Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Sister Knows Best: The Raymonde du Bief Story


"The year that I first started to skate, my sister Raymonde was already a 'starlet', a kind of enfant terrible, and wherever I went I was always known as Raymonde's little sister. It took me many years before i was known simply as Jacqueline." - Jacqueline du Bief, "Thin Ice", 1956

"Hello, it's me. I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet..." No, I'm not about to break into an Adele song. I'm just preparing to introduce you to one of the most eclectic French skaters I've encountered while sifting through skating's equally eclectic history. I touched on Raymonde du Bief ever so briefly in the biographical sketch of her younger sister, who is of course 1952 World Champion Jacqueline du Bief. However, I think you'll soon realize why I wanted to give Raymonde her own chance to glisten in the Skate Guard spotlight.


Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Raymonde was eight when she first took to the ice with her younger sister. Though she showed promise while hustling around the ice on the city's frozen lakes, she opted to delay formal instruction in skating until she had studied ballet, believing the two went hand in hand. After becoming proficient at the bar, she came up with the idea of using ballet slippers on ice skates in place of the high laced boots fashionable at the time. Interviewed for an April 15, 1953 publicity piece with The Associated Press, du Bief explained that though it seemed "an almost unbelievable idea due to the fact that in skating the ankles need the added support... [she] had developed her ankles to a point where they did not require the support most skaters need. After finding a manufacturer who could make such a pair of skates and ballet slippers, [I] took to the ice."

Already you can gain a sense of the fact that Raymonde's path was certainly unconventional, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. When she wasn't honing her craft on her ballet slipper skates, she was racing around the rink on speed skates. In January 1937, she won the French women's speed skating title in Superbagnères, beating the French record for five hundred metres. That same year, she was also the French junior women's figure skating champion.

Raymonde's big break came in 1938, when she turned professional at the age of twelve and appeared at the historic Théâtre Mogador in Mitty Goldin's play "La féerie blanche". In the second act, an ice floor was unveiled and there was Raymonde, performing a foxtrot on ice - in HOCKEY skates - alongside the brilliant Belita Jepson-Turner. The January 9, 1938 issue of "Le Matin: derniers télégrammes de la nuit" described her as a "a charming vision of fantasy whose prowess remains an elegant and perfect art." The January 15, 1938 issue of "Le Monde illustré, Miroir du monde" noted that her performance of was "more than remarkable."

Raymonde was doing things that female (let alone male) figure skaters simply didn't do at the time and the people of Paris were eating her innovative approach right up. She continued to entertain the people of France during the bleak years of World War II. Jeanine Hagnauer, in her 1968 book "Patinage sur glace : historique", wrote "During these war years, many sought [to be like] Raymonde. [Not interested in] the classic skating, she created a personal style full of charm. Those who saw her number in tails and top hat, cane in hand, keep [it as] an unalterable memory."



After surviving the Nazi occupation of Paris and World War II, Raymonde headed to Jolly Old England, where she skated in the Tom Arnold ice pantomimes. In 1948, she appeared in Richard Pottier's film "L'aventure commence demain" alongside Isa Miranda, Raymond Rouleau and André Luguet. This film appearance sparked contracts for appearances in France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. She toured with the Continental Ice Revue and Scala Eisrevue and in 1949 penned the instructional figure skating book "Le Patinage, Sport d'Élite", which was published by Vigot Frères.


With her book came considerable attention and invitations to perform overseas in North America. She toured first with Ice Capades and then with John H. Harris' Ice Cycles (Canada and U.S. tour) alongside Margaret Field and Jimmy Lawrence, Marshall Garrett and Bob and June Ballard. Her appearances in the "Gypsy Gold" and "Birds Of A Feather" acts drew tremendous praise from audiences in Canada and the United States.



In 1953, she returned to live on rue de l'Abbé-Groult in Paris' Javel quarter and for a time, starred in her own travelling French ice revue called Paris On Ice. By the later fifties, she turned her attention to coaching. In 1973, shhe worked with a young blind speed skater who was competing in the first International Winter Games For The Handicapped, a precursor to the Winter Paralympic Games, which was held in Courchevel.


