#Unearthed: Skatana

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 #Unearthed is an article called "Skatana", which appeared in "The National Ice Skating Guide" in 1948. Its author, Roland C. Geist, was a major collector of skating memorabilia. He also served as the Secretary of the College Skating Club Of New York and the Faculty Advisor of the Newtown High School Skating Club.


Broadsheet of skaters on the 'ladies end' of the skating pond in Central Park, New York City, 1862

Skatana is the collecting of skates and all items pertaining to skating. This fascinating collecting hobby is second only to enjoying skating itself. There are hundreds of skaters who get a pleasure from picking up an old pair of skates, a book on skating or an old print. These collectors are bankers, professional people, secretaries and folks from all walks of life who have become intensely interested in these antiques.

"A New Invention Of A Boat That Sails Over Frozen Ice and Flat Land", broadsheet by Christoffel van Sichem, circa 1600. This piece is said to depict the first Dutch iceboat, which would carry people in skating parties like a sledge. 

Looking up the origin of an old pair of blades is a study in itself. Judging of old skating prints requires a good knowledge of art. The writer has spent hours in the New York Public Library looking up old skating songs dating back a hundred years or more. Correspondence with other collectors and authors is most interesting. At auction sales these items may bring the collector a good return for his work. Exhibiting the collection at hobby shows is also fun. Skatana items are found in antique shops, old farms, rummage sales, old book stores and print shops.

A display of skates from the around the world from Carl Dietz' collection, exhibited at the Wisconsin Hobby Exposition in the late forties. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Probably the largest collection of ice skates was shown at the opening of the Center Theatre in New York several years ago. About a thousand pair of ice skates were exhibited, ranging in size from a half inch to several feet. The late Irving Brokaw had an unusual collection of antique blades which were on show at a New York ice rink. Eddie Shipstad of the Ice Follies also has a grand collection to which he is constantly adding. The writers best exhibits are a figure skate made by C. Stenton, a New York skate make, and a pair of old wood top racing blades such as used at Newburgh nearly a hundred years ago. Historical museums in most cities have the old Dutch type skate blades on display. Some New York antique shops offer these blades from $5.00 to $25 a pair.

The cover of a copy Dr. Fritz Reuel's 1928 book "Das Eissport-Buch" 

Next to skates themselves books are probably the most important collectors item. According to Van Stockum (Sport Bibliography published in 1914) between 1800 and 1912, 23 skating books were published in English; 24 in German, 9 in Dutch and 4 in French. Within the last ten years 15 books have been published in the United States on ice skating and ice dancing. The writer considers the three classic books of modern times to be: "The Art Of Skating" by Irving Brokaw; "The Beauty Of Skating" by Manfred Curry and "Skating With Bror Meyer". The last mentioned volume was limited to 300 copies and recently a copy was sold for $75.00. Autographed copies of Sonja Henie's "Wings On My Feet" is a nice collectors item. Back in 1916, Charlotte, the predecessor of Sonja, wrote the popular "Hippodrome Skating Book". One of the first books on skating, entitled "Frostiana" published in London on the ice in 1814 is a very rare volume but it may fall into the hands of a Skatana enthusiast.

"Ball Play On The Ice", colourized version of a giclee print by Captain Seth Eastman, 1853

Old skating print collecting requires much artistic research. A wonderful special exhibition of old skating prints dating from 1550 to 1900 was displayed in the Free Library of Philadelphia some years ago by William Arthur Esq. This is probably the finest collection in the United States and worth thousands of dollars. The popular and famous Currier and Ives, "Skating - Central Park" recently brought $500 at an auction sale. Many of the skating scenes in Holland and England are the works of the old masters and are extremely rare and valuable. The writers oldest print is by Gilray about 1790 entitled "Elements Of Skating" showing a gentleman of the period executing a spread eagle with badly bent knees. Many fine skating engravings may be found in copies of "Harper's Weekly" dated about 1859. In 1896 George Blair made some fine prints of skating entitled "Winter Enjoyment In Central Park".

"Matilda Toots", anonymous. Published by Frederick Baume, circa 1865-1867. Photo courtesy American Song Sheets exhibit, Library of Congress, Rare Books and Special Collections.

Music sheets about skating forms another item for the collector. They may be picked up at old book stores, music shops, antique stores, etc. "The Skater's Waltz" is the popular favourite of skaters as "Daisy Bell" is the bicyclists standard tune. The writers oldest sheet is dated 1837 and the song is entitled "Merrily Now The Skaters Go" written by Thomas Powers and Charles E. Horn. The classic piece is "Le Prophète Waltz Brilliante" from Meyerbeer's opera featuring our own Jackson Haines. In 1915 Raymond Hubbell composed the "Charlotte Waltz" for the big ice show at the [new] New York Hippodrome. 

