second places. Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden placed fourth, but were marked second on two judge's scorecards. Prior to the event, the rules had been changed so that Gold Dances would be skated, but as Canada had only instituted their Gold Dance Test the year prior an agreement was reached that Silver Dances only would be skated.


Four pairs vied for the Layman Trophy in the pairs event. World Champions Karol and Peter Kennedy were unsurprisingly heavily favoured to win. Win they did, unanimously in fact, with a difficult performance which Shirley Martin Boyse noted appealed "to both audience and judges." Their American teammates Janet Gerhauser and John Nightingale took the silver, ahead of Jane Kirby and Donald Tobin and Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden. Just three years later, Dafoe and Bowden would be World Champions.


Sonya Klopfer and Dick Button

Virginia Baxter was the only medallist from the 1949 North American Championships in Philadelphia to return in 1951. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to move up in Calgary, let alone defend her bronze medal. A new crop of women had entered the game and in the figures, it couldn't have been closer between Sonya Klopfer, Suzanne Morrow and Tenley Albright. The well-matched trio of skaters were neck and neck heading into the free skate, with sixteen year old Klopfer holding the lead by the closest of margins. Sonya was named after Sonja Henie, whom her mother admired, but the name was anglicized. It didn't matter anyway. Associated Press reporters covering the event from Calgary called her 'Sonja Klopper'.

A fast and dynamic free skating performance gave Sonya Klopfer a unanimous win, but only one ordinal placing separated Morrow in second from Albright in third. It was one of best skated women's events at North Americans in recent years... no wonder as all three of the medallists placed in the top six in the recent World Championships in Milan.


If the women's event was a nail-biter, the men's competition was smooth sailing for Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Dick Button. The twenty one year old Harvard junior took a commanding lead over Jimmy Grogan, Hayes Alan Jenkins and Peter Firstbrook in the figures and skated with confidence and control in the free skate to unanimously defend his North American title for the third consecutive time. No other man had won the event thrice since Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson prior to World War II... but Button, Grogan and Jenkins had placed in the exact same order in Philadelphia in 1949. Peter Firstbrook, Don Laws, Donald Tobin, Bill Lewis and Roger Wickson rounded out the eight man field.

Karol and Peter Kennedy (left), Sonya Klopfer and Dick Button (middle) and Carmel and Ed Bodel (right). Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The American sweep of the gold medals in all four disciplines might have been disappointing to the Canadian organizers, but it spoke not to the weakness of Canadian skaters but instead the utter domination of American skaters in post-War figure skating. Win or lose, every skater left Calgary with a special souvenir from the City Of Calgary... a white cowboy hat.

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.

Lutzes In Luxembourg

February 1917. Charles Lansiaux photograph. Photo courtesy the Historical Library of the City of Paris.

With a population of just over six hundred and thirty thousand people, Luxembourg isn't exactly what you'd call a massive country. Bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, the landlocked European nation is the world's only remaining grand duchy, with a history dating back to 967 A.D. Though the small nation has never produced a medallist at the Winter Olympics or World Championships, its skating history is really quite fascinating.

In the nineteenth century, the views of Luxembourgers on ice skating were quite divided. Some turned their nose up at skating, considering it a frivolous waste of time indulged in by their neighbours in France. An article in the January 26, 1861 issue of "L'Union" bemoaned, "It is a fashion, a fury, a disease; when Paris rushes to the Bois de Boulogne to skate... One would think that there would be better to do with a temperature of eleven degrees below zero: to light a good fire and read or write in his diary. Instead he skates, exposing himself for six hours to the north wind and flits about the ice like a top!" Others had reservations about being manhandled by the lower classes. On December 31, 1864, another "L'Union" article noted that the poor would line the shores to assist people in putting on their skates. These "beggars of the ice" assisted skaters in hopes of "a penny for their morning pudding and evening gin." Imagine! These views certainly weren't shared by all Luxembourgers. On January 24, 1868, the "Courier Du Grand Duché Luxembourg" recorded, "Our political concerns do not prevent our winter season to be busy and even joyful. A great national entertainment, skating, was favoured in the most beautiful frosts... In almost all cities, races were organized. Do you know that the ordinary railway trains struggled against the speed of the winners?"