The supporting characters in other people's stories often don't get the recognition they are absolutely due but Raymonde du Bief's insistence that dance come first and skating come second and her pursuit of performance art over point tallying offer what I think are two important lessons many skaters could still learn from today. I don't know about you, but I'll always have a place in my heart for skaters who do things on their own terms and Raymonde du Bief was absolutely one of those skaters.

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

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Sensation From Skövde: The Henning Grenander Story


The son of Alfred and Julia (Hvalström) Grenander, Henning Gunnar Esaias Grenander was born August 4, 1873 in Skövde, Västergötland, Sweden. His father was a banker and he was one of seven siblings. He got his start on the ice as a school boy in Skaraborg. "At my school skating was actually made compulsory. We had to go to a neighbouring rink two or three times a week for the purpose of practicing." he recalled in "The Boy's Old Annual". By the age of fourteen, he won a school competition in skating in Stockholm, which according to "Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, Volume 33", he followed up with wins at junior competitions in several Swedish towns. Two years later at age sixteen, he was considered age eligible to compete against 'the big boys' in the senior ranks.


Though he represented the Stockholms Allmanna Skridskoklubb when he started competing
internationally, Grenander's considerable talent led to an invitation to train at Prince's Skating Club in Montpelier Square, London as a protege of The Duchess Of Bedford, who was an early advocate in England for skaters practicing the Continental Style. He first gained attention internationally when he appeared at the controversially judged 1893 European Championships in Berlin as a twenty year old then disappeared from the competitive arena for five years... but disappear from the ice he did not.


Grenander was known as one of the finest skaters in the Continental Style of his era and particularly so as an excellent free skater with much flexibility and grace. He wore pointed skates and included spirals in his free skating program, which was the exception and not the norm at the time. In his 1930 book "Modern Figure Skating", T.D. Richardson noted that "Mr. Henning Grenander used to make a very beautiful figure out of them, and at his speed, it is difficult to conceive any one footed movement more attractive, particularly when used in conjunction with toe spins or loops." Although best remembered as an exemplary free skater, his school figures were far from shoddy. Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams wrote in 1900 of Grenander: "He is certainly the finest performer of loops I ever saw."

In 1896, Grenander demonstrated the Continental Style at the National Skating Palace in London. Two years later, he returned to the National Skating Palace and won the World title, defeating two previous World Champions and earning both admirers and detractors. Though practitioners of the English Style abhorred his style of skating, Grenander's graceful free skating sparked a whole era of copycats in both England and Continental Europe. Arthur Cumming, the British skater who claimed the silver medal in the special figures event at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, literally followed him around like a puppy at Prince's and attempted to copy his every move.

Grenander's special figures, circa 1892

Captain T.D. Richardson noted, "Everyone, with of course varying degrees of success, tried hard to emulate the wonderful style of the graceful young athlete Grenander: in fact I think one is justified in saying that his extempore demonstrations on Sunday afternoon, when quite spontaneously, all the skaters would clear a large space in the middle of the rink and, no matter who was giving the usual formal exhibition, Henning would signal to the orchestra, which would perform quietly some waltz or mazurka or other piece, and he would play about just as the mood and the music made him. There was no set programme, and what is more there was no jealousy or annoyance by the advertised exhibitioners none that I ever heard."




Grenander remained in London and divided his time between 'medical practice' (giving Swedish massages) and teaching skating at the Prince's Club. He was rather popular with the ladies too. Aristocrat Sydney Freeman-Mitford, The Baroness Redesdale wrote in her diary of her affection for her skating instructor: "I would do almost anything he asked me. I would let him call me Sydney, I would even let him kiss me." We don't know if The Baroness ever got to play tonsil hockey with the Swedish masseur, but it wasn't long before he was off the market. He met his wife Isabella Wilson on - of all places - the ice. They tied the knot on November 21, 1901 in Marylebone, London at the Parish Church of All Saints Margaret Street.


