Thursday, 8 December 2016

The 1982 British Figure Skating And Ice Dancing Championships

The Iron Lady ruled the roost, the newspapers were dominated by headlines about The Falklands War, "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners topped the music charts and Prince William was born. The year was 1982, the place was Jolly Ol' England and the winter sport everyone was clambering to watch was figure skating. The British Ice Dance Championships and British Figure Skating Championships, held within weeks of each other in November and December of that year in Nottingham and Solihull respectively, were full of interesting stories worth revisiting. Hop in the time machine and take a look back at these exciting events with me, won't you?


Great Britain's best singles and pairs skaters gathered in Solihull, England from December 1-2, 1982 for the first British Championships in fifteen years not held at the Richmond Ice Rink.

After winning three senior pairs titles with Robert Daw, Susan Garland claimed her fourth British title in 1981 in Richmond with new partner Ian Jenkins. She made it five in a row in 1982, breezing through challenging lifts and throws to defeat Lisa and Neil Cushley and Maxine Hague and Andrew Naylor. Siblings Carol and Carl Nelson, who had been the runners-up in 1982, were forced to withdraw when Carl injured his hip during practices for the event.

Mark Pepperday easily defended his senior men's title in Solihull with one of the best performances of his career, landing four triples - two Salchows and two toe-loops - in his winning free skate. Paul Robinson finished second and Neil Cushley, who was doing double duty competing with his sister in the pairs event, settled for third. Rounding out the field of five were Stephen Morris and Jonathon Levers.

No less than fifteen entries vied for the women's crown in Solihull in 1982. It would have been seventeen, but Fiona McKenzie withdrew and Toronto based Diana Rankin, the previous year's bronze medallist, was unable to compete due to a foot injury. Speaking of injuries... despite a bad knee Karen Wood, a student of Keith Kelley, utterly dominated the women's competition from start to finish, landing a triple Salchow and triple toe-loop in her winning free skate. "It was all systems go!" she proclaimed. Despite finishing second in the free skate with two triple toe-loops of her own, Susan-Ann Jackson had to settle for bronze, owing to a fourth place finish in the school figures. A strong second place finish in the figures was just the head start that Alison Southwood needed to hang on for silver.


In the heart of Torvill and Dean country, in the midst of Torvill and Dean mania, eight of Great Britain's best ice dance teams - including Torvill and Dean - gathered at the Nottingham Ice Rink for the 1982 British Ice Dance Championships, held on November 19, 1982. It was a marathon of a competition, with each couple performing no less than five times... in one evening! Jayne and Chris were the only leading couple that year who had not competed internationally prior to the event and their debut of their new OSP to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Song And Dance" and "Barnum" free dance inspired by the London Palladium musical were eagerly anticipated. To keep an element of suspense, the defending World Champions hadn't even shown "Barnum" during practices at the event, letting the music run through when it came on. Their strategy paid off. They received two perfect 6.0's in the OSP; and 5.9's across the board in both sets of marks with the exception of one 6.0 for artistic impression in the free dance.

Karen Barber and Nicky Slater, who had finished second at St. Ivel that September, were outstanding in their "Great Balls Of Fire" OSP and dramatic samba, rhumba, Paso Doble and "Malaguena" free dance, but despite drawing last to skate in the free dance they again remained in Torvill and Dean's shadow.  Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams took the bronze ahead of Karen Roughton and Mark Rood, Sharon Jones and Paul Askham and three other teams.

Despite the excitement of Torvill and Dean's impressive victory in front of a home audience, the real drama in Nottingham was off the ice. The competition was sponsored by Sovereign Furs and in response, anti-fur protesters had camped out at the rink to stage a rowdy opposition. Judges and spectators alike stowed their fancy coats away in dressing rooms to avoid the protester's wrath.

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

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How The Attack On Pearl Harbor Affected The Skating World

Seventy five years ago, the Imperial Japanese Army's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of World War II and world history. It was that generation's 9/11; every American who lived through it could tell you where they were when the attack happened. And yes, "every American" included every American figure skater.

Prior to the December 7, 1941 attack, the military personnel stationed at Pearl Harbor had shown great interest in America's favourite winter sport. In a letter penned to Earle Reynolds, one Private Rodecker, a skater stationed in Pearl Harbor, wrote that copies that Reynolds had sent him of "Billboard" magazine magazine "practically wore out in a few days from passing it around to the boys who were anxious to read of skating activities in the States." In the wake of the tragedy, the skating world responded immediately to help support those stationed in Hawaii. Alfred Richards Sr. (the father of reigning U.S. ice dance champion Alfred Richards Jr.) arranged for Dr. I.S. Ravelin to go to Pearl Harbor to find out the extent of the attack. With Perrin H. Long, Ravelin penned a report on the casualties of the tragedy for the Naval Medical Bulletin in April 1942. The Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society even arranged for a mobile unit of The Red Cross to visit their club. Skaters donated over two hundred and sixty five pints of blood.

One skater whose life was directly affected was U.S. and North American Champion Joan Tozzer Spalding. At the time of the bombing, she was living in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her son later recalled hiding under a bed with his nanny during the attack. After the U.S. joined the War, Tozzer Spalding joined the Army’s Woman’s Air Raid Defense and the USO, aiding in the war effort by working in a top-secret, underground mapping program.

Tozzer Spalding wasn't the only skater living in Hawaii at the time of the attack. Kathe Mehl Williams was en route with her family to Pearl City to go fishing and passed Pearl Harbor as the attack started. A hot shell fragment hit their car and her father immediately reported to duty. All non-permanent residents that weren't on active duty were asked to return home immediately, and so Mehl Williams and her mother headed back to New York where she teamed up with Robert Swenning. The duo later won the gold medal in ice dance in front of a hometown crowd at the 1945 U.S. Championships, defeating reigning champions Marcella May Willis and James Lochead.

In the years directly following Pearl Harbor, the increased number of skaters who entered the military had an extreme effect on the American figure skating community. With so many young men drafted and transplanted in other parts of the country, one club's loss was another's gain in some cases but in others, promising careers were cut short by their service. We may not think of Hawaii when we consider the evolution of figure skating but on that one day in 1941, world events undoubtedly altered the course of skating history.

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

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Chef Boiardi And The Winton Hotel's Ice Shows

"This was one of the first hotels to feature ice skating. It was a tremendous novelty at the time; imagine ice skating in a hotel dining room." - Joe Williams, The Pittsburgh Press, January 17, 1942

Built in 1916, The Winton Hotel was a historic one hundred and forty nine foot, eleven story high-rise in what is now the Theater District of Cleveland, Ohio. Like most hotels at the time, its restaurant served as 'the' meeting place for the city's elite to see and be seen. Two things made this particular hotel restaurant more unique than others. One was the fact that they were fed by an Italian chef named Ettore "Hector" Boiardi who later founded the Chef Boyardee company in 1928. The other was that while they dined on what I'm presuming was a significant step up from the congealed tomato soup pasta our eyes are feasted upon in grocery stores today, they got to take in some spectacular skating.

In his book "Wonderful world of skates: Seventeen centuries of skating", Arthur R. Goodfellow explained that "Cleveland's Rainbow Gardens in the Winton Hotel (later the Carter) presented its skating revues in the middle of the dining room elevated on a tank four feet off the floor, supported by wooden blocks at each corner resembling a boxing ring. This ice show ran continuously for two-and-a-half years, seven days a week, two shows a day in the 1916-1918 era."

The shows in the Winton's Rainbow Gardens were held at noon and in the evening, an hour and a half long each, featuring a mixture of figure skating and classic cabaret entertainment. The music was provided by The Rainbow Room Orchestra and skaters included Norval Baptie, Gladys Lamb and Lora Jean Carlisle. In 1918, A.A. Hill wrote of Baptie and Lamb's performance at the Winton: "The ease and grace with which they perform seemingly impossible feats on skates, is both startling and enjoyable to the audience." An unusual addition to this particular hotel show was World Champion speed skater Bobby McLean, who demonstrated speed skating in this small boxing ring of a rink. I can't imagine what that would have looked like.