Diane Taraz's rendition of "Matilda Toots"

The best ice comedy music is no doubt "Matilda Toots" who fell into the ice with her new skating boots and is about to be hauled out by a gentleman skater. Sonja Henie's "One In A Million" and her complete set of songs from her shows will some day form the basis of a Heniana Collection. Skating song sheets cost from $1.00 to $25 depending upon their age, rarity, coloured illustration, popularity, etc.

Ice show program collectors will enjoy living over the past glorious skating events with programs from the New York Hippodrome from 1914 to 1922 especially the 1915 colored program from "Flirting In St. Moritz" featuring Charlotte. Amateur ice shows held at Madison Square Garden started printing elaborate programs that sold at 25 and 50 cents. Silver Skate and figure skating championship programs round out a good program collection.

Mid-Century brooch with skates and hat

Old and new skate jewelry and novelties do not require much space and are always worth their weight in silver or gold. The Saint Liedwi medallion (the patron saint of all skaters) recently produced for skaters, is a good luck piece to start a skate jewelry collection. Recently the writer picked up a "Palace Championship" skating belt which was won in 1885 by Howard Starrett. It is believed that the old Brooklyn Ice Palace was the place where this was won. A New York skater had a pair of gold skate earrings made up to order. Buttons, brooches, pins, watches, bracelets, etc. are worn to indicate that the wearer is a skater. Those who have been fortunate enough (and worked hard too) to win skating championships and made tests have the nucleus of a personal collection.

Autographed photo of Evelyn Chandler, 1934

The bobby sox crowd pursue the ice stars of stage and screen for autographs and signed photographs and often do get them. An album of such signatures and pictures is always of interest to everyone. Many of the stars will send you their photographs for the asking. They may be bought at the shops that make a specialty of selling 'movie stills'. A scrapbook of newspaper and magazine clippings on skating will keep one busy without end. With so many skating shows, movies and events on all the time there is plenty of news. A New York newspaper features a "SKATING" column twice a week. Magazines like "Skating", "American Roller Skater" and "National Ice Skating Guide" provide many pictures and articles that are very worthwhile. Posters from ice shows and skate manufacturers are often most artistic and even expensive but round out a complete collection. Films, skating costumes, menus... there seems to be no end to things one may collect. Try collecting - it is fascinating.

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 1955 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Louis St. Laurent was Canada's Prime Minister, Joan Weber's "Let Me Go, Lover" topped the music charts and the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, went to sea for the first time.

The year was 1955 and from January 20 to 22, Canada's best figure skaters gathered at Varsity Arena in Toronto to make history of their own at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. It was the first time in nearly a decade that the Toronto Skating Club had played host to Canadians and sixty-six entrants from all over the country were eager to show off their best change loops and camel spins to a packed house.

After some erratic judging at the Canadians the year prior in Calgary, Dr. Sidney Soanes and his two assistants were charged with the computation of the marks in Toronto. Soanes was also tasked by the CFSA with a special project - examining the judge's marks in Toronto and determining whether or not there would have been a change in the results if the high and low marks were dropped as in gymnastics. Soanes concluded that in 1954, every judge would have been 'knocked out' for being too high or low at some point. In 1955, the judging problems were different. The only Western judge, Vancouver's Bill Lewis, would have been knocked out nearly every time because he was a high marker. Sandy McKechnie of Toronto, a low marker, would have similarly been booted consistently. Neither judge showed signs of favouring skaters from their own sections and Soanes determined as a result of his analysis in Toronto that by dropping the high and low marks "we would have lost the benefits of two good judges." Speaking of judging, let's take a look at how things played out!


Three couples vied for the McLaughlin-Stephens Cup in the Junior Dance event. Fittingly, Nigel Stephens and Dick McLaughlin sat on the judging panel. Twenty-one year old Torontonians Barbara Jean Jacques and Gordon Manzie were the unanimous winners. Jacques was a student at Toronto Teacher's College. Manzie worked in the accounting department at the City Service Oil Company. Dr. Dwight Parkinson, who earned two bronze stars for his work as a Battalion Surgeon with the 104th Division in France during World War II, finished third with his wife Elizabeth.