The Grenander's wintered at the popular skating resorts in St. Moritz. Harry Stone, the author of "Ski Joy: The Story of Winter Sports" recalled the couple's visits to the Swiss skating resorts thusly: "Very good looking, (Grenander) would simply idle around the rink. Suddenly, apparently just as the mood took him, he would break into a dazzling display of world competition standard, for he had been world champion in 1898 and had given the first exhibition of the Continental style in London. After attracting quite a crowd, he would just as suddenly break off and start skating ordinarily as though he was quite another person. His wife owned the famous dress shop Lucille. So she was not given to wearing black tights but a multitude of different coloured petticoats which frothed as she whirled round the rink."


T.H. Deane of Knightsbridge, London manufactured 'The Grenander', a design of round toed iron skate popularized by the Swedish star. Grenander continued to command attention on the ice well into his forties, partnering two time World Pairs Champion Phyllis (Squire) Johnson in Valsing competitions at the Prince's Club. Even after World War I, skaters were still emulating his style... or being taught by coaches who did. Although often overshadowed by his Swedish successors Ulrich Salchow and Gillis Grafström, he has been largely ignored in modern accounts of figure skating history largely because he really didn't enter many competitions... which is unfortunately often the measure of one's true impact on the sport.


Surviving two World Wars, Henning Grenander passed away on March 11, 1958 at the age of eighty five. At the time of his death, he was retired and living at the Ashley Court Hotel in Torquay, England. How incredible it must have been for him to see free skating develop as it did and how unfortunate it is today that his influence hasn't been the credit it duly deserves.

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

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The 1932 Winter Olympic Games

Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially opening the 1932 Winter Olympic Games

The 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York were really a prime example of something coming together marvellously at the eleventh hour. Construction of venues in what was then only a village of less than three thousand began only two years before the Winter Games made their first trip to North America. However, just a few days before the Games began, the village had no snow. It wasn't until February 3, 1932 that the sky opened up and a blizzard blanketed the ground just in time for the opening ceremonies of the Games the very next day.

American stamp designed in conjunction with the Lake Placid Games

Three hundred and sixty four athletes from seventeen countries were in attendance and although the figure skating competitions in New York were held decades before Olympic coverage was televised, America and the world were transfixed on the newly built two thousand seat indoor arena and every figure, step and spin performed on the ice surface that February.


The excitement on the ice all really started the month before. Many figure skaters from outside of the U.S. came to the country on passenger liners by way of New York, where they performed exhibitions before heading to Lake Placid in mid-January. As they arrived to practice in the newly completed indoor rink, audiences - and judges - were already filling the seats. The Official Olympic Report of the Games compiled by George M. Lattimer notes that "afternoon and evening during this pre-Olympic period the huge building was thronged with spectators. They were entranced with the grace, artistry, and ease with which the ranking ice stars executed the difficult figures."

Gillis Grafström and Karl Schäfer in Lake Placid

In the March 1932 edition of "Skating" magazine, Joel Liberman (the referee of the men's event) noted that defending Olympic Gold Medallist "Gillis Grafström immediately upon his arrival exhibited his Tango, Waltz and Swedish Mazurka, all containing skating moves definitely composed and adapted to a set piece of music." Another defending Olympic Champion, Norwegian Sonja Henie, established herself as something of a media darling with the American press. She also got hit on at the Cellar A.C. (athletic club) bar at the Belmont Hotel (where scotch was only fifty cents) by a newsman from Park Avenue. Her father and manager Wilhelm 'Papa' Henie sent him running.

Clipping featuring Sonja Henie, Megan Taylor and Yvonne de Ligne

The figure skating events began on February 8, 1932 with the men's compulsory figures. Three-time Olympic Gold Medallist Grafström looked unbeatable on paper as the three time and defending Olympic Champion. However, in his late thirties and hampered by an injury sustained when he dropped a camera on his knee, he almost withdrew before the event even began. Even if he hadn't been injured, he also had the much younger Karl Schäfer of Austria nipping at his heels.

Speaking of nip, you have to wonder if Grafström filled up a flask at the Belmont Hotel competing. He was rumoured to have taken more than a few swigs when he was sick at the Chamonix Olympics... and in Lake Placid he performed the wrong figure entirely in one case. Don't know. Just saying. At any rate, Grafström ended up with 1496.0 points to Schäfer's 1553.0 and had a lot of ground to make up if he wanted to make his Olympic gold medal count four. In third place was Bud Wilson of Canada with 1477.6 points; in fourth Marcus Nikkanen of Finland with 1450.8.