Photo courtesy National Library of Luxembourg

One factor that hampered skating's development in Luxembourg during the mid-nineteenth century was the fact that rivers, lakes and channels often didn't freeze enough to allow safe skating. By the late nineteenth century, colder weather drew more Luxembourgers to the ice. In 1891, author Georges Deney noted that Luxembourg City's basin was a popular meeting place for skating aficionados. Two years later, American skating pioneer Irving Brokaw's painting "A Skating Girl" was installed permanently in a Luxembourg art gallery by the French government.

During World War II, American soldiers stationed in Luxembourg found skating to be a popular recreation. On February 25, 1945, Joseph G. O'Keefe of the U.S. Army noted, "Luxembourg has in its favour... a remarkably dry and stimulating climate. Although snow falls frequently, and the mercury dips below freezing, the consequences are not too unpleasant. Young people go in enthusiastically for skiing and ice skating and other winter sports where facilities are available." 

Photo courtesy National Library of Luxembourg

In 1947, figure skating competitions were held at the Kockelscheuer rink. Newspaper accounts note that Joe Treinen won the championship class and Miss Josette Faber the student class that year. A group of twenty-two figure skating enthusiasts from Luxembourg may have also made history later that year, when they chartered a plane to go see Tom Arnold's skating pantomime at the ABC Theatre in Brussels. It was, Len Hamilton believed, the first time a large group chartered an airplane specifically to attend an ice show. In 1949, the "Féerie de la Glace" show played for a month in Luxembourg, starring Olympic Gold Medallist Micheline Lannoy of Belgium.

Photo courtesy National Library of Luxembourg

It really wasn't until the late sixties and early seventies that Luxebourg's burgeoning figure skating community started getting itself organized. The Féderation Luxembourgeoise des Sports d'Hiver was founded in 1968 and joined the ISU in 1971. Arsène Hostert served as the burgeoning federation's first President and Jean Ney its first Secretary.

Pavel Čechmánek

Enter Pavel (Paul) Čechmánek. The young skater's family had emigrated to Switzerland from Czechoslovakia as political refugees in 1969. At the age of eleven, Čechmánek won the Czechoslovakian junior title and was considered a top prospect for the 1972 Olympic team. He took lessons from Arnold Gerschwiler in Switzerland and applied to ISU to represent Switzerland in Sapporo, but was flatly turned down. In Davos, his family became acquainted with Arsène Hostert. As a result of this meeting, the Čechmánek family moved to Luxembourg in October of 1971 and commenced training at the Beforter rink with Pavel's mother acting as his coach. French judge and author Jeanine Hagnauer came to observe him and suggested, "Why not skate for France? What worth to your little country does he be?" With no one to compete against, Pavel was appointed as Luxembourg's champion but the ISU still refused to let the teenager compete internationally because he wasn't representing the country of his birth and was a political refugee. Roger Krieps, writing of Čechmánek's plight in the October 20, 1972 issue "d'Letzeburger Land", urged the fledgling Luxembourg Skating Association to fight for Čechmánek but acknowledged the orgainization was "still weak" to fight the almighty ISU. The Association finally succeeded and Čechmánek made history as the first Luxembourger to compete at the European and World Championships. 

By 1974, figure skating was first represented in Club Hiversport Patinage - Luxembourg (CHL), then chaired by Dr. Pol Nilles and two years later, the Union Luxembourgeoise de Patinage (ULP) was officially born, headed by Camille Michels. In 1978, the ULP presented its first Coupe du Printemps at the Kockelscheuer rink. The international competition continues to this day. Over the years, winners have included Jorik Hendrickx, Sarah Hecken, Daisuke Murakami, Joshi Helgesson and Jan Cevjan. 

Patrick Schmit

In 2003 and 2004, Anna Bernauer made history as the first woman to represent Luxembourg at both the European and World Championships. To date, only two skaters from Luxembourg have ever competed at the Winter Olympics. Patrick Schmit was the first in 1998 and Fleur Maxwell the most recent in 2006. Small but mighty, Luxembourg continues to produce very talented young skaters who are keeping the grand duchy on the map.

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.

Here Come The Judges

Cover to Lilac City Figure Skating Club (Spokane, Washington) cookbook, 1984

For as long as figure skating competitions have existed, there have been dedicated men and women freezing their fannies off to judge them. From the encouraging judges who guide us through our Preliminary Dance tests to the crooked 'tap-dancing judges' and Marie-Reine Le Gougne in Salt Lake City, these volunteers certainly do run the gamut. The last Jumble Of Judging Tales was such a hit, I decided to share another collection of judging stories you may not have heard!