Donald Jackson

Competing at the national level for the first time, Donald Jackson wore a pair of boots that cost twelve dollars and fifty cents. He almost missed the event entirely after suffering a nasty fall in a comedy number in a carnival that left him with a concussion and bad gash on his forehead. He won the junior men's figures, defeating Bob Paul - who everyone thought would be a shoe-in. Less than an hour before he was due to go on for the free skate, Jackson discovered his pants were missing from the dressing room. His father raced to the hotel, found the pants hanging on the a hook on the door of their room and made it back less than five minutes before he was due to go on! Jackson skated phenomenally to earn the Howard Trophy and junior men's title, earning a standing ovation in the process. Bob Paul moved up from third after figures to take the silver ahead of Oshawa's Hugh Smith. A young Kerry Leitch finished dead last. Referring to Jackson, judge Ralph McCreath remarked, "That little boy is doing things that they didn't do in the North Americans and Worlds ten years ago!"

Minto skaters at the Canadian Championships. Standing: Donald Jackson and Frances Gold. Seated: Nancy Davidson, Heather West, Claire Nettleton and Carole Jane Pachl.

The Jelinek's, who had escaped from behind the Iron Curtain less than a decade prior, were also competing their first Nationals. Maria was twelve; Otto fourteen. Their coaches Marg and Bruce Hyland had casually suggested they enter at the last minute. They put together a three and a half minute program and were slated to compete against a team much older than them. After the warm-up, a lanky brother/sister pair from Hamilton withdrew after the young man suffered a leg injury. Bruce Hyland was worried the event wouldn't be counted as a competition, but as both pairs had warmed up, the Jelinek's became Canadian junior pair champions by skating to a standard. An Oakville newspaper raved, "Not only is the Jelineks' skating of high technical exactitude and brilliance, but on the ice they make a fascinating picture with their unaffected youthfulness... [Their] triumph has been achieved by natural aptitude fortified by the most grueling kind of world."

Wanda Beasley and Donald Jackson

There were a whopping eighteen entries in the junior women's competition. Nineteen year old, five foot two Wanda June Beasley, who had been skating since the age of two, took an early lead in the figures and managed to sustain it through the entire competition. She was coached by Sheldon Galbraith and Wally Distelmeyer, as well as Otto Gold in the summers. Dianne Williams and Margaret Crosland, both of the Glencoe Club, took the silver and bronze. Barbara Wagner finished fifth and Elaine Richards, only seventeenth in figures, managed to move all the way up to eighth with a sensational free skating performance.


Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

For the first time since 1951, the fours competition was contested at Canadians. Both fours that participated were from Toronto. Peggy Lount, Jackie Oldham, Ian Campbell and Clifford Spearing were the unanimous winners. Lount and Oldham were eighteen year old students. Campbell was a twenty year old pre-med student at the University Of Toronto and Spearing was a twenty-four year old licensed commercial pilot who worked with Trans-Canada Air Lines.

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden

Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden had won last three consecutive Canadian pairs titles and as expected, had absolutely no trouble winning the title for a fourth time. Although Dafoe took a tumble during an overhead Axel lift, their program was athletic, inventive and full of highlights. Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul took the silver in a four-one decision over British Columbia's Audrey Downie and Brian Power.


Carole Jane Pachl, Donald Jackson, Charles Snelling and Wanda Beasley. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine. 

Charles Snelling of the Granite Club had an easy go of defending his national title, with Toronto's Douglas Court being the only other competitor in the senior men's class. Court skated quite well, but Snelling unanimously won both the figures and free skate by some margin. Though Snelling trained primarily with Marcus Nikkanen, he'd spent two months in Denver the summer prior working with Gene Turner on improving the artistic side of his skating.


Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

On and off ice partners Doreen Leech and Norman Walker had retired and the other top three dance teams didn't return in 1955 either. Jeffery Johnston, third with Claudette Lacaille in 1954, was skating with his sister Lindis. Geraldine Fenton was skating with Gordon Crosland instead of her usual partner William McLachlan. After skating the Viennese Waltz, Killian and Westminster in a group flight, couples returned to perform a new addition to the senior dance event at Nationals - the free dance. As the free dance hadn't been contested at Nationals in previous years, Canadians had been at a major disadvantage internationally.

The top two teams were separated by only one ordinal placing, with teenagers Lindis and Jeffery Johnston coming out on top by a narrow margin. Fenton and Crosland finished second; Beverley and William de Nance Jr. third. William McLachlan was fourth with his partner from the Minto Club, Heather West. The following year, he resumed dancing with Geraldine Fenton. The de Nance's won the Waltz and the Johnston's the Tenstep. Junior dance champions Jacques and Manzie 'skated up' in all three senior dance events, their best finish a fifth in the Tenstep. The Johnston's were students at Central High School in London and the de Nance's had been married since June of 1954. Beverley was a former school teacher; William a lawyer.