Sportswriter Howard Bass made an apt and perhaps glaringly obvious observation in his 1971 "International Encyclopedia Of Winter Sports" that usually rang true even back in the dirty thirties: "In how many sports do the majority of supporters only watch half of a championship? This is a novel aspect of figure skating. The spectacular appeal of of freestyle jumps and spins magnetises capacity stadium crowds... but the compulsory figures which precede all this usually take place at a comparatively deserted rink, in a hushed atmosphere of almost cathedral-like dignity, when a sudden burst of laughter would seem quite out of place." Although that was true ninety nine percent of the time, the women's school figures at the Lake Placid Games - held the next day on February 9, 1932 - were a marked exception.

Sonja Henie in Lake Placid

Perhaps owing to the Sonja sensation, the rink was quite packed for the women's school figures. The competition started early in the morning and took up much of the afternoon, and after the six prescribed figures had been performed, Sonja Henie had amassed a seventy point lead over American Maribel Vinson-Owen and Austria's Fritzi Burger.

Sketch of the Olympic Stadium

Let's move on to the men's free skate, held on the evening of February 9, 1932. George and Stephen Ortloff's wonderful 1976 book "Lake Placid: The Olympic Years 1932-1980" noted: "The music was live, played by a military band in one section of the crowded bandstands, and all the competitors skated to the same tune: a medley that began with that big-top favourite, 'Orpheus In The Underworld'." I guess it could have been worse and everyone could have picked "Phantom Of The Opera" like in the 2014/2015 season. And yes, I just made that shudder that Sideshow Bob made every time he stepped on a rake on The Simpsons.

Men's competitors in Lake Placid

Grafström couldn't catch a break and had to settle for silver in the most ironic of ways. After injuring himself by dropping a heavy camera on himself before the competition, in his free skate he collided with a photographer. Karl Schäfer ended up taking the gold with a very strong performance that left him with an almost eighty eight point lead. Canada's Bud Wilson was over sixty five points back of Grafström, but he took home the bronze medal. Marcus Nikkanen was fourth and in fifth was future Olympic Gold Medallist in pairs skating, Ernst Baier of Germany. Rounding out the twelve man field were four Americans, two Japanese men and one eccentric millionaire who claimed to be a baron. We'll look at that man - Walter Langer of Czechoslovakia - in a future Skate Guard blog.


Although the men's event was well attended, the women's free skate the next day was by all accounts standing room only. Every seat was sold and scalpers stood outside of the arena selling tickets at up to fifty dollars a pop. With inflation, that's well over eight hundred and fifty dollars today. The best part? People were buying. Everyone wanted to see Sonja Henie's free skating performance on February 10, 1932.

Scalping tickets wasn't the only shady business going on off the ice though. In the press box, newsies were conducting a poll as to which skater was the prettiest between Sonja or Belgian Yvonne de Ligne. Hoping to thicken the plot like a good gravy and make good on their hype coverage of three eleven year old British girls competing - Megan Taylor, Cecilia Colledge and Mollie Phillips - the press also (according to the Ortloffs' book) "applauded loud and long, trying to root their 11-year-old Briton to victory, thinking it would impress the judges by an exceptional ovation. But Mollie Phillips' marks were not that good - the judges didn't vote by what they heard, but by what they saw - they gave her 698.1 points."

Megan Taylor and Maribel Vinson-Owen

In the end, Fritzi Burger moved up to claim the silver ahead of Maribel Vinson-Owen and Henie earned 932.00 in free skating to claim her second of three Olympic gold medals. In her book "Wings On My Feet", Henie commented on her second Olympic win thusly: "There was no little Hilde (Holovsky) to thrust her way through the front rank, but the rank was strong and the victory equally gratifying. Fritzi (Burger), Maribel Vinson, and Constance Wilson-Samuel were in the field, and placed in that order behind me... I felt I had really achieved something when the title was still mine at the end."

On the other side of the coin, on the wonderfully crafted 1999 HBO documentary "Reflections On Ice: A Diary Of Ladies Figure Skating", Fritzi Burger reminisced on her rivalry with Henie at the Lake Placid Games: "I think I had the hope against hope really that maybe one day I could beat her. Maybe one day she'd break a leg, maybe one day she has a cold or can't skate or whatever. Didn't happen. I don't think Sonja ever had a cold in her life."