Bobby McLean

Although short lived, the hotel's skating shows were one of the first to gain a real following but daily shows twice a day, it wasn't long before the novelty wore off. Today, the hotel where skating and Chef Boiardi took center stage is a senior citizen apartment building called Carter Manor and the ice shows that once dazzled audiences are sadly largely forgotten.

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

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Late Bloomer: The Wingate Snaith Story

The son of Willoughby and Margeurite Snaith, Wingate Errol William Snaith was born in 1913 and got his start at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa alongside his sister Shirley, also a promising young skater. In 1929, Snaith passed his third class figure test and finished fifth of eight skaters vying for the Wilson Cup at the Minto's annual club competition. By the next year, Snaith won the Sifton Cup and the Minto's junior men's title. In 1931, he made his debut in the junior ranks at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, finishing off the podium. However, he successfully defended his junior men's title at the Minto club competition that year and according to the February 27, 1931 issue of The Ottawa Citizen "skated in a brilliant manner". The newspaper also noted that "his jumps were very well done, particularly the Axel [Paulsen]."

After again just missing the podium in the junior men's event, finishing fourth at the 1932 Canadian Championships, Snaith claimed the Sifton Cup for a third consecutive time in 1932, finishing ahead of Charles Addison and Warwick Steeves. That year, he also won the Wilson Cup and the Soper Cup in junior pairs skating with his sister. The following year, he finished a strong second in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships in Montreal behind Osborne Colson and representing his school, Lisgar Collegiate, won the Interscholastic Figure Skating Championship at the Minto Club with a strong performance in the school figures. After another silver medal in 1934 in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships, in 1935 Snaith finally prevailed in winning the Allan Howard Trophy and becoming Canada's junior men's champion at the age of twenty two in January 1935. His success earned him a ticket to the North American Championships in Montreal. Disappointingly, he finished a distant last place behind Bud Wilson, Robin Lee, James Lester Madden, Roger Turner, George Hill and Guy Owen. It was hardly the kind of senior debut that would inspire most skaters to want to soldier on.

Soldier on he did. The following year, Snaith joined an exclusive club of skaters who passed the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada's Gold test. This was no small feat considering his judges for that test were Norman Gregory, Philip Chrysler and Melville Rogers... all former Canadian Champions. Representing the Minto Skating Club, Snaith would win the silver medal in the senior men's event at the Canadian Championships behind Osborne Colson in both 1936 and 1937. He relocated to the Montreal Winter Club and celebrating this change of scenery and his successes, he rang in 1938 with a New Year's exhibition on Champlain Lake. However, when Colson stepped away from competitive skating following his 1937 win, Snaith didn't make the natural ascent to the top of the podium. Montgomery Wilson won in 1938 and 1939; Ralph McCreath in 1940. Snaith finished finished third all three years and retired from competition in 1941 at the age of twenty eight. Despite winning seven medals in both the junior and senior ranks at the Canadian Championships, his name would be relegated to dusty programs from Minto and Montreal Winter Club ice shows.

Perhaps what Snaith did with the rest of his life is what stands out most. During World War II, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and served with the Halifax Force on the HMCS Ungava, a minesweeper that saw action in both the Battle Of The Atlantic and Battle Of The St. Lawrence. After the war, Snaith attended St. Patrick's College and earned his Bachelor Of Arts degree at the age of fifty four in 1967. He continued to skate in club carnivals and was an active member of the Rideau Lawn Tennis Club and Ottawa Curling Club for many years. When he passed away in 2008 at the age ninety five in an Ottawa nursing home, Sneath left a massive contribution to the Maxwell MacOdrum library at Carleton University. A September 2009 article from "Carleton Now" states that "after his mother died in 1975, he wanted to do something in memory of his parents. He left money for the Carleton library because he was an alumnus and also because of his belief in the longevity of libraries. 'Libraries are lasting buildings. A library is a place that’s never finished,' [Andrée] Aylan says of Snaith's feelings about libraries." I feel it's only appropriate that his story, which speaks of never giving up at any age, has a place in this little library of figure skating history.

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

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

#Unearthed: M. Quad On Skates

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 a quaint little tale that was originally published on June 2, 1875. It comes to you from a rural humour serial penned by Charles Bertrand Lewis for "The Danbury News" under the ironically skating appropriate pseudonym 'M. Quad':


"You see," said my friend Reglet, as he cut a "pigeons-wing" on the glassy surface at the rink, went off on one foot and came circling around on the other - "you see, it is an exercise which brings all the muscles into play and must be healthy. In fact, Dio Lewis says it is better than riding on horseback!" - It looked so easy and so nice that I winked at the boy who had skates to lend, and he came over. "That's right, old boy!" called Reglet, as he sailed around with a handsome girl on each arm, and a lovely blonde hanging to his coat-tails. "I'll bet a hundred dollars that you'll learn all the flourishes within an hour." I was highly gratified at this expression of confidence in my ability, and I kept hurrying up the boy as he fastened on the skates. The impudent sauce-box said I had better strap on a pillow on the back of my head before I started out, but I passed the insinuation by in silent contempt. "Now, then," said Reglet, circling up with a dozen French flourishes, "the main thing is to have confidence in yourself. Strike right out like a pioneer getting away from a troop of wolves, and I'll bet a hundred to one you'll make a skater." I struck out. I struck in several other directions besides out. One foot went to the left, the other to the right, and I whirled around and sat down. The blonde young lady came up and said that I had made a capital hit, and the other two said that I was certain to combine grace with muscular effort when I got fairly started. I didn't feel much like starting out again, but I had to do it. Reglet helped me up again, said that he could already see an improvement in my health and warned me to shove my feet as I saw him do. I obeyed. The left foot shot out, leaving the right one some rods in the rear, and in trying to even up the race a little, something struck the ice. It was myself. The back of my head struck first, and there were five distinct shocks before the whole of my body got down. Reglet sailed up and said he never saw me beaten, and the blonde declared her belief that I was an old skater, and was just playing. The rink danced round and round as I sat up, and the small boy who was grinning at me appeared to my vision like eight or nine small boys, and eight or nine grins. "Come, old boy, this exercise will brighten your cheek until your own wife won't know you," called Reglet, offering to help me up. I wanted to go home and sit down behind the coal stove and ponder and reflect, but he dragged me to my feet and the blonde wanted to know if I wouldn't please to give them 'the Prince of Wales flourish'. I glanced at her and tried to smile and they all edged off to give me a fair show. "Come, dart right off!" yelled Reglet, and I carefully started my feet out on an exploring voyage. They hadn't travelled over six inches before they got ahead of my body. I reached out for something to support me, clawed around, and the back of my head dug a hole in the ice. I thought the roof of the rink had fallen in, and that twenty-eight tons of boards and shingles had struck me in a heap, but I was deceived. "You struck an air-bubble or you'd have made a splendid show," said Reglet, as he pulled at me. The blonde said that I had come within a hair's breadth of cutting one of the grandest flourishes known on ice, and they wanted me to try once more. I told 'em I had got to go to a funeral and that I would be back in half an hour, but it was no use. "See how easy it is," exclaimed Reglet, as he pushed out and swung one leg. I couldn't pull it back. I tried to, and I yelled to Reget that I'd give him fifty dollars to grab me. He was too late. I clawed, I waved, and tottered and fell; and when I came to my senses again, Reglet said that if I would go through the same performance every day for two months, he'd warrant me that I could eat a hundred hot biscuits per day and never have a touch of the dyspepsia. I am in bed yet, and a friend has written this from dictation. The doctor says that two ribs on the left side are fractured, the collar bone is broken, the bone of one elbow smashed, and the spinal column is three inches out of line; but he is labouring away in hopes of mending me up by spring.