In December of 1945, Herbert J. Clarke became the President of the ISU. Prior to World War II, he had been a perennial judge at the European and World Championships. He first judged at the Worlds in Vienna in 1923, when Sonja Henie's one-time rival Herma Szabo won her second World title. He was the only judge to place her second in the free skate.

Left: Sonja Henie. Right: Herbert J. Clarke. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland.

In 1927, Sonja Henie controversially defeated Herma Szabo at the World Championships in Oslo. Three of the five judges were Norwegian. The following year when the event was held in London, Clarke sat on the panel. He placed Henie third in figures was the only judge to place her second overall behind Maribel Vinson. At the 1929 Worlds in Budapest, Clarke was the only judge to place Henie third in free skating. In 1930 in New York City and 1932 in Montreal, he was the only judge to put her third in figures. In 1935 in Vienna, he was the only one of the nine judges to place her second in figures.

Though a small handful of judges dared not to place the Norwegian skating queen first during her decade long reign, no other judge was perhaps more despised by Sonja Henie than Herbert J. Clarke.

Etching by Russell Sherman. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. 


To say that judges have been disagreeing since skating's earliest beginnings is no exaggeration. The first judge to place a World Champion outside of the top three was Ivar Hult. Way back in 1897 in Stockholm, he was the only one of five Swedish judges to have the winner Gustav Hügel fourth overall on his scorecard. The first judge to do this under the Open Marking System was one Mr. Voordeckers of Belgium in 1950. He had World Champions Karol and Peter Kennedy sixth. All but one other judge had them first.


Though the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz were the fourth Games to include figure skating, they were the first where a competitor didn't perform 'double duty' as a judge. In London in 1908, Horatio Tertuliano Torromé judged the pairs event and competed in the men's. In Antwerp in 1920, Walter Jakobsson judged the men's and competed in the pairs.

Georgette Herbos and George Wagemans

In Chamonix in 1924, Belgium's George Wagemans competed in pairs and judged the women's. Perhaps sitting with Walter Jakobsson on the judging panel jinxed him. He and partner Georgette Herbos placed only fifth. In all three cases, the men in question served alongside judges who scored them at the same event.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine


In Troppau in 1908, Gustav Hügel made history as the first former World Champion to 'turn the tables' and act as a judge at the World Championships. That autumn, he and Henning Grenander judged together at the Summer Olympic Games. In 1914, Olympic Gold Medallists Walter Jakobsson and Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin sat on a judging panel together at the World Championships in Helsinki but it wouldn't be until 1926 that two World Champions sat on the same judging panel at Worlds. Walter Jakobsson and Fritz Kachler judged the men's and pairs events in Berlin that year.


If you get your figure skating history from Wikipedia, you might think that the first woman to judge at the World Championships was an Austrian woman with the last name Schwarz. The ISU's records list a 'F. Schwarz' and a 'Fr. Schwarz' as judges of the women's and pairs events in 1911, but the Fr. didn't stand for Frau or Fraulein. Primary sources reveal that both Schwarzes were men. Ferdinand Schwarz represented one Viennese skating club; Franz Schwarz another.

A woman didn't judge at the World Championships until 1929, when Olympic Gold Medallist Ludovika Jakobsson picked up a clipboard and marked the pairs event. She made history again in 1936, when she became the first female Olympic judge, again in pairs. In 1938 and 1939, she and Ethel Muckelt successively judged the pairs event at the Worlds. 

Mollie Phillips. Photo courtesy "Ice & Roller Skate" magazine.

Following World War II, Mollie Phillips emerged as a pioneering female judge, officiating at the 1947 European Championships and 1948 and 1949 Worlds. In Milan in 1951, she judged the pairs and men's event and Pamela Davis judged the women's, making it the first year that all three disciplines had female representation on the judging panel. When ice dance was officially added in 1952, she and Katherine Miller Sackett, the first female judge at Worlds from America, sat on the panel. In 1953, she became the first female referee at an ISU Championship, presiding over the dance event. Canada's first female judge at Worlds was Pierrette (Paquin) Devine in 1957.

Women didn't outnumber the men on a judging panel at the World Championships until 1965. The pioneering judges of the women's event in Colorado Springs that year were Great Britain's Pamela Davis, France's Jeanine Donnier-Blanc, East Germany's Carla Listing, the Soviet Union's Tatiana Tomalcheva and America's Jane Vaughn Sullivan. The year prior, Mrs. Donnier-Blanc had served on the first five-female judging panel at the European Championships.