Constance Wilson (left) and Fritzi Burger (right)

The final of the figure skating events in Lake Placid was the pairs competition, which of course only consisted of a single free skate... and the Spokane Daily Chronicle affirmed that this event too was in front of "a packed house". That said, in true Olympic figure skating fashion, there was of course talk of judging. The gold medal went to married couple Andrée and Pierre Brunet of France and the silver to New York City's Beatrix Loughran and Sherwin Badger... and it was a close fight that all came down to math. Loughran and Badger actually earned 77.5 points to the Brunets' 76.7 but the ordinals gave the French pair the victory. The Ortloffs' book noted that "two judges ranked the American pair first, but three judges picked the French Champions Brunet and Brunet. Each of these three judges ranked Loughran and Badger second by a mere tenth of a point, while the judge from Finland picked the American team over the French team by 1.2 points, and that amounted to the difference in the point totals." 1931 World Champions Emilia Rotter and László Szollás edged out 1931 European Champions Olga Orgonista and Sándor Szalay for the bronze medal and Canadians siblings Constance and Bud Wilson had to settle for fifth place of the seven teams competing. Fifty two year old USFSA President Joseph Savage, who finished last with partner Gertrude Meredith, earned his rightful place in the record books as the oldest figure skater to ever compete at the Olympic Games.

The Brunet's in Lake Placid

Following the Games, a good many of the competitors from overseas just simply stayed put in North America and headed directly to Montreal, the site of the 1932 World Figure Skating Championships from February 28 to March 1, 1932 and performed exhibitions prior to the competition. In fact, all four of the Olympic Gold Medallists would attend those World Championships and win gold medals. You don't see that too often in an Olympic year these days, do you?

All of this said, looking back at this competition and seeing how four European skaters claimed gold medals and the hearts of North American audiences in the period in between two World Wars certainly serves as a reminder that skating is a universal language of peace.

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

Monday, 19 June 2017

A Twenties Threesome: The Julius Nelson, Karl Engel And Chris Christenson Stories

The three men whose stories we're going to explore today on the blog both have three things in common. They were born in Europe, they won medals at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the roaring twenties and they worked tirelessly behind the scenes as 'builders' in the figure skating world in their era. Their names may not ring a bell, but their stories are nothing short of compelling. Time to meet Julius Nelson, Karl Engel and Chris Christenson!

JULIUS NELSON



The son of Nils and Lisa Maria Johansson, Julius Bernhard Johansson was born April 22, 1887 in Åsa, Småland, Sweden. He arrived in America on the S.S. Caronia at the age of twenty three in June 1910 - changing his name to Julius Bernhard Nilsson and then Julius Bernhard Nelson - and boarded on a farm in Douglas, Minnesota with two Swedish brothers.

Julius Nelson's vaccination card for U.S. immigration. Courtesy Emily Abraham.

Julius' relative Per Anders Johannssen theorized, "I fully understand why he changed his name from Johansson to something else. English (or American-English) speaking persons just can't pronounce the name 'Johansson'. When they try the result sounds ridiculous. I guess he couldn't bear that. So - I guess - he took his father's first name, Nils, and made a patronymicon of that, and at the same time [anglicised] it. Et voilà - his name then was Nelson." His great granddaughter Emily Abraham added, "Family lore has it that the last name was later changed to Nilsson because of an overabundance of Johansson's in the area."

Julius Nelson's skating pass for the 1908-1909 season. Courtesy Emily Abraham.