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

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The 1967 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

From January 18 to 21, 1967, the best amateur figure skaters in the United States converged upon the Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum in Omaha, Nebraska for the 1967 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The event marked the first time that the U.S. Championships were held in the Cornhusker State. At the time, the USFSA had a rule that the club that sponsored the U.S. Championships had to guarantee at least five thousand dollars to cover expenses. The Figure Skating Club Of Omaha exceeded all expectations. All of the finals were sold out, with all six thousand, one hundred seats sold. In fact, the fire marshall even allowed two thousand standing room tickets to be sold! The event was taped for ABC's Wide World Of Sports and featured a who's who of figure skating. Let's take a look back at the skaters, stories and spectacular moments that made this competition noteworthy.


A pint-sized Starbuck and Shelley in 1967

Novice pairs and ice dance competitions were not held in 1967, but nine talented young men vied for the novice men's title. John Baldwin, a sixteen year old bellhop from Colorado Springs, emerged victorious over Philadelphia's Kenneth Class, San Pedro's Mark Rehfield and Los Angeles' Alexander Rubio. It was extremely close between third and fourth; Rubio had fewer ordinal places but Rehfield had more points. Wen-An-Sun, the thirteen year old daughter of a Chinese born eye doctor living in Ames, Iowa defeated Mary Lynn Gelderman - future coach of Elaine Zayak - by five ordinal places and 1.06 points to claim the novice women's title. Louise Vacca of North Linderhurst, New Jersey took the bronze. Sun also competed in the junior pairs event with her fifteen year old brother Torrey. That event was won by fifteen year old Downey, California high school sophomores Alicia 'Jojo' Starbuck and Ken Shelley. These stars of tomorrow were the unanimous choices of the entire judging panel. Julie Lynn Holmes of South Pasadena won the junior women's school figures and narrowly defeated Denver's Patty Grazier to claim that title. The result of the junior women's event was so close that it was decided on the vote of one judge, who placed Holmes third and Grazier fourth. In junior (Silver) dance, Debbie Gerken and Keith Galgot and Susan and Bill Roberts claimed the gold and silver medals. Both teams hailed from New Jersey. Caren Cody and Warren Danner of Indianapolis edged Suzanne Gillespie of Pittsburgh and John Bickel of Rochester for the bronze. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves recalled,
"Eastern skaters won four of the first five places in Silver Dance. Their strength made judging difficult, such that one couple received both a first and last place mark in the initial round." The junior men's event was won by 1965 Novice Champion Roger Bass, a five foot eleven high school student from Lakewood, California. He was only fourth in free skating, but won the school figures with first place ordinals from four of the five judges. Thirteen year old Gordon McKellen, Jr. of Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of ice show star Tuffy McKellen, bumped Torrey Sun out of second place and claimed the silver medal.


As had been the case the previous year at the U.S. Championships in Berkeley, California, siblings Cynthia and Ronald Kauffman and Susie Berens and Roy Wagelein finished one-two in the senior pairs event. Ranked third and eleventh in the world respectively, there was a great deal of point separation between the top two pairs. The bronze medal went to Betty Lewis of Framingham, Massachusetts and Richard Gilbert of Natick, Massachusetts. Twenty old year old Lorna Dyer and twenty year old John Carrell, both University Of Washington students, took unanimous first place ordinals from every judge in the compulsory dances. They dressed in burgundy for their three and a half minute free dance, with a jazzy section to "Deep Purple". In contrast, Alma Davenport and Roger Berry of Burbank's free dance consisted of Hawaiian rhythms and music by Al Hirt and Pete Fountain. Lynn Copley-Graves recalled, "Most couples skated real free dances rather than mini-pair programs. It was time for Dyer/Carrell to outshine all the others and win the title that eluded them for four years, despite winning North Americans in 1965 and placing well in Worlds." Outshine them they did, winning the gold medal. Davenport and Berry finished second ahead of Judy Schwomeyer of Indianapolis and Jim Sladky of Syracuse and Dolly Rodenbaugh of Pittsburgh and Tom Leschinski of Homestead, Pennsylvania. In the March 1967 issue of "Skating", Lynn Thomas reported that Schwomeyer and Sladky "gained amazing lean and extension for their small stature." In an incredible placement shift considering the usual lack of movement in ice dance standings at the time, Vicky Camper and Eugene Heffron jumped from ninth to sixth overall with their peppy free dance. This jump in the ranks was even more remarkable considering that Vicky had badly injured her knee at Midwesterns and was skating through considerable pain.


Nine men vied for the senior men's title in Omaha. In the figures, seventeen year old Scotty Allen of Smoke Rise, New Jersey took a five and one-hundredth point lead over nineteen year old Gary Visconti of Detroit. Three judges placed Allen first, one apiece voted for Visconti and eighteen year old Tim Wood, the son of a chest surgeon. Visconti rebounded in the free skate to reclaim the U.S. title he'd held in 1965, ahead of Allen, Wood and John Misha Petkevich. I spoke with Visconti about this event in September 2016. He recalled, "That was the first event I skated when I was in the navy. That was during Vietnam years. Long story short, I was in college full time and your college had to send your paperwork to your draft board so you got a classification of 'not eligible' because you're a full-time student. Our university for some reason missed the date for filing those papers so I got a draft notice to be drafted into the army. Well, at that time, you could not buck it. It was really tough. So I quickly enlisted in the U.S. navy in the reserve program, which is called a 2 X 6 - two years active and four years inactive. When I went to Omaha, I had a buzz haircut. I had no hair! It was hysterical. Everyone was like 'why's your hair so short?' Nowadays it's cool, but in the sixties you didn't have really short hair... That was the only Championship that I remember thinking I was actually winning while I was skating. Everyone skated ahead of me and had done one or two triples but they'd messed them up: they'd fallen, stumbled or popped or whatever you want to call it. In those days, you didn't have required moves and I always had about eighteen to twenty five tricks in my program counting jumps, flying spins... The other guys usually had about twelve or thirteen, so I had four or five more at least. My coach Don Stewart said, 'Gary, everyone's kind of messed up. You're already in first. Let's take out the triple toe-loop and triple Sal and just do doubles and skate a clean program and you'll walk away with it.' I said, 'Really? Okay, Don, whatever you say!' As I was skating I said, 'Oh my God, I'm winning because I'm skating really good.' And I won and when they announced the result Dick Button said, 'Well, not always the best skater wins. Just the one who makes the least mistakes.' So I said in my book 'Falling For The Win', 'Okay, Dick, I realize you weren't in my camp but isn't that what it's all about? Not making mistakes?'"


Eleven women vied for the 1967 U.S. women's title and three time and defending champion Peggy Fleming of Pasadena was of course the absolute favourite. As predicted, she took a hefty lead in the school figures, earning first place ordinals from all five judges. Eighteen year old Tina Noyes of Arlington, Pennsylvania was second, Jennie Walsh third, Taffy Pergament fourth and Sondra Lynn Holmes fifth. Fleming wore a gold dress with a gold band around her jet black hair for her free skate, and did a fine job but didn't give an absolutely flawless performance. Noyes, too, was good but wasn't perfect. She tripped on a toe pick and slightly flubbed the landings of two jumps. The Associated Press reported, "The big crowd pleaser proved to be the third finisher Jennie Walsh, Pacific Coast Champion from Torrance, Calif., whose fast thrilling series of loops, jumps and spins was received with such acclaim that Jennie returned to the rink for an almost unprecedented encore in a national meet."

Also making quite an impression was thirteen year old Slavka Kohout student Janet Lynn, who vaulted in the standings to fourth overall with an equally outstanding free skate. Pergament dropped to fifth, ahead of Troy, Ohio's Ardith Paul, Sondra Lynn Holmes, Detroit's Maud-Frances Dubos, New York City's Honey Kerr, Hershey's Wendy Jones and Walnut Creek's Charlene McLaren.
In a January 20, 2013 interview with Eric Golden for the "Omaha World-Herald", Fleming recalled, "It was trying to keep that momentum going and aiming toward the Olympics... To see how you could handle the pressure, being consistent."