In his book "A Nobody's Dream... Came True", Gordon Crosland recalled, "Miss Beryl [Goodman Williamson] asked me if I would like to compete in the Senior Dance Competition at the Canadian Championships, with Geraldine Fenton. I agreed immediately! My amateur career just took another turn! It was 1955 and my luck couldn’t have been better as Geraldine was one of the top few female ice dancers in the country at that time. I on the other hand was a complete unknown. I only had a few months to try to get up to speed, as Gerri was a far superior ice dancer then I. It certainly was a crash course in training. Not knowing what to expect, the Canadian Championships turned out better than I could have hoped for. We were second in the Senior Dance Championship, on our first time out and won the Waltz Championship, which was a separate event. I naively, was very happy. Geraldine and the Fenton family it seems were not. Apparently, we had won in total points, but lost the title by one ordinal. Ordinals count first, one first and two seconds are stronger than two firsts and three thirds. Total points in this system are used to break ties. Confused? Yes, don’t ask! The judging systems have always been a nightmare to me and are even worse today. Gerri and I had two firsts, and three thirds. The [Johnston's], who finished in first place, were a sister and brother team from London, and had one first and three seconds and one third. My parents and younger sister Lois had moved to Toronto by then and since the championships were being held at Varsity Arena, I got them tickets. This was the first time they had seen me skate since I had left home... I am sure my father saw it as a great waste."


Defending champion Barbara Gratton had retired from competition to focus on her university studies. Vevi Smith, the bronze medallist from 1954, withdrew due to illness, as did Vancouver's Pamela Willman. This left only four entries in the senior women's competition and placed the 1954 silver medallist Sonja Currie in the role of 'the favourite'. To the surprise of many, Currie placed fourth in the figures, which were won by Toronto's Ann Johnston.

There was a margin of less than five percent between first and fourth and no skater had a majority of first place ordinals. Currie took a tumble in the free skate and Joan Shippam, who had been second in figures, skated very cautiously. Though Johnston delivered a solid free skate with speed and clean jumps, it was Carole Jane Pachl who emerged victorious after placing only third in figures. She only had two first place ordinals but a majority of seconds. Judge Sandy McKechnie remarked, "Pachl was like a runner in a long-distance race. She didn't lead in compulsory figures and she didn't lead in the free skating - the leaders were constantly changing - but she was the most consistent competitor, and that consistency paid off."

Carole Jane Pachl posing with the Gold's and her skates after the Canadian Championships. Photo courtesy City Of Ottawa Archives.

In her memoir "Dreams Upon The Stars", Carole Jane Pachl's mother recalled, "She looked stunning in her white chiffon, rhinestone-embroidered dress. Her blonde, curly hair was held back a rhinestone-embroidered tiara and flowed loosely from beneath it. The music she skated to was the dramatic 'Roumanian Rhapsody'. She glided over the ice with grace and power. Without a fault, she ended her dynamic and captivating presentation. The entire audience burst into 'Bravos!' and a standing ovation... Victory had finally come to her and she became the Canadian Lady Champion of 1955."

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.

Stocks And Spirals: The Herbert J. Clarke Story

"These international meetings of sportsmen and sportswomen are some of the few good things that seem to be left in this tottery old world, and they are possibly some of the best ways of helping to put it in order again." - Herbert James Clarke, speech at the International Meeting At Davos, February 1950

Born April 10, 1879 in London borough of Lambeth, Herbert James 'H.J.' Clarke was the son of Julia (Horne) and Alfred George Clarke. He was a middle child and his father was a well-to-do member of the London Stock Exchange. The family, who resided in the elegant East Sussex ward of at St Leonards-on-Sea, were parishioners of the Church of England.

Herbert took up figure skating as a young man and was a regular at Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge at the turn of the century. At sixteen stone - over two hundred and twenty pounds - Herbert didn't exactly have the typical 'skater's physique'. Mentored by Bernard Adams, he developed a keen interest in both English and Continental Style skating, testing in both styles, and spent many hours on rollers as well. He earned the National Skating Association's gold medal in the International (Continental) Style and won a junior competition at Prince's in the spring of 1908, defeating Arthur Cumming, who would go on to win the silver medal in the special figures at the first Olympic Games to include figure skating later that year. In 1914 and 1924, he won the Bandy Club Cup in St. Moritz, being a regular at the Swiss skating resorts during the long English winters. He also finished third in a competition for junior skaters held in conjunction with the 1914 World Championships for women's and pairs.