Though he registered for the draft late in World War I, Julius was fortunate not to have found his American dream cut short by military service. A talented skater who had learned to skate at the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb, Nelson arrived in Minneapolis in 1917 and began teaching skaters from Minnesota the Swedish style of figure skating. He travelled the midwest during the post-war era and the roaring twenties, offering his expertise to skaters in Duluth, Superior, Grand Forks and Fargo. The Hippodrome Club, an enclosed natural ice surface on the State Fair Grounds in St. Paul was for several winters his home base. In 1923, he entered the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in New Haven, Connecticut, finishing third in the senior men's event behind Sherwin Badger and Chris I. Christenson. Later credited as the man responsible for introducing the International Style of skating to the Northwestern United States, Julius had a hand in the early development of many of the region's star skaters. Roy W. McDaniel recalled Julius thusly: "A fine stylist... His skating and counsel had a tremendous and far reaching effect on northwestern skating. Margaret Bennett, Roy Shipstad, Erle Reiter and [Bobby] Specht were some of his early pupils."

During The Great Depression, Julius turned to painting and interior design to support his wife Ella, son Bernhard and daughters Marie, Vera, Virginia and Martha. However, he continued to perform in skating carnivals throughout the Midwest well into the forties.  His daughters Marie, Vera and Virginia - joined by a fourth woman named Genevieve - appeared in the Ice Follies as a fours act billed as The Nelson Sisters. Julius' daughter Martha, a talented skater in her own right, was to have been the fourth Nelson sister but instead chose to attend a bible college.

Julius Nelson passed away on August 22, 1962 at the age of seventy five, his pioneering efforts in developing figure skating in the Midwestern United States all but forgotten today.

KARL ENGEL

Born January 16, 1891 in the historic town of Bienne, Switzerland, Karl (Carl) Rudolf Engel emigrated to the United States in June 1913 at the age of twenty two after serving three months with the Swiss military. After arriving at Ellis Island, he took up residence in New York City and worked for a time as a draftsman on Broadway before a short stint with the U.S. military in World War I. While in the Big Apple, Engel amazed the locals with his proficiency on ice skates and joined the Skating Club of New York... which actually speaks a great deal to his ability as a skater as the rather exclusive club wouldn't exactly have welcomed a lowly draftsman with open arms had he not been particularly impressive. He proved his mettle at an international figure skating competition that was later deemed to be the 1918 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he placed second behind Nathaniel Niles of Boston.

Following his win, Engel headed west and found a job as a civil engineer in a paper mill in Chicago, taking up residence in a small rooming house operated by a Scottish woman named Christine Gregory and her daughters Alice and Grace. Work was a means to an end for Engel, who spent more of his free time tracing eights and threes on the ice in the winters than socializing with the Gregory women. In 1921, he was one of a group of twenty skating aficionados who formed the Chicago Figure Skating Club. In those days, skaters took to the ice at an outdoor rinks adjacent to the Chicago Beach Hotel and Edgewater Beach Hotel, and on ponds in the Forest Preserve. The club was accepted as one of the USFSA's original seven member clubs and that same year, Engel and Charles McCarthy became the first two skaters to represent the club at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia. During that period, Engel served as Chicago Figure Skating Club's President, a judge and worked with McCarthy and Henry Denninger to bring USFSA testing in figures, free skating and ice dancing to the Windy City. It was through the club's organization that he met Margaret Robb, who soon became Mrs. Karl Engel.

In 1925, Engel travelled to New York City for U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he won his second medal (a bronze) in the men's event behind Nathaniel Niles and George Braakman. He soon relocated to Orangetown, New York and took a job as a mechanical engineer in a paper factory and rejoined the Skating Club of New York. In 1938, Engel and his wife Margaret headed to California, where they were warmly received as the first 'imported' judges from the East Coast at the Pacific Coast Championships at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club. The Engel's remained active in skating circles - judging both ice and roller competitions - for some time thereafter.

CHRIS CHRISTENSON



Born in Norway in 1875, Chris I. Christenson emigrated to America when he was eight years of age. Throughout much of his young life he toiled away as a labourer to help contribute to his family. Yet, as all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, Christenson found time to pursue and excel at all manner of Victorian era pursuits: swimming, gymnastics, fancy diving, cycling and roller skating. He wasn't a dull Jack; he was a Jack of all trades! In 1914, at the age of thirty nine, he decided to add another to the list... figure skating. Carving his way through grapevines on frozen ponds and cranberry bogs near his home, he coined the term "swamp skating" according to Joseph Chapman. On those 'swamps', he soon achieved the same proficiency that he'd achieved on rollers.