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

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Mecca Of Skating: Switzerland's Skating Craze

Ulrich Salchow competing in Davos, Switzerland

If the concept of a 'mecca' has ever applied to figure skating, Switzerland would have absolutely been it. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, skaters from England and throughout Continental Europe flocked to the mountainous country in droves to hone their crafts. The main impetus behind this phenomenon was in fact the weather. From 1882 to 1885, the Wimbledon Skating Club boasted a grand total of one day where the ice was safe enough to skate upon. In a matter of twenty years, dozens upon dozens of outdoor rinks were constructed in Switzerland and hotels were packed like sardines with English and Continental skaters. Let's trace our way back and explore the early history of Switzerland's skating craze got started.

In his book "Ice-Skating: A History", figure skating historian Nigel Brown tells us that "skating in the Alps had been practiced at the end of the sixties in Davos on a sheet of ice situated in the garden beside the Kurhaus. A group of male skaters danced the quadrille. They were a mixed gathering of Dutch, Germans and Russians. They had been attracted to Davos for health purposes - Alpine air, the glorious winter scenery and sunshine being considered a cure for bad nerves and general worries... But skating in Switzerland began seriously in the Engadine during the seventies, when a band of English enthusiasts who had spent the previous summer in the Alps, taking the waters at St. Moritz spa, suggested the idea of returning there in winter to put in a few weeks of skating. Heavy frosts in England appeared to be more and more rare, and sometimes a skating season melted down to two or three days. The big lake before St. Moritz lay free and beckoning. The idea was excellent but a hardy one, for the journey was long and tiring, and the hotel in St. Moritz that opened for them specially was not equipped for winter residence. From Chur the travellers had to hire a coach and ride along the route the Romans took over the high Julier Pass. Heavy snows blocked the way and a blizzard howled at 8,000 feet, taking them three weeks to arrive at their destination. Next morning, with spades and brooms they cleared a small corner of the frozen lake from snow and in the afternoon were skating on the natural ice of St. Moritz."

In 1871, the St. Gall Club, the first of many great Swiss skating clubs, was founded by wealthy patrons. However, the Hotel Belvedere in Davos (founded in 1875) was perhaps the most successful of Switzerland's skating clubs in the nineteenth century. Shortly after opening, it was immediately deluged with visitors from England who worked with the hotel manager to construct a skating rink two years later. It became known as 'the English rink' as most of the skaters there were from England and skating in The English Style. A competing rink in Davos accommodated German and Russian skaters. In 1880, skaters in the area organized the Davos Skating Club. The next year, a new skating rink double the size of the original 'English rink' was built to accommodate an international membership of over two hundred, including skaters from as far away as India and the United States. By 1894, the International Skating Club Of Davos was formed. Grindelwald and St. Moritz also developed clubs and a who's who of figure skating came to Switzerland to train, compete and discuss the development of the sport, from Gustav Hügel to Ulrich Salchow to Madge and Edgar Syers. It's actually Madge and Edgar that we'll turn to next. Their 1908 publication "The Book Of Winter Sports" offers without a doubt the best description of the each of the Swiss winter resorts and as the book is now in public domain, I thought it would be wonderful to include all of these descriptions in their entirety to give you all a real sense of the uniqueness of each of these skating hot spots and their roles in the greater Swiss skating phenomenon of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century:

"ADELBODEN (4450 feet), in the Bernese Oberland, is admirably, situated for ski sport, owing to the valley being surrounded by grassy slopes (which are used as pastureland in the summer) and to the number and variety of excursions and tours in the neighbourhood. A sports club was formed in 1908, and has under its management the principal rink and the ice-run. The club furnishes ski and the services of capable guides and instructors for the benefit of its members. The first week in February is devoted to sports and competitions in skating, ski-ing, tobogganing, &c. The Schwandfehlspitz (6650 feet), Kuonisbergli (5710 feet), and Elsighorn (7695 feet), are convenient ski-ing tours. Hotels: The Grand, the Beausite, and the National.

ANDERMATT (4813 feet).- A pleasant winter resort, sufficiently high to ensure a continuity of winter sports.Andermatt is situated in the Canton of Uri, and is reached by rail vid Lucerne and Goeschenen and thence by diligence. There is an excellent skating-rink, and the facilities for tobogganing, ski-ing, &c, are good and varied. Hotel: Danioth's Grand.

AROSA, situated in the Grisons (5650 feet) has become a favourite place of late years among those who desire a quiet holiday. Skating, curling, &c, may be had, and the delights of the Euti Road are well known to followers of bobbing. There are many excellent ski-ing routes, notably Maran and the
Pretsch Alp (6560 feet), Weisshorn (8717 feet), and the tour to Davos vid the Furka Pass (8020 feet).
The Seehof Hotel is comfortable, and the charges are moderate.

BALLAIGUES (3000 feet) was opened for the first time in the season 1907-8. The principal hotel is the Hotel Aubepine, which is the only one at present opened in winter, though no doubt others will speedily follow suit. The place is situated in the Jura Mountains half an hour's drive from Vallarbes and close to the French frontier. It is one of the least expensive places in Switzerland both as regard the cost of the journey and the pension rates. Ballaigues is about half an hour's sleigh drive from Le Pent on the Lac de Joux. It is a quiet and pretty resort, very attractive to those who do not require the highly developed skating facilities which are found at places with higher altitudes. There is excellent ski-ing on the slopes of the Suchet which rises 2000 feet above the village.

CAUX is situated above Montreux at an altitude of 3610 feet, and has excellent facilities for skating, tobogganing, and ski-ing. There are two good rinks, the larger about 200 yards long by 100 yards wide, with convenient dressing-rooms which are heated throughout. For tobogganers there is a fine run at about two miles from Cret-d'y Bau to Caux, the starting-point being reached by train. There are good ski-ing grounds in the neighbourhood. Hotels: The Grand and the Palace.

CELERINA (5665 feet) owes its popularity as a winter resort to the Public Schools Winter Sports Club, which occupied the Cresta Palace Hotel as soon as it was opened. The Cresta Palace has a splendid rink, 8000 square metres (two acres) in extent. In midwinter the sun rises on the rink
at 9 a.m., and at St. Moritz it does not rise till about 11 a.m. The result of this is that the ice at Celerina is not so brittle as at St. Moritz. There is also a very good curling rink. Celerina will probably be some time in attaining very wide popularity as a winter resort owing to its proximity to St. Moritz, as visitors are attracted to the larger centre, but those who love quiet and do not care for the bustle of Brighton-onthe-Alps, will be delighted with this lovely little village.

CHATEAU D'OEX (3203 feet), situated in the Canton Vaud, has several excellent skating rinks. The largest, which is reserved for the use of visitors to the Berthod Hotels, is 7000 square metres. The ice is most carefully tended. Ski-ing has become very popular during the last few winters, and competitions and tours, under the auspices of the Chateau d'Oex Ski Club, take place during the season. There are, as yet, no made toboggan runs, but the sport may be enjoyed on the streets leading from the village and on the hillside paths. Hotels: The Grand, the Berthod, and the Beau Sejour.