When Freda Whitaker opened a small ice rink on Hertford Street in Mayfair in 1924, Herbert was there every day performing every figure on the ISU schedule. In his only appearance in a major international senior competition, the 1924 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, he placed a disappointing tenth out of eleven entries.

Gwendolyn Lycett and Herbert Clarke at Prince's Skating Club

Off the ice, Herbert was a jobber with the London Stock Exchange who devoted just as much time to do golfing in the summer as he did skating in winter. In April 1906, he married Clara Kathleen Vera Kennedy. The couple settled on Hornton Street in Kensington, hiring four servants to take care of them and their young daughter Kathleen. Less than ten years later, Herbert left his wife and daughter and took up residence at the Homeside Wimbledon in Surrey. Clara was finally granted her divorce petition on February 1, 1915. During The Great War, Herbert served as a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Though he was a talented athlete, Herbert's most important contributions to the figure skating world were off the ice. He served as the chairman of the Figure Committee of the National Skating Association and for a good many years. For many years, he was only one of three judges in Great Britain qualified to preside over the the Association's First Class Test. Along with Guy Campbell, Horatio Tertuliano Torromé, James Henry Johnson and Herbert Ramon Yglesias, he assisted Walter Stanton in adapting International Style of figure skating to rollers.

Henry Hainwright Howe and Herbert James Clarke at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Herbert judged at his first World Championships in 1923 and sat on countless pre-World War II judging panels that awarded World or European titles to Sonja Henie, the Brunet's, Karl Schäfer, Herma Szabo, Cecilia Colledge, Megan Taylor, Graham Sharp, Maxi Herber and Ernst Baier and others. He was also a judge at the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games and referee of countless British Championships. In her book "Advanced Figure Skating", Maribel Vinson Owen recalled a hilarious judging story about Herbert thusly: "The most uproarious loop-change-loop incident in skating history occurred at the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. It was time for Suzanne Davis of the American team to skate the figure, starting forward on the right foot, and she picked a piece of ice right beside the hockey dasher. The judges ranged themselves at strategic points here and there, while H. J. Clarke, the revered English judge... decided that he could see best and at the same time take the weight off his over-worked feet by sitting on the fence just below Sue's starting center. Now Mr. Clarke, as all who know him will agree, is one of the more substantial of the world's skaters. Everyone who has ever seen him grinding out his rockers or laboring through his loop-change-loops on the ice of the London Ice Club invariably marvels at the dexterity of a man who weighs well over 14 stone and is built in proportion. Sue started her figure and laid out her first complete tracing. She was just on her way through the left-foot retracing when there was a sudden loud crash, a gasp of dismay from the spectators, and then, after a few seconds, bursts of such uncontrollable laughter - as a serious school figure competition has never known before - or since. Intent on Sue's efforts, Mr. Clarke had unexpectedly overbalanced and gone backward head over heels into the hockey box, where there wasn’t even a convenient chair to break his fall! The sight of such a weighty man doing a sudden back somersault off the fence at first caused instant consternation; when he ruefully but laughingly picked himself up and the crowd saw no damage was done, wave after wave of hilarity burst over the whole arena. The center of attention, however, quickly shifted from Mr. Clarke back to Sue, and she became the real star of the incident. For throughout all the uproar - and it was tremendous - she had never once so much as glanced up. She kept her attention riveted on the figure she was skating, and not until she had put down all six lines and completely finished one of the best loop-change-loop diagrams she had ever skated in her life did she allow herself a flicker of interest in what had happened. When I asked her later how she had managed such superhuman concentration, she replied that she knew if she once glanced up she'd be lost and she didn’t know whether the referee would count helpless laughter as an adequate excuse for starting a figure over again!"

Herbert Clarke (sitting on the barrier again) at Richmond Ice Drome with Mary Hales in 1942

Herbert joined the International Skating Union's council in 1925, succeeding George Herbert Fowler as Great Britain's representative in the governing body of international figure skating. He served two terms as the ISU's Vice-President before becoming ISU President in December 1945 when Gerrit van Laer passed away. Under his presidency, the ISU faced the daunting tasks of rebuilding international figure skating after World War II and adapting rules that hadn't been changed in nearly a decade to reflect the evolution of figure skating during wartime. Herbert's reign celebrated the successes of skaters like Barbara Ann Scott and Dick Button, reduced the number of compulsory figures from twelve to six and added the discipline of ice dance to the World Championships.