In 1892, a series of North American fancy skating contests were embroiled in judging controversies. At the Championships Of America, held that year at the Hoboken Thistle Club in New Jersey, George Dawson Phillips of New York beat J.F. Bacon of Boston by six points. It was charged that the judges were all close personal friends of Phillips and that they "misinterpreted" the rules and given Phillips an extra two points and deducted three from Bacon's tally. 

Photo courtesy Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, Jewish Public Library Archives

At the New England Skating Association's championship in Brighton, Massachusetts, Bacon beat Louis Rubenstein's brother Moses by twenty points. When newspaper reporters decided that Rubenstein had been screwed, the organizers of the event declared the results null and void, and when it was later decided to allow the original results to stand, Rubenstein refused the second prize. 

When Rubenstein defeated Bacon by twenty points at the next event in Montreal, one of the judges (a hockey player named Charles E. Torrance) gathered up all of the score sheets and threw them in the fire to avoid scrutiny. That December, a reporter from "The Boston Globe" joked, "Figure skating is about as difficult and unpleasant thing to judge as a prize lot of babies, and the judges may, like the Western singer, have been doing the best they knew how."

While we may not agree with some of the PCS scores being doled out in figure skating competitions today, at least the judges can't burn their scoring sheets.

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.

The 1932 European Figure Skating Championships

Sonja Henie with French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen in Paris in 1932. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Tensions were high between European nations as economies tanked and banks closed in the height of The Great Depression. The governments of Germany and Bulgaria announced they would refuse to pay anymore reparations from The Great War, underscoring the importance of the upcoming Lausanne Conference. Astronomers reveled at Bernard Lyot's new coronagraph and aristocrats tapped their toes to Noël Coward's hit "Any Little Fish". 

The year was 1932 and on January 15 and 16, the Palais des Sports in Paris, the 1932 European Figure Skating Championships marked the first time in history all that men's, women's and pairs competitions were contested in the same city at the same time at the European Championships.

Ulrich Salchow in Paris. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Though it was also the first time that France hosted the European Championships, the proceedings received surprisingly little coverage in the French press, perhaps due to the fact that only Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet were considered to be likely to win medals. Let's hop in the time machine and take a look at how this largely overlooked two-day competition played out!


 Karl Schäfer

As was expected, Austria's Karl Schäfer won the school figures unanimously by quite a large margin. Four of the five judges also had him in first place in the free skate, with the Belgian judge instead giving the nod to his teammate, Erich Erdös

 Karl Schäfer

"Freiheit" magazine reported that Karl Schäfer was "outstanding and received exceedingly strong applause." When the scores were tallied, he finished first on every judge's scorecard overall.

Georges Torchon

Germany's Ernst Baier finished second on all but one judge's scorecard and Erdös narrowly edged Dr. Hugo Distler for the bronze. France's two entries in the men's event, Jean Henrion and Georges Torchon, finished at the bottom of the pack.


Sonja Henie and Hilde Holovsky in Paris. Photo courtesy National Archives of Poland.

Prior to the event, three time Olympic Gold Medallist Gillis Grafström gave pointers to Vivi-Anne Hultén in St. Moritz, where the Swedes were training together in preparation for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York. In Paris, Sonja Henie won the school figures unanimously. The Belgian judge had Yvonne de Ligne second, the British judge had Fritzi Burger second, the Finnish judge had Vivi-Anne Hultén second and French and Austrian judges had Hilde Holovsky second.

Reneé Volpato (left), Gaby Clericetti (center) and Sonja Henie (right) in Paris

Both Henie and Holovsky were less than their best in the free skate, but three judges still had Henie first. The French judge, valuing artistry over acrobatics, placed Hultén ahead of Henie. The British judge, Sydney Wallwork, dared to place Henie third behind Burger and Hultén.

Fritzi Burger. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

With the help of her strong lead in the compulsories, Henie managed to hang on for the win by some forty points. Burger was second, Hulten third, Holovsky fourth. Austria's Liselotte Landbeck, who three of the five judges had in the top three in the free skate, settled for fifth. France's Jacqueline Vaudecrane almost withdrew due to illness, but opted to compete and finished dead last, two places behind her teammate, Gaby Clericetti.