Davos Skating Rink, circa 1907

DAVOS is situated at an altitude of 5250 feet in the Canton des Grisons. For many years Davos was recognised as the principal training centre for speed and figure skaters. With the opening of the railway to St. Moritz, however, the latter resort has attracted many of the best skaters and Davos no longer retains the monopoly of former years. The public rink has an area of 18,300 square metres ; here many well-known speed skaters train during December and January. The lack of a reserved enclosure for figure skating is much felt, as on Sundays and other holidays the ice is usually in very bad condition owing to the crowds of children let loose upon it. The rink of the English Skating Club, 7500 square metres, is reserved principally for combined skating. An annual competition is held in January for the Club Challenge Bowl. The curling rink lies close to the others and has an area of 1700 square metres. The club plays frequent practice and inter-club contests during the season, the annual match with St. Moritz being the principal event. A fine expanse of natural ice on the Boden See occasionally affords excellent lake skating early in the season. After the first heavy snowfall, however, this is no longer available. Excellent tobogganing may be had on the Klosters road and
on the newly constructed Schatzalp run. Eor ski sport Davos is very favourably disposed. The Ski
Club organises long and short expeditions and tours, provides ski on hire, and retains the services of a thoroughly qualified guide and instructor. Bandy is played on a portion of the public rink, and an annual match is held alternately at St. Moritz and Davos. Victory in these contests has, we believe, always rested with the home team. Interesting ski expeditions may be made to Bremenbuhl (7348 feet), the Jacobshorn, the peak immediately facing the town of Davos, Kerbshorn (8625 feet), and the tour to Kublis by way of Wolfgang and the Parsenn Furka (7917 feet), from which a run of nearly ten miles to Kublis may be enjoyed. Good accommodation will be found at the following Hotels: The Fluelapost, the Angleterre, and the Belvedere.

ENGELBERG (3315 feet), situated in the Canton Unterwalden, the centre of Switzerland, is in the position of being able to cater adequately for all winter sports. There are good curling and skating rinks, and a new rink is being constructed which will have a circumference of 500 metres, and will be the headquarters of the Engelberg Skating Club;  there will be held international championships and competitions in figure and speed skating. The facilities for ski sport are good, and the following tours may be adapted to suit the capacity of the novice or expert: Titlis (10,629 feet); this is a somewhat exacting ascent, and it is usual to spend the night at the Triibsee hut ; Urirotstock (9620 feet) ; the Blankenalp (5833 feet) ; and the Joch Pass. A number of shorter excursions may also be arranged.
The interests of tobogganing and bob-sleighing are well looked after by the Kurverein and the Sports Club. There are excellent made runs ; that for bob-sleighs finishes at Grafenort, from whence the return journey may be made by electric railway. The Titlis, Grand, and Kuranstalt Hotels are modern and very comfortable.

Postcard of the Grindelwald resort

GRINDELWALD, one of the oldest and best known of winter resorts, is sufficiently high (3500 feet) to ensure to the visitor the enjoyment of whatever branch of winter sport he may affect. There are excellent skating rinks, and the Grindelwald Skating Club holds annual competitions in both styles, and in waltzing. The Bandy Club provides matches and practice from the end of December to the middle of February. The best ski tours are to the Schwarzhorn (8790 feet), the Faulhorn (8049 feet), and the Grosse Scheidegg (5850 feet). Hotels : The Bear, the Beau-Site, and the Eiger.

GRIIRNIGEL is situated at an altitude of 3800 feet on a spur of the Stockhorne range. It is twenty miles from Berne, the same from Thoune, rather less from Spiez. The station for Giirnigel is Thurnen, on the line from Berne, to Thoune vid Belp and the Giirbethal. From Thurnen the hotel is reached by sleigh in two and a half honrs. The baths of Giirnigel have been for more than a century a
favourite summer resort of Parisians and South Germans, but in winter the district has hitherto remained unvisited save by a few enterprising members of the Berne Ski Club who make occasional week-end trips to this most interesting Hinterland. The original Hotel was a vast structure of wood, dating from the eighteenth century. This was destroyed by fire in 1902, and the owners decided to erect a stone palace with every possible modern comfort. Giirnigel lies high above the fog level and the winters are, as a rule, more severe than at places of the same altitude in the Ehone Valley. That is to say, the snowfall is heavier, beginning earlier and lasting longer. On the shortest day the sunshine lasts nearly five hours, but as the mountains rise very gradually to the south the amount of daily sunshine increases very rapidly after January 5 and the rinks are soon in full sun for six hours daily. The curlers at Giirnigel are particularly favoured. Their rink, large enough for sis or eight matches, is just below the terrace, only a few steps from the hotel entrance. Scarcely less fortunate are the skaters. It is true that they are obliged to walk through the forest for five or six minutes, ascending 150 feet, but there they find two fine rinks in one corner of a seventy-acre clearing. At an altitude of nearly 4000 feet, in full sunshine and sheltered from the north and east, with magnificent views, they are hardly inferior to any rink in Switzerland. Tobogganers, too, are well catered for. Besides the made run, there are several paths through the woods, especially those below the hotel, which afford excellent lugeing. The bob-sleigh track begins at the hotel and, partly on the main carriage road, partly on a parallel by-road through the forest, runs at a good gradient as far as Eutti, about two miles and a half away. The contours are well banked and will be safe at any speed. Ski-runners will find Giirnigel a convenient touring centre. The great feature of the country is the extensive forest of over 4000 acres, covering the slopes of the hills for miles around. Many interesting ski-ing expeditions may be had from Giirnigel, including the excursion to the Obergiirnigel, the Seelibiihl and the Schwefelberg Bad.

KLOSTERS (4000 feet) was opened as a winter resort in 1905-6. Visitors to Davos have given currency to the idea that Klosters is down in a hole. This is because they generally get their idea of the place from tobogganing down the famous Klosters run the finest run in Switzerland - and they usually do so in the afternoon, when the sun has shifted from that side of the valley. At Klosters the sun rises early over the valley and gets on to the rink about 10 a.m., leaving it about 2.30 in mid-winter. It is unnecessary to say anything about the tobogganing for which Klosters is famous. The Grand Hotel Vereina has constructed a really good ice rink. Ski-ing slopes abound in every direction, and after three seasons Klosters may be considered to have got well under weigh as a winter resort.

LENZERHEIDE (4846 feet) is a little lonely hamlet, or rather cluster of buildings, consisting of one large hotel and two or three much smaller ones. It is four hours' sleigh drive from Chur on the Churwalden route to the Engadine. It was discovered by some old Grindelwald skaters, who formed what was called the Lenzerheide Winter Sports Club, though the place has now become a resort of the Public Schools Winter Sports Club. The rink at Lenzerheide covers about two acres, but the great
attraction of the place consists in its fine ski-ing slopes. In many places the ski-ing ground begins at some distance from the hotel and extends only in one direction, but at Lenzerheide it is possible to start on ski from the hotel, north, east or west, and to climb two or three thousand feet in any direction except south. Lenzerheide enjoys about five hours' sunshine in mid-winter. The Kurhaus and the Schweizerhof Hotels are comfortable and enjoy brilliant sunshine.

MONTANA (5000 feet) is the principal centre of the Public Schools Winter Sports Club, of which the Head Master of Eton is President, and Lord Koberts, Lord Lytton, and Mr. E. F. Benson, Vice-Presidents. It was from Montana that Lord Eoberts was summoned to take charge of the English forces in 1900. Montana is one of the most delightfully situated of all the Swiss resorts for those who like extended views. The Rhone Valley separates it from the Pennine and Savoy Alps, and the whole range of the Alps from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc is visible from a point 500 feet above the hotels. Montana possesses a number of artificial lakes which are said to date from Roman times, and were probably constructed for purposes of irrigation. As the great mountains on the south of the valley attract the rainfall, the mountains on the Montana side are exceedingly dry, and hence the necessity of irrigation. These lakes furnish excellent skating for the first few weeks of the winter before the snow falls. One of them is used by the Hotel du Pare (the oldest of the Montana hotels) as a skating rink throughout the season. The Palace Hotel, which is the headquarters of the Public Schools Winter Sports Club, possesses a large skating rink, but uses one of the lakes as a curling rink. This lake is emptied in the autumn and built up from the bottom. Montana has excellent toboggan runs, including a not very ambitious ice-run and a long snow run from Vermala 500 feet
above the Montana Hotels. Ski-ing is a most popular sport at Montana, and the excursions that can be made on ski are very numerous. The slopes of the Wildstrubel, the Tubang, and the Wildhorn, give excellent opportunities to the more ambitious ski-runners, and the journey from Montana to Adelboden has been accomplished several times on ski, passing over the Plaine Morte Glacier to the Wildstrubel hut, where the night may be spent, and then starting early on the following day and ski-ing down to Lenk, proceeding thence by the Hahnemoos Pass to Adelboden. One of the greatest charms of Montana is the sunshine, which lasts for 7§ hours daily in mid-winter, a longer period than that enjoyed by any other Swiss resort.