In 1919, the Minnesota Skating Association, a charter member of the USFSA interested in International Style skating formed. Its skaters met at St. Paul's Lexington Rink. Christensen didn't just prove to be one of the club's most enthusiastic new members... he stepped up as the Association's first President. Two years later, another USFSA charter member club was formed in St. Paul called the Twin City Club. This club absorbed the membership of the Minnesota Skating Association and the Minneapolis Municipal Figure Skating Club, and Christenson served of the first President of that club as well.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine 

After placing fourth at the 1921 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia, Christenson made the trip from St. Paul to New Haven, Connecticut for the 1923 U.S. Championships, where he surprised many by winning the silver medal behind Sherwin Badger. After winning the bronze in 1924 in Philadelphia, he entered the 1926 U.S. Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, where he defeated hometown favourite Nathaniel Niles to win the gold... at the age of fifty one. An unattributed newspaper 1926 article cited in a 1996 "New York Times" piece published around the time of Rudy Galindo's U.S. title win reportedly noted, "His figures were smooth and precisely correct. He looped and spread-eagled with an unhurried calm that must have piled point after point in his favor on the score-pads of the judges. But his was an exhibition of mathematical certainty. It was a typically masculine performance, devoid of teeming nervous energy and one of cold and accurate calculation." Though he passed away in 1943, Christenson remains the oldest U.S. men's champion in history... a distinction I'd bet my cat (sorry Angelikah!) that he'll never lose.

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

Friday, 16 June 2017

Guidance From The Greats: Advice From Madge And Edgar Syers



Together, British figure skating power couple Edgar and Madge Syers were the pairs bronze medallists at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, England. Without the accompaniment of her husband, Madge was a two time World Champion and an Olympic Gold Medallist in singles skating. Both were also, of course, important pioneers in both the movement to adopt the International Style of skating in Great Britain. In "The Book Of Winter Sports", both Edgar and Madge offered some charming advice to skaters that I just couldn't resist sharing with all of you. From advocating a pescetarian diet to their views on free skating and costuming, I think you will find their turn of the century views on skating quite fascinating!


ON TRAINING AND CONDITIONING

Edgar: "The training necessary for skaters, though not so arduous as that for some other forms of sport, must still be carefully attended to; the intending competitor must be in good general condition, he must carry no superfluous flesh, his legs must be strong and flexible, and his whole body supple. In order to get the muscles and joints into condition, light gymnastic exercises without appliances should be taken regularly twice a day for a month before skating commences. The time devoted to actual practice should not exceed two hours a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, all the compulsory figures required should be systematically worked at on each occasion, and the free skating programme gone through once, or twice if possible, in the presence of a competent critic... When practising remember that the mere mechanical repetition of a figure a certain number of times will never lead to success, it is to the exiguous exercise of the mind that so much inferior skating must be attributed; no considerable progress can be attained unless intelligence and reflection direct the skater's efforts, the why and the wherefore must be thought out."

ON COSTUMING

Madge: "The important question of dress should be carefully considered: 'Chaque sport a son costume' and how inappropriate on the ice are flowing skirts and garden party hats? Such garments indicate immediately the incapacity of the wearer, for no skater would handicap herself with such impediments. The inconvenience of a skirt may be much lessened if it is made short and rather narrow (about three and a half yards); it should be of fairly thick material, cut so that the folds stand well away from the figure, and be weighted with a stitched band, or close fur. It is impossible to take part in athletic exercises with comfort except in loose garments, and no one who is tightly laced, or wears a heavily boned corset, will ever learn to skate. The waist must be free, so that the muscles of the back may have play, and the body be easily rotated from the hips; falls are rendered dangerous, and health inevitably suffers, from the wearing of a tight corset, while the evil results are often unfairly attributed to the exercise, instead of to the folly of the individual."

ON DIET AND HEALTH

Edgar on diet and health: "As regards diet, no particular restrictions are imposed; indeed, many skaters are endowed with somewhat abnormal appetites, the result of regular and constant exercise in dry, cold air. A considerable amount of food is probably necessary, as skating reduces weight rapidly, but speaking from experience we find that abstention from all flesh food, save fish, has a most beneficial effect in every way. Smoking and drinking in moderation are admissible; some red wine or light beer may be taken at meals, early hours and plenty of sleep are most important factors in training."