Liselotte Landbeck, Sonja Henie, Hilde Holovsky, Gaby Clericetti, Jacqueline Vaudecrane, Reneé Volpato and Joan Dix. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.


Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet

As all four of the singles skaters from France had fared very poorly, the Parisian audience was particularly invested in Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet... with good reason. Their track record spoke for itself and the duo's participation in their first and last European Championships in their home country can't have been a coincidence. Despite the pressures of skating in front of a hometown crowd, they won the event with ease when both of the top Hungarian teams didn't show up despite submitting their entries. It was very close between Lilly Gaillard (Scholz) and Willy Petter and Idi Papez and Karl Zwack for silver, but Gaillard and Petter ultimately came as the top Austrian pair. Great Britain's Margaret and Kenneth Ord MacKenzie placed fourth.

Lilly Gaillard (Scholz) and Willy Petter

Following the competition, the Brunet's, Sonja Henie and Yvonne de Ligne embarked from the Gare Saint-Lazare to Le Havre and then boarded the Ile-de-France for the long steamship voyage across the Atlantic to America to compete in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Schäfer (travelling via Cherbourg on the S.S. Majestic), Baier, Burger, Hultén and Joan Dix were the only other participants from Paris who also competed in Lake Placid.

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.

The 1922 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

The world's first insulin treatment had just been made at the Toronto General Hospital. Byron Gay's foxtrots blared on gramophone players. In kitchens across Canada, molasses and layered orange spice cakes were popular favourites. The Toronto Argonauts celebrated their win at the Grey Cup. The year was 1922 and in February, the Rideau Skating Rink in Ottawa played host to The Dominion's best skaters at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. 

If you look at the number of skaters and clubs that are represented at the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, it's hard to believe that when this event was held one hundred years ago only three clubs from two provinces participated - the Toronto and Minto Skating Clubs from Ontario and Winter Club of Montreal from Quebec.

Competitions for junior skaters weren't regularly held at the Canadian Championships in the early twenties but the host Minto Skating Club had originally planned to include these events "to educate the youngsters of Ottawa in the art of skating." They were unfortunately scrapped at the last minute and postponed until March 2. The winners of these events were Brian Meredith (Sifton Cup for boys), Marion McDougall (Minto Cup for girls), Frances Claudet (Devonshire Cup for girls 12 and under), Teddy Beament (Club Cup for boys, 1st and 2nd years), Kathleen Hose (Club Cup for girls, 1st and 2nd years) and Diana Kingsmill and Prudence Holbrook (Soper Cup for similar pairs).

The competition was held on February 17. Tickets ranged from fifty cents to a dollar and fifty cents, if you wanted to have a reserved seat for the free skating events in the evening. A report from "The Ottawa Citizen" recalled, "Competitors from Montreal and Toronto... brought their friends with them, nearly fifty visitors being present. Owing to the severity of the weather the spectators in the morning were limited to competitors and club members and these, finding it a little too cold to stay in the body of the rink, took refuge in the clubrooms and watched the events from behind glass." The three judges, Louis Rubenstein., J.J. Cawthra and Matthew Bonnell, "faced a cold day's work, the temperature being lower than ever remembered for this annual event." 

Both the men and women had to skate figures... but they weren't the only ones! At the 1922 event, eight skaters who entered the pairs and fours events (but not singles) were required to perform four out of the five figures that the singles skaters had completed before the judges. While the figures counted for sixty percent of the singles skaters' scores, they only counted for one twelfth of the marks for the pairs and fours skaters. This exercise, which had never been tried before at the Canadian Championships, was considered to be "educational". It was "thought that by compelling these tests, the competitors would be encouraged to enter the singles events in coming years and would gain confidence by this experience."

The figures for the women, pairs and fours skaters were held in the morning and at one thirty in the afternoon, everyone took a break for lunch. Colonel Cameron Edwards, the President of the Minto Skating Club, invited everyone in attendance to an afternoon of skating at Government House the following day and told the the visitors from Toronto and Montreal that they were welcome "to visit the Minto and make use of the club premises whenever they were in Ottawa."

After lunch, the three men's competitors (Melville Rogers, John Z. Machado and Duncan McIntyre Hodgson) performed their school figures. By all accounts, they were quite well-matched in their execution of most of them. Ormonde B. Haycock, who had won the first official Canadian men's title back in 1905, was in the audience and cried out "Very good!" when Melville Rogers performed one figure. Whether his show of support had any influence on the judges is unknown. The Closed Marking System was used.