Postcard of girl performing a shoot the duck in St. Moritz

ST. MORITZ is probably the best known and most popular of winter resorts. It is situated in the upper Engadine at a higher altitude, 6187 feet, than any of its rivals. Ample facilities for skating, tobogganing, curling, ski-ing, &c, are to be found at St. Moritz, and both for outdoor and indoor amusements it is second to none. The three principal Hotels, the Palace, the Kulm, and the Grand, have large private rinks, and several of the smaller hotels are similarly provided, though on a less ambitious scale. There is also a public rink under the control of the Kurverein. The St. Moritz International Skating Club, which has Lord Lytton as its president and numbers among its members most of the leading international skaters, has its headquarters at the Palace Hotel, where tuition in skating may be obtained from Herr Meyer, the well-known Swedish professional. Competitions and tests are held by the club during January and February. The St. Moritz Skating Association is located at the Kulm Hotel. With the advent of a Swiss Skating Association, affiliated to the International Skating Union, an amalgamation of the two St. Moritz clubs has been suggested, and will probably be shortly effected. The bandy players and curlers have their several rinks under the control of their respective clubs. One of the chief attractions of St. Moritz is the famous Cresta run, the finest toboggan run in the world. Danger is reduced to a minimum nowadays on the Cresta; but for beginners, and those who are not ambitious to travel at something approaching sixty miles an hour, the village run may be recommended. For 'bobs' a specially constructed run, banked and iced, has been recently built, owing to the increase of traffic on the only road available for the sport. Trotting races and driving on ski take place on the lake in February. The latter is a very pretty sport, recently introduced from the north of Europe, in which horses are driven by competitors on ski. Ski jumping contests are held in the neighbourhood of St. Moritz, and, before the snow arrives, splendid skating may be enjoyed on the St. Moritz lake, and the lakes of Sils and Silvaplana. Ski tours may be made from St. Moritz to the Laret Alp (6893 feet), Piz Nair (9945 feet), and by Suvrettasee and Beverstal to Spinas, returning by rail.

Pairs skaters in Villars, circa 1930

VILLARS-SUR-OLLON (4250 feet) was first opened during the winter in 1905-6. It is beautifully situated in a sort of amphitheatre surrounded by the heights of the Diablerets, Dent de Morcle, Chamossaire and other smaller peaks, while the Aiguilles of the Mont Blanc range are visible at a distance of forty or fifty miles. The greatest attraction of Villars in winter is undoubtedly the excellent skating rink, which is one of the three or four largest in Switzerland, with an area of about 10,000 square metres (2 acres). There is also a good curling rink. The ice toboggan run is probably the best run of the kind to be found in Switzerland outside Canton Grisons. The Alpine Ski Trophy, presented by Mr. W. E. Rickmers, a member of the English, Swiss, and German Alpine Clubs, has been contested for at Villars during the last two years on the slopes of the Chamossaire, which are well adapted for ski-ing. An interesting long ski excursion may be made from Villars over the Col de la Croix to the Diablerets, and thence to Gstaad and Launen on the Montreux-Oberland route. Villars is one of the sunniest places in the Alps, having 6 hours of sunshine in mid-winter. Hotels: The Grand and the Bellevue."

I know what you're probably thinking. God love Madge and Edgar Syers, but why in the hell did he have to include all of that? I wanted to illustrate not only the number and variety of winter resorts that offered excellent figure skating facilities but also to allow you to gain a broader knowledge of some of the historical development that took place quickly, particularly the shift from Davos to St. Moritz as 'the preferred spot' for skaters. In the mention of the Lenzerheide resort, it is evident that this is indeed the same rink that Brown referred to in his 1959 book. With the wealth of information out there about the popularity of skating in Switzerland during this era, one could easily write a whole series of books but I think this primer will certainly suffice to give you an understanding as to the early development of the phenomenon. It all sounds rather magical.

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

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Juliet Stanton Adee, A Skater I Can't Say Impressed Me

Juliet Stanton Adee and Dr. Raynham Townshend on their sloop Nutmeg. Photo courtesy Mystic Seaport, The Museum Of America And The Sea.

Most times I dive into researching the stories of skaters, I like what I find. However, in the case of today's subject, Juliet Stanton Adee, a couple of key things kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Let's dive in, shall we?

Born January 3, 1881 in Westchester County, New York, Juliet Stanton Adee was one of four children of lawyer George Augustus Adee and his wife Adelaide Palmer Stanton. Juliet had one sister, Ellen, and two brothers, George and Charles. Raised in The Bronx in relative affluence, her family had three Irish servants, a cook named Rachael, a maid named Mary and a waitress named Bridget. Growing up as the daughter of a lawyer afforded Juliet a certain degree of social standing and the family had a constant presence in the New York newspaper society pages at the time. Whether it was a luncheon, a wedding or a country club tea, there was a Juliet Stanton Adee.

Early in the first decade of the twentieth century, Juliet won golfing titles for several years back to back while visiting at Profile House in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire and became quite the star as a double's lawn tennis player, winning a contest in 1905 with C. Frederick Watson, Jr. and another later on with partner Martha Coster. As a tennis player, she was described as "untiringly aggressive". Many of her lawn tennis matches were actually played during the summer at the St. Nicholas Rink, which was of course a skating rink in the winter. It was there that she seriously took up skating, hobnobbing with New York high society and mastering school figure after school figure. The "untiringly aggressive" Juliet also developed a rivalry at the St. Nicholas Rink with an actress who skated there regularly named Miss Clare Cassel. Remember that name. It'll pop up again shortly.

On June 4, 1908, Juliet married a Yale graduate and house surgeon who worked at Roosevelt Hospital named Dr. Raynham Townshend, the son of Charles H. Townshend, at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Westchester. The June 4, 1908 issue of "The Sun" described her dress as "of white satin with point lace tulle and orange blossoms." It was a posh affair, being the marriage of a doctor and the daughter of a lawyer, with a reception at the local country club. After the wedding, the newlyweds moved to Connecticut (where Juliet's mother was born) so that Dr. Townshend could open his own practice in New Haven. In June 1912, Juliet had her first child, a daughter.

You'll remember that the first recognized U.S. Championships were held in New Haven. That's where Raynham and Juliet come in. In early 1914, the New Haven Skating Club was founded with Dr. Raynham Townshend as its President. With New York high hatter Irving Brokaw promoting and recruiting entries for the competition that March, of course Juliet, who he'd skated with at the St. Nicholas Rink and was the wife of the club's president, was asked to enter. Enter she did, but things didn't go so well. The young mother was a bit out of her league and finished a distant third behind winner Theresa Weld Blanchard and silver medallist Edith Rotch. And so her competitive figure skating career began and ended with a fizzle.

Claire Cassel
Juliet remained active in the New Haven skating community for many years as the wife of the club's first President. She had a second child, a son. However, two years after losing the U.S. title, her past seemed to resurface in a most interesting way. Juliet's older brother George was President of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association. In 1906, he found himself embroiled in controversy when he barred none other than Miss Clare Cassel, Juliet's old rival from the St. Nicholas Rink, from competing in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Championships because she had given figure skating lessons for money. Quoted in the December 3, 1916 issue of "The Pittsburgh Press", George stated, "Section 4 of Article 2 [of our by-laws] reads: 'An amateur is one who has not played, instructed, pursued or assisted in the pursuit of tennis or other athletic exercise as a means of livelihood or for gain or any emolument.' Under this rule a person who gives skating lessons for pay automatically forfeits his or her amateur standing." Cassell, who also gave skating exhibitions and was a former New York Skating Champion, was obviously not too pleased with his decision.