Herbert Clarke presenting awards to Hans Gerschwiler at the 1947 World Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Interestingly, during World War II Herbert was involved with the MI6. Michael Booker recalled that in the early fifties, "H. J. Clarke, had been honored for his services in the secret service during the War... With his cockney accent, [he] didn't have the right credentials to be a member of the [English Style] Royal Skating Club. He was very nice to me and a great pal of Georg Hasler, who also was very nice to me.  Some many years later when I had started collecting porcelain I met H.J´s nephew, Tim Clarke, who was 'the' porcelain expert in UK working for Sotheby's. He had been a member of the Westminster Club and knew Sonja Henie. When she died her will stipulated that he was to sell her belongings and to quote him, 'A lot of junk it was too!'" This wasn't the only example of Herbert's wry wit. On another occasion, he quipped, "If you can't skate your brackets, you can't skate."

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In 1949, Herbert became the first non-American honorary member of the USFSA, a gesture put forth for over twenty-five years of fostering good 'skating relations' between America and Great Britain. That was only one of nearly a dozen such honours. In an issue "Skating World" magazine from 1950, Nigel Brown remarked, "His services to skating and to skaters may best be expressed by the fact that ten nations have nominated him an honorary member of their national associations. Several foreign clubs have nominated him honorary member, including the second oldest club in the world, the Wiener Eislaufverein. This club bestowed a particular honour upon Mr. Clarke during the 1948 Winter Olympics at St. Moritz, when their President presented him with the special badge, 'Ehren Abzeichen', a title given only twenty-seven times in eighty-two years."

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

At the 1953 ISU Congress in Stresa, Herbert ran for re-election as ISU President, defeating Gustavus H.C. Witt, whom many thought would be his successor. After losing, Witt - then the Vice President for Figure Skating - announced his retirement from the ISU. Dr. James Koch was elected as Witt's replacement. 

Upon returning from Italy to his flat at Fairacres on Roehampton Lane in Wandsworth, Herbert suffered from a heart condition aggravated by bronchitis and pneumonia. That October, he unexpectedly announced his resignation. He was succeeded by Dr. James Koch and two years later elected an Honorary President of the ISU.

Photo courtesy National Archives Of Poland

Herbert passed away on September 5, 1956 at The Putney Hospital, leaving the entirety of his sixty-seven thousand pound estate to his lawyer and a clerk at the London Stock Exchange. He was inducted to the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame posthumously in 1996, the same year as Brian Boitano and Sheldon Galbraith. His competition and NSA test medals are among the collections of the World Figure Skating Museum in Colorado Springs.

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 1933 European Figure Skating Championships

They reclined in parlours with their reading glasses, cup of tea and Agatha Christie's new Poirot mystery "Peril at End House" and cut up a rug to Ethel Waters' rendition of Irving Berlin's new hit song "Heat Wave". The year was 1933 and cautious optimism was in the damp winter air. Great Britain was slowly starting to show signs of recovery from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 in New York which sparked a global economic recession that left thousands in England unemployed.

On January 30 of that year, the same day Germans witnessed Adolf Hitler being sworn in by German President Paul von Hindenburg as Chancellor of Germany, many of Europe's top figure skaters gathered at the Westminster Ice Club in London for the first day of the first European Championships in history held in England. Let's take a look back at how things played out!


Olympic Gold Medallists Andrée (Joly) and Pierre Brunet opted not to enter, essentially making the competition a two-way race between two Austrian pairs - Idi Papez and Karl Zwack and Lilly (Scholz) Gaillard and Willy Petter. Gaillard had won an Olympic silver medal with her former partner Otto Kaiser and finished second with Petter the previous year at the European Championships, but had lost that year's Austrian title to Papez and Zwack, who won the bronze at Europeans the year prior. 

Four judges placed Papez and Zwack first, while the Austrian judge tied them with their teammates Gaillard and Petter. Mollie Phillips and Rodney Murdoch were unanimously third, defeating Violet (Supple) and Leslie Cliff of Bournemouth and Mrs. and A. Proctor Burman of Manchester. The "Wiener Sporttagblatt" noted, "The equivalence of both Viennese couples made the smallest mistakes crucial... The circumstance [set up a scenario] where the two rivals [might] demolish [each other] but it was not like that. Both couples were in top form [and skated] at full speed. The effect was gorgeous.... In Vienna, the supporters of the couples have formed two camps - by the way just as in London - and it was somewhat surprising [the judges] put Papez-Zwack in first place... Maybe their success in the Austrian championship increased their confidence."