A large crowd braved the cold and showed up for the free skating events in the evening. Jeanne Chevalier, the winner of the Canadian women's title in 1921, did not compete. Ottawa's Dorothy Jenkins, who had been runner-up the previous two years, succeeded her as women's champion. She was in "perfect time with the music and that in itself made her exhibition a treat to watch... In her jumps, during which she twisted and changed edge, she sometimes leaped a foot or more in the air. Her spins were marvelous and very pretty. Her dance steps were airy and light and she seemed to flit across the rink from figure to figure like a butterfly. She finished with a perfect grapevine backward to the end of the rink and well deserved the storms of applause that marked the end of her program." Alden Godwin, also of the Minto Skating Club, was the runner-up and pre-War Canadian Champion Eleanor (Kingsford) Law finished third. The other three competitors were Jeannette Rathbun and Mrs. Clifford Sifton Jr. of Toronto and Mrs. F. Stanton Mathewson of Montreal.

Duncan McIntyre Hodgson of Montreal successfully defended his title as Canadian Champion in the men's singles with a free skating program that "showed wonderful grace and speed. His skating was very rhythmic, keeping perfect time with the music. He changed feet and edge with the greatest of ease. He executed some beautiful spins and jumped... high off the ice repeatedly... One particularly spectacular piece of skating consisted in a leap in the air, a turn, and a crossing of the legs in what used to be called a 'twinkle' in old English skating, without a slip or loss of balance of poise. He performed very fine work on the toes. Another graceful movement was a backward spiral on left outer edge with arms folded." Melville Rogers suffered a fall and stumble in his free skating performance and finished second overall, ahead of John Z. Machado.

Ottawa's Alden Godwin and Major Andrew Gordon McLennan were victorious in the pairs event and Elizabeth 'Bet' Blair, Florence Wilson, Philip Harvey Chrysler and Cecil Rhodes Morphy brought the Earl Grey Trophy for fours skating home to the host Minto Skating Club. 

Instructions for mask-making issued during the Spanish flu pandemic. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of Alberta, A13187.

The 1922 Canadian Championships, though much smaller than the events we see today, were a happy occasion. Three years earlier the event had been cancelled in the height of The Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic

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.

The 1907 Minto Skating Club Fire

Illustration of a skating carnival at the Old Rideau Skating Rink, 1895. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

In November of 1949, the Minto Skating Club suffered a devastating loss when a harrowing fire destroyed its rink on Waller Street in Ottawa. Unbelievably, it wasn't the first time the Club had suffered at the hands of flames. Forty-two years prior, during the reign of King Edward VII, the exact same thing happened.

Around six o'clock in the morning on Friday, January 25, 1907, a young girl named Gravelle was on her way to an early mass service at the Sacred Heart Church when she saw smoke billowing out of the south end of the Rideau Skating Rink on the corner of Theodore (now Laurier) and Waller Streets.

The Rideau Skating Club (left) and No. 2 fire station (middle) on Theodore Street. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

Summoning her courage, she ran to the No. 2 fire station and told an engineer what she saw. He sounded the station's gong and sent another man to pull an alarm box. 

By the time firemen made it next-door to the Rideau Skating Rink, the occupants of the caretaker's quarters were in grave danger. An article from the January 25, 1907 issue of "The Ottawa Citizen" recalled, "Firemen entered the building by breaking in a window. Clouds of smoke were coming out of the tea room part of the rink and sweeping up through the air space to the northern section, where the caretaker resided... The firemen made their way up the two flights of stairs to where [Sol] Hebert lived and first brought down the old lady - Mrs. Turgeon. Then Miss Maxwell and Mrs. Hebert and daughter [Pearl] came down safely. By this time the caretaker's part was filled with smoke and Hebert, himself, who had stayed behind to endeavor to save some household effects, found his exit cut off. He went to the top window, however, and the firemen spread a net, into which he jumped and escaped with a shaking up."

Though eleven streams of water were aimed at the Rideau Skating Rink, a draught caused flames to sweep towards the rink. As the fire intensified, the rink's girders gave way and the main part of the building collapsed. 

Though some pairs of skates managed to survive the blaze because they were located in a check room near a set of dressing rooms that weren't badly damaged in the fire and building collapse, pretty much everything in the rink was destroyed. The Cliffsides, Emmetts, Bankers and Crescents hockey teams all lost records and equipment which they had stored there, as did the Minto Skating Club, which had its headquarters there.