If that didn't rub you the wrong way, there's this... If you think back to Lottie Dod and other women of that era who excelled at not only skating but several other sports, you would kind of assume that they would be in favour of women's rights. In the case of Juliet, it was quite the opposite. She was an ardent, vocal and frequent anti-suffragist. Not only did she serve as treasurer for the Connecticut Association Opposed To Woman's Suffrage, she also regularly gave speeches in opposition to women having the right to vote at functions attended by many visiting guests. She fit the bill of most female anti-suffragists to a tee: a well-to-do, white, privileged doctor's wife from old money who wanted to cling on to an arcane system and way of life that was to her benefit.

Later in life, she served as Vice-President of the Woman's Auxiliary of the American Legion Of Connecticut and was commissioner of New Haven's chapter of The Girl Guides, where she regularly organized skating parties for the girls involved. To her credit, she was also actively involved in the American Red Cross blood bank for over sixty years. Her husband passed away in January 31, 1940 and she followed twenty two years later on July 21, 1962 at the age of eighty one. She's buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven.

Was her legacy that of a well-to-do woman who pursued athletics at a time when women participating was frowned upon by many? A vocal detractor of the women's suffrage movement? That of someone who quite likely had a hand in the end of the career of one of her former sporting rivals? When you add those pieces together, it doesn't paint a very pretty picture. We do have to remember that what we truly know of this skater's story is shaped by what is on public record. She may have been a wonderful mother, a kind person and a fabulous skater. We don't and probably will never know her whole story, just as we will never know the whole story of any skater competing today. We can paint people with whatever brush we choose to, but we have to accept that in many cases these perceptions are - let's face it - sometimes unfair.

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

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The 1948 European Figure Skating Championships

From January 13 to 15, 1948, Prague played host to many of the world's top figure skaters at the 1948 European Figure Skating Championships. The event was of historical interest for several reasons. It was held in an Olympic year, marked the final time that non-European skaters were permitted to compete at the European Championships and was by all accounts held in absolutely dreadful weather conditions.

Skaters were up and on the ice as early as four in the morning and tracing figures in the pouring rain. In the days preceding the competition, the stadium where the event was held was rented to the public during the day and so figure skating practices took second fiddle. As for the weather, an eleven degree thaw left the ice under more than an inch of water. An emergency meeting of judges and officials was held to determine whether to carry on with the competition and it was agreed to go forward. On January 14, 1948, "The Ottawa Citizen" reported, "A small section at one end of the rink was roped off for the figure judging and motor driven scrapers went over the rest of the rink, trying to level it off."  Many felt the ridged ice created by the motor scrapers only made ice conditions worse but the competition started on time and to make matters worse, high winds whipped across the ice, making the execution of school figures particularly treacherous. It was all a bit of a soupy, hot mess. Nevertheless, the skaters suffered through and took to the ice.


In the pairs competition, Hungarians Andrea Kékesy and Ede Király were the unanimous choice of the judges, who included future ISU President Ernest Labin, World and European Medallist Elemér Terták and Canadian and North American Champion Melville Rogers. The victory of the Hungarians was particularly impressive in that it was their very first trip to the European Championships... or any international competition for that matter. Finishing second in front of a home audience were Czechs Blažena Knittlová and Karel Vosátka. In third were Austrian siblings Herta and Emil Ratzenhofer. Two British teams - Joan Thompson and Robert Ogilvie and Jennifer and John Nicks - finished in fourth and fifth, each earning one second place ordinal apiece.


Englewood, New Jersey's Dick Button had his reservations about entering his first and only European Championships in the weeks leading up to the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz. His success or failure, he believed, had the power to affect both his own confidence and the judge's opinion of his skating. Ultimately, he decided to give the judges a sneak peak of his Olympic program and sailed to Europe aboard the Queen Mary in December 1947 with his mother, training in Switzerland before heading to Prague to compete. In his book "Dick Button On Skates", Uncle Dick provides a detailed account of his experience competing in Prague in 1948: "Conditions were miserable as we began the school figure competition. The wind was capricious. Often it would slow down a skater in one direction on his figure, and then shift so that he had no help back to the center of the eight. At times the abrupt gusts stopped a skater, and left him stranded, embarrassingly, on an incomplete figure. With the unpredictable 'pushing' and “bucking” of the breeze, it was very difficult to put down one's best figure. A warm, slow drizzle and the wind played even more tricks on the skaters assembled in the Czech skating rink. The stadium was built on a small island at the fork of a river flowing through the city. The winds swept down upon the fork and across the ice of the rink. Together the wind and rain warmed the surface so much that the freezing pipes were ineffective for the top inch of ice and a rippling pool of water soon covered the rink. With such conditions it was impossible to see the tracing of a school figure and often impossible even to complete an edge. The competition became a test of skaters and the elements; it was clear the contender who made fewest mistakes would win. Luck played against me at first. In a [counter], I was left stranded on my closing edge, as I lost a gamble to outwit the breeze. I had hoped that even if the wind did slow me down at the wrong moment, my finishing edge would be with my back to the wind and I would speed home. The only difficulty was that the wind failed to continue blowing and I could only force the last edge hoping for a high mark on style if nothing else. Then Dame Fortune smiled. Just before the fifth figure, I seized a squeegee from rinkside and pushed as much water as I could downwind, leaving myself a small patch of ice on which the tracings could be seen. The figure to be skated was a loop-change- loop backward, which, with the soft knee action I was using, was exactly suited to soft ice. That cleaning may have saved my competitive career, because I won the figure, a very important one due to its difficulty. With the help of the squeegee, I led [Hans Gerschwiler] in points. My total was 749 points to 747.8 for the Swiss, but he led in placings by 14 to 15 for me. The conditions of the day had been so unsatisfactory that a true estimation of any skater's ability was impossible. But it did indicate that I could lead in points despite the difficulty of judging, and the weather which was so trying to 'hot-house' indoor skaters." Button and Gerschwiler weren't without their challengers. Labin had Austria's Edi Rada first on the first figure whereas Hungarian judge favoured pairs champion Ede Király on the fifth.

In the free skating that followed, Uncle Dick made history as the first and only non-European skater to claim the European title, narrowly defeating Gerschwiler with first place votes from all but the Czechoslovakian judge. Captain T.D. Richardson felt that a factor in Gerschwiler's loss may have been attributed to stress and malnutrition from British rationing: He wrote that Gerschwiler was a "first-rate free skater, but when it came to competitions, so early after the war, when all young British athletes as well as those who had elected to stay here, were still suffering from nervous strain - especially those who had remained in London as Hans had done - as well as from the malnutrition inevitable amongst those who did not come into the category of 'workers,' he was not able to reproduce his true form under the tense excitement of a European or World Championship." In contrast, Uncle Dick recalled his victory thusly: "I felt satisfied with my performance except on one point. In my program, I had included a double Axel, a jump which up to that time had not been performed in European or world competition. I had been unable to perform it perfectly by revolving two and one-half complete turns to make a full 'clean' landing... On the whole I was able to skate well under the pressure and knew as soon as the judges raised their cards that I was European Champion. Hans [Gerschwiler] came over to me immediately, and in his pleasant way offered congratulations. The placings were 11 for me and 18 for Hans. Rada was third and Király fourth...The Lord Mayor of Prague was host at a ceremonial banquet and ball following the finals, and the skaters broke all the weeks of training at the enthusiastic supper dance." Unfortunately, before the competitors enjoyed their fancy banquet, they had to contend with overzealous photographers. On January 17, 1948, "The Montreal Gazette" reported, "Standing at the rinkside watching the performance of Button, Miss [Barbara Ann] Scott said 'that was nice' as the New Jersey youngster came off the ice and he returned the compliment with a kiss on the Canadian's forehead. Photographers immediately demanded a 'redo' and the pair obliged... [Button] then put his arm around Barbara Ann's waist, kissed her on the lips, and the crowd went frantic. 'More! More!' they cried and the principals obliged again."