As in the pairs event, there were only five entries - probably owing to the fact that the event was held in England less than three weeks before the World Championships in Zürich. It would have made more sense to some to arrive early in Switzerland and train in St. Moritz or Davos in the weeks leading up to Worlds. As expected, Olympic Gold Medallist Karl Schäfer won the figures by a wide margin, but not unanimously. German judge Artur Vieregg voted for the lone German man competing, Ernst Baier, who placed second. Erich Erdös of Austria, Jean Henrion of France and William M. Clunie of Great Britain rounded out the five man field. In the free skate - and overall - Schäfer, Baier and Erdös were placed unanimously first, second and third - one of the few instances during that period that a panel was able to agree on something!

Ernst Baier's silver medal from the 1933 European Championships

The "Wiener Sporttagblatt" noted, " Karl Schäfer would not have even needed to skate to his peak, but he actually had one of his greatest days. He was quite faultless. Every second, every one movement and jump made his presence felt... This time he even surprised his friends. His beautiful and easygoing attitude, his calm and general mastery has a counterpart, and that is Sonja [Henie]. With the nonchalance of his difficult program and its compelling structure [he] withstood the sharpest criticism... The Berliner's Baier's compulsory exercises were almost a fiesta of mistakes and his freestyle did not yield the difficulties of Schäfer's but was quite effectively [put together]. Despite his youth, Erdös has already connected himself with the international master class.  It is noteworthy that the Berliner had a pleasing, Viennese soft - but almost too feminine - style and that [Erdös] had a powerfully male style."


Left: Sonja Henie. Right: Cecilia Colledge.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, then two time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie dominated the competition from start to finish, placing unanimously first in both figures and free skating. The
"Wiener Sporttagblatt" noted that she was "nervous but well-controlled in the compulsory exercises but in the freestyle her pirouettes were racing, their stopping more precise than anyone else. The Axel she landed and her zigzag steps were so lightning fast that she swirled over the ice."

In the figures, three judges had twelve year old Cecilia Colledge second. Hilde Holovsky and Fritzi Burger received the other two second place ordinals. Colledge's success was considered quite the shock as she had placed only eighth the previous year's Olympics and World Championships. In the free skate, the Austrian judge tied Holovsky with Henie. With thirteen ordinal placings, Colledge took the silver. Burger and Holovsky tied in ordinal placings but Burger was awarded the bronze based on her point total. Belgium's Yvonne de Ligne and Austria's Liselotte Landbeck rounded out the top six. Colledge, who skating on home ice received even more applause than Henie, made history as the first British woman to medal at the European Championships.

The marks of the British judge were highly out of line with the other judges. He had Gweneth Butler, the British skater who placed ninth, third in the figures. The Austrian and Norwegian judges had her seventh and ninth. Not to be accused of national bias, he was the only judge to place Cecilia Colledge down in fourth in the free skate! The British judge also placed Hilde Holovsky ninth in figures, while the Austrian and Norwegian judges had her in the top three. 

Interestingly, it was at the Westminster Ice Club that Cecilia Colledge had first seen Sonja Henie skate, when she was only seven years old. The day after the event concluded, a reporter from the "Daily Mirror" went to go visit her at home. They found her sitting in front of the fire surrounded by her dolls. She told them, "I wasn't a bit excited when I took my turn yesterday. I had been practising on another rink about a quarter of an hour before I had to go on, so I didn't really have time to get nervous. Tomorrow we are going back to Switzerland, where I have been since Christmas. I came home only for a few days so that I could compete in the championship." 


Twenty-one years before the first official European Championships in ice dancing, an international waltzing competition was a popular conclusion to the Championships in London. Competitors skated in a circular pattern around chairs placed on the ice. The top three couples were Ethel Muckelt and Ronald D. Gilbey, Violet Supple and Leslie Cliff and Betty Meakin and Jackie Dunn. Muckelt, the Cliff's and Dunn would all represent at Great Britain at the Olympics.

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.

WCKY In Cincinnati: The Joan Hyldoft Story

Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"

"If I didn't get good grades, my father would make me stop skating. I skate because I love it, and when I see people in the audience enjoying my work, it gives me pleasure." - Joan Hyldoft, "New York Post", August 23, 1946

The daughter of Inga (Johnson) and Ewald Andreas Hyldoft, Johanne Christine 'Joan' Hyldoft was born January 27, 1926 in Lindsborg, Kansas. Like many of the tiny city's residents, the Hyldoft's had Scandinavian ties. Joan's paternal grandparents were from Denmark; her maternal grandparents from Norway. Her grandfather Andreas was a well-respected watchmaker. Her parents were both school teachers. Joan got her first taste of the spotlight when she was only fourteen months old. She was selected as 'the healthiest baby' over five hundred other infants at a contest held at the Texas Cotton Palace exposition.