Ironically, the biggest victim as a result of the tragedy wasn't anyone who was even at the rink. Because pretty much every fireman nearby was responding to the fire at the Rideau Skating Rink, Captain Joseph A. Mills of the No. 1 fire station on Duke Street was left alone to respond to an alarm from box 126, which ultimately only turned out to be an overheated pipe at a house on Murray Street. While rushing around the corner of Barrett's Lane, the thirty-three year veteran of the Ottawa Fire Department was thrown from his hose sleigh when rushing around the corner of Barrett's Lane. When he was found, he was unconscious, blood was oozing out of his nose and ears and two of his ribs were broken. It was later determined that he had a fracture at the base of his skull. After spending almost a month in the hospital, he was released but he suffered a permanent vision impairment and was unable to work again.

The cause of the blaze was something of a mystery. The rink had been packed with 'fancy' skaters the night before and the Minto Skating Club's secretary J.H. Labbe said that when he left at 10:30 at night nothing was amiss. Sol Hebert and another rink employee, William Lemieux, told authorities that when they finished well after midnight, there was no sign of fire anywhere. They asserted that there hadn't been any heat on in the part of the rink where the fire started but those who were first on the scene seemed to think the fire started in the rink's tea room, where a range would have been used. The damage was estimated at approximately twelve thousand dollars and the rink was only ensured for about five thousand dollars of that.

The destruction of the Rideau Skating Rink necessitated the cancellation of the 1907 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, which were tentatively slated for late February or early March, but it inspired an incredible response from Ottawa's skating community. In seven days, seventy-five thousand dollars in capital was assured by a group of investors known as the D.V. Rogers Syndicate, to build a new skating rink in Ottawa "of the same dimensions as the big one in Montreal". 

A view of Theodore Street at the turn of the century. Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.

That a skating club has lost everything not once, but twice, and kept on going strong is a testament to the perseverance of Ottawa's skating community.

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.

Exploring The Collections: Competition Programs

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

This month, I'd like to talk about Competition Programs! As early as at least the roaring twenties, these fact-filled booklets have served as 'companions' to the experience of viewers at competitions, listing the names and (at times) skate orders of skaters, the clubs or countries they represented, offering a time schedule and in many cases, spaces for spectators to write down and calculate the judges scores. 

If you're lucky enough to come across a used Competition Program, you may find the scores recorded in pencil, as well as notes about the performances as the spectator saw them - what colour dress the skater might have worn, whether or not they fell or not, what jumps they may have performed, etc. Some collectors may get giddy over pristine copies of things, but there's far more value in a well-loved, written-in Program as far as I'm concerned!

A flip through the program for the 1989 European Championships in Birmingham reveals messages from Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, ISU President Olaf Poulsen and World Champion Courtney Jones, who was the Chairman of the Organizing Committee and President of the ISU at the time. There's a list of all of the people who served as Committee Chairs, a timetable of events, a history of the European Championships by ISU Historian Benjamin T. Wright, guides to judging and 'what to look for' by NSA Historian Dennis Bird and sportswriter Sandra Stevenson, short bios and photos of competitors, skating-themed puzzles, a map of the venue, a list of past winners, an autograph page, an order form for event merchandise and numerous advertisements.

A program from the 1970 Canadian Championships in Edmonton, which sold for one dollar, is somewhat abbreviated in comparison to the robust 1989 European Championships program. There's a list of Committee Chairs and CFSA Officers, letters from CFSA President Doug Peckinpaugh, Alberta Premier Harry E. Strom and Edmonton Mayor Ivor G. Dent, a list of the judges and where they were from, a brief history of the sport, schedule, list of competitors and clubs, the eligibility requirements and prizes for each event, an explanation of judging, a list of the 1969 Canadian Champions, a handful of photographs and an autograph page.

One thing that's of great interest from a historical perspective that I often see in Competition Programs are articles detailing more regional or club histories. These articles, often penned by club members or local historians, give a sense of the city that hosted the Championship's past and what sense of importance the Championships may play in that region's own skating future. Take a city like a Halifax, which hosted the World Championships in 1990... but hasn't hosted the World Championships since. A flip through that year's program gives a real sense of what a big 'get' the Championships were as compared to an international competition in say, Vienna which has hosted many ISU Championships.

For a list of the Competition Programs in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you've got programs collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you!

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.

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