Barbara Ann Scott and Eva Pawlik

Barbara Ann Scott left for Europe in December 1947, part of her expenses of travelling to Czechslovakia and Switzerland for the European Championships, Winter Olympics and World Championships defrayed by Ottawa mayor Stanley Lewis' 'Mayor Of Ottawa Fund'. After days of rainy early morning practices, she took to the ice to skate her school figures in a pale yellow doeskin dress with white angora mitts, a single strand of pearls, an armband with her starting position and her signature bonnet. On her shoulder, she wore a navy Canadian flash embroidered with gold. She described the blustery conditions as "troublesome" and the ice ended up being so bad that after the first two figures, the women were given a half-hour break while sweepers tried to make the ice somewhat usable. In her book "Skate With Me", Scott recalled, "The water had melted the ice down and it was all bumpy, but not covered with water now - now it was slush. That same wind was blowing, harsh and mean and strong. I felt quite happy, for I had the Number 11 armband - I think eleven is as lucky as seven... The newspapers had been speaking a good deal of Jeanette Altwegg, of England, and Eva Pawlik, of Austria. I never have spent much time listening to dressing-room gossip, to people saying, 'Oh, she's skating divinely,' or 'She never got over that fall and is simply frightful,' or things like that. I think it is better to stay away from all that. People may think you are a little aloof not to join in, but it is my experience that you are better off in the long run if you don't. I knew that these two girls were very good but they had the same conditions to face that I had, so I just went to work and made the best of it." After taking off her skates and warming up with a cup of tea and a chocolate bar, Scott returned to skate her final four figures. She took a decisive four point lead ahead of her Czechoslovakian training mate Jiřína Nekolová. Alena Vrzáňová, Eva Pawlik, Jeannette Altwegg, Bridget Shirley Adams and Dagmar Lerchová followed in places third through seventh.

The January 16, 1948 Czechoslovakian newspaper "Svobodne slovo", which Dr. Roman Seeliger graciously translated for me offered general recaps of the performances of the top women's performances:

"Scott: light green. A well organized free program for sure, but the audience was not so much fascinated by her as by Button. Highest marks: 5.9-5.9
Pawlik: black. Full of courage. She persuades the audience. Her Viennese tunes help her a lot. She feels the rhythm. Highest marks: 5.7-5.7
Vrzanova: violet. Performed her program well, but not more. Slowly, without temperament. Highest marks: 5.6-5.6
Nekolova: light blue. Great transitions, a good copy of Gerschwiler's Rhapsody in blue. But it was the vivacity/liveliness/brio she lacked. Highest marks: 5.6-5.6
Altwegg: light blue. Heavy and slow music, reminding of a funeral procession. Unclean jumps. She was rated too high. Highest marks: 5.5-5.5"

Scott's coach Sheldon Galbraith recalled, "the free skating portion of the program took place during the evening, and the place was packed to capacity. She started her routine and was about one minute and fifteen seconds into it when the record-playing needle slid off the record. The phonograph records of the period were 78rpm and the needle vibrated sideways in its track to create the sound. The groove had been worn too much to hold onto its track. These records were made with a thin layer of material poured onto a round aluminum platter. They were guaranteed for six plays and then only if you used a cactus needle! Barbara Ann's solo record was turned onto its reverse side where a backup copy was located. Barbara Ann returned to her starting place in due course and resumed her performance. It was a solid skate and she had successfully defended her title as European Champion! Amazingly due to the record problems, she had skated a total of five minutes and fifteen seconds!" Scott recalled that after landing three back-to-back Axels, "I got as far as the spin when all of a sudden there was a great squeak and the record stopped. I thought for a second: 'Now what shall I do? Shall I stop? Will that count against me? Shall I go on without the music?' But of course every step of my program is set to a certain part of the music, so if I kept going and the record was put on again the chances were that I wouldn't be able to synchronize with it. I had four minutes and no more... So I skated to the starting place and waited. Fortunately the referee agreed with me that that was the right thing to do. When the record went on again I started from the beginning. his is a kind of situation for which it is well to be mentally adjusted ahead of time. It is necessary to remain calm always and not let the errors of anyone else or any mechanical failure throw you off. I was not penalized. All seven judges placed me first, with Eva Pawlik coming in second. It was said that my score was the highest ever awarded in Prague, seven placings and 181.6 points." In a January 29, 1948 letter, Barbara's travelling mate Margaret McGuiness wrote, "I nearly swallowed my mitten when I heard the music fade out. Barbara Ann stopped pirouetting, looked at Sheldon, then skated back into her take-off position. She really skated with confidence and style. No wonder, with lucky #11 on the arm-band of her green costume. Green is one of her lucky colours."

The January 25, 1948 issue of the "Wochenzeitung der Österreichischen Jugend" offered a wonderful account of the event from Pawlik's perspective: "She felt some anger as she had seen the programs and the marks of her rivals. When she skated to the middle of the ice she said to herself: 'I shall show to all of them that I am able to skate well even if they don´t want to see it. I don´t skate to reach the fourth place. I am skating for my recognition in the world. I cannot lose, I can only win. I have to reach the second place.' Eva swayed to her Viennese music, showed her fast spins and high jumps. The audience was immediately thrilled by her performance. The applause was rising immensely, when Eva stopped her last spin exactly in the moment of the last note of her music. The audience´s enthusiasm was only interrupted by a hail of catcalls when the judges raised their marks that were lower than those for Scott. Facing the marks the audience was acclaiming Eva even more frenetically, because in the spectators´opinion Eva was the real Queen of Europe. In that very moment things changed: All of a sudden, the photographers were surrounding Eva and everyone was interested in her. Even though she could not win the Championships, the unmistakable sustained applause had shown her that her free program had called the world's attention... The joy was great. She had reached the goal to be Europe's best lady skater. For it was a bit strange that a Canadian had become European Champion. They say that next year the Europeans shall be restricted to European skaters. By the way, that should have always gone without saying." Dr. Roman Seeliger recalled, "My mother often told me the following story: With a smile on her face, Barbara Ann Scott applauded Eva Pawlik at the skating exhibition in Prague. Feeling that the audience was not in favour of her, the Canadian star behaved in a very diplomatic way."

Like Button in the men's event, Barbara Ann's victory would mark the final time a woman representing a non-European nation would claim gold at the European Championships. Although Canadians were justifiably overjoyed by her win, many of the European skaters participating felt perhaps justifiably frustrated. Uncle Dick noted that both Pawlik and Vrzáňová had skated with particular ease and given Barbara Ann a run for her money. Roman Seeliger, the son of Eva Pawlik, recalled that "It was hard for [Eva] to accept that the European crown was not awarded to her, but to a non-European skater. It goes without saying that Barbara Ann Scott from Canada was a wonderful and glamorous skater. But that did not change the fact that Eva Pawlik was the best-ranked European lady figure skater at the 1948 European Championship but was awarded only the silver medal."

At an exhibition following the competition, it was Pawlik's turn to encounter the same 'technical difficulties' that befell Scott in the competition. The January 17, 1948 issue of the "Svobodne slovo" reported, "It was Pawlik´s turn to show her dance on the ice. First there was no music at all. A disappointment for Europe's best lady skater. A bit later some music could be heard, but it was not Pawlik's music. Again they tried to play the right tune, but again it was not her music. The Austrian skater was terribly cold. She seemed to [pantomime a plea] for the right music. That did not help. They did not find the right music within 10 minutes. So Gerschwiler and Button showed their programs before Pawlik. But not even in the very end of the skating exhibition they could find Pawlik's gramophone record. So the silver medallist skated to some other music to conciliate to the furious audience that emphatically wanted to see her skating. A very big applause was in a certain sense also the audience´s excuse for the shame in the studio."

In a case of all's well that end's well, the three men who medalled in Prague all placed in the exact same order at the Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Barbara Ann Scott became the first Olympic Gold Medallist in figure skating from Canada... and Eva Pawlik won the European title the following year in Milan, Italy. All's well that ends well!

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