ON FREE SKATING

Edgar: "Free skating, as an item of a competition, or as an exhibition, must be studied as an actor studies his part, with appropriate gesture, and must be varied, both as to time and motif; the figures should be as attractive as possible, the skater must avoid inserting any of those contained in the compulsory list, and aim at introducing novel combinations and tours de force."

Madge: "The question as to which are the most attractive items for a free programme is a somewhat difficult one; dance steps should always form a considerable part, and it is well to remember that if any particularly difficult figures are to be included they should be introduced before the muscles become fatigued, for though to the onlooker four or five minutes' free skating, when demonstrated by an expert, may seem, from its very excellence, an effortless proceeding, it is in
reality very hard work, and is a good test of the condition of the skater. The novice is invariably
impetuous and scrambles from one figure to another in a breathless state of hurry; to avoid this the
music chosen should be a march or waltz in which the time is well marked. The experienced skater
will, while moving fast, never give the impression of haste, she will take each step in time remembering that however good the marks on the ice may be a careless carriage or ungraceful movements will mar the effect, and, in a competition, be recorded against her."

ON EXPRESSION

Madge: "Do not assume an agonised or anxious expression when skating, look as if you enjoyed it, look up and about you, remember that the exhibition is not in the nature of a tragedy."

I have to say, I just love that last one and can only speculate what Madge would have thought of some of the Russian ice dancers we would see on Olympic podiums decades later! Just as these quotes remind us of how much skating has changed, they serve as reminders of a simpler time when skaters simply didn't have that much to go on. It can't have been easy.

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

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Formations In The Fens: Four Footnotes About Skating Soldiers

From America to Norway, from China to the great war on skates between the Dutch and the Spanish, tales of soldiers taking to the ice have been a constant throughout skating's colourful history. Today, on Skate Guard we'll be looking back at four vastly different accounts of skating soldiers!

In his 1892 study "Skating As A Recreation", John Moyer Heathcote noted that on January 1871 on the River Ouse in North Yorkshire he commanded the 1st Hunts R.V., a corps of two companies, to perform military drills on the ice. He recalled, "I ordered a parade without rifles or side-arms, but with skates, and more than half of the strength of the corps responded to the summons. The men 'fell in' single rank, and except when in 'skirmishing order,' joined hands. 'Formations of line from column,' 'column from line,', 'counter-marching' and light-infantry movements were executed with admirable precision and rapidity." Unpredictable weather conditions prevented Heathcote from further experiments with military skating.



"The First Lincolnshire Rifle Volunteers Taking A March Down The River Witham On Skates"

In the fen country of Lincolnshire County, rifle volunteers trained on skates at the Stamp End Loch and the River Witham in the winter of December 1860 under Captain Commandant A. Trollope. What a name! The January 19, 1861 issue of "The Illustrated London News" noted, "The three companies composing the 1st Lincolnshire Rifles drew up in line on the Witham, in the presence of an immense crowd of spectators assembled, despite the piercing cold, to view the novel sight. After the companies had been duly told off (and proved) by their commanders, the word 'Fours - Right!' was given, and the whole, led by their respective covering-sargeants, and flanked by their officers, started at a good steady pace, and proceeded several miles down the river, the inequalities of the ice requiring, as in a road march, the different evolutions of diminishing and increasing front, either by forming subdivisions and sections, or by proceeding in file, or in single rank, as the exigencies of the case required. The whole were very creditably performed. When some miles down the river, and where the increased width permitted, the corps were wheeled, formed into line. After being several hours on the ice, attaining an average speed of fourteen miles an hour, they were dismissed, invigorated, delighted with the novelty of their drill." The commonality between both of these experiments were the wheel formations, which technically would have been like an extremely early predecessor to the synchronized skating pinwheel.

Skating in Hyde Park, circa 1787

The final description of nineteenth century military skating in England we'll look at involves an actual simulation of combat that took place on the ice of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park in 1861. More than six thousand soldiers participated in this drill during an ice party similar to The River Thames Frost Fairs, "The Illustrated London News" noted that the soldiers, "many with lighted links and on skates, took up their