Joan took up ballet at the age of nine and continued with her dance lessons when her family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where her father had secured a job teaching biology at a local high school. It was soon discovered that Joan's talents extended far beyond the dance floor. She won a blue ribbon at Huntington's famous horse show, took the state diving trophy and drew praise for her organ playing at the local Lutheran church.

At the age of fourteen, Joan took to the ice for the first time at Huntington's indoor rink after watching one of Sonja Henie's films. An onlooker told her parents she was a natural and the next year, she was sent to train with Gustave Lussi at the Lake Placid summer school. She shared the ice with a very young Dick Button and soon drew praise for the height of her Axel jump and the speed of her camel spin. In an age where surety and elegance were foremost in the minds of many young 'lady skaters', Joan had youth and athleticism on her side.

Soon, skating took over. Joan and her mother moved into an apartment in Philadelphia. While attending the Baldwin School for Girls at Bryn Mawr, Joan practiced daily at the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society. "I'd skate from 6 until 9 o'clock each morning, go to classes during the day, skate from 5 o'clock in the afternoon until 9 at night."

Joan Hyldoft, David T. Layman Jr., Dorothy Goos and Mabel MacPherson at the 1942 Eastern States Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In January of 1942, she took the gold in the novice women's class at the Eastern States Championships at Iceland in New York City. Her victory was quite incredible considering the fact she'd only been skating for two years and there were thirty-three entries - an absolutely unheard of number in those days. Among the young women she defeated were Lois Waring, Eileen Seigh and Irene Maguire - all future U.S. senior medallists. Disappointingly, Joan placed a disastrous ninth in the novice women's event at the U.S. Championships that followed in Chicago. It would be her final competition on skates... technically.

Joan turned professional at the age of fifteen after being offered a job skating at the Netherland Plaza hotel's ice show in Cincinnati. While in the Queen City, she entered WCKY radio's Miss Cincinnati pageant. She took first prize, defeating one hundred and twenty-four other young women with a show-stopping talent number - a skating performance on 'muck' (artificial) ice. It was perhaps the first time in American history that figure skating was performed in a beauty contest or pageant. As the winner, she was sent to Atlantic City to compete in the finals of Miss America. Things didn't go quite as smoothly with Joan's talent act in New Jersey. Depending on the source you read, one of two things happened. Either the sun baked the muck ice turning it into a syrupy consistency you couldn't skate on or "just before Joan was to go on, the 300-pound stage manager stepped on the ice and fell, breaking it into hundreds of pieces". Either way, Joan's skating act was a bust but 'the show must go on' mentality kicked in. She performed her skating number (minus the ice) on the floorboards of the Warner Theater's stage and took a prize in the preliminary round.

Photo courtesy "McCall's" magazine

Over the next several years, Joan performed for thousands of dinner guests at the hotel 'icers' that were hugely popular during and in the aftermath of World War II. Before she even turned twenty, she was capturing hearts at the Iridium Room at the the Hotel Stevens in Chicago and half a dozen New York venues - the Hotel New Yorker, Biltmore Hotel, Center Theatre and Roxy Theatre. She even appeared in an ad for Pepsident toothpaste.

Jinx Clark, Rudy Richards, Joan Hyldoft, Mickey Meehan, Genevieve Norris and Bob Payne in the 1953 Holiday On Ice tour

In the late forties, Joan joined the cast of Holiday On Ice, where she wowed audiences in both solo and pair acts in shows across North America. Most remarkable was the fact that while skating professionally, Joan took pre-med classes at New York, Columbia and Illinois State Universities and Marshall College in Huntington. She aspired to be a brain specialist. In 1952, she told reporter Henry W. Clune, "I have wanted to be a brain surgeon since I was a girl in my early teens. I have wanted to be a brain surgeon since I was allowed to witness an operation for the removal of a brain tumor in a Philadelphia hospital... It seemed terribly important."

Photo courtesy "The National Ice Skating Guide"

Ultimately, skating won out over school and what was intended to be a short stint as a professional turned out to be a decade-long career. After a brief stint performing in a British ice pantomime, she returned to Holiday On Ice in 1959, joining Dick Button on a historic skating tour behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet Russia.

Joan retired from professional skating in the early sixties, sidelined by a recurring back injury. She found a job teaching skating at the Iceland rink in Houston, Texas and married Tommy Harral, a local drama teacher's son, in October of 1961. The marriage didn't last. She settled in Waco, took a job as a part-time secretary and became involved in the First Lutheran Church. For a short time, she taught skating in Waco as well. She passed away on August 25, 1986 at the age of sixty, her skating stardom in the forties and fifties all but forgotten.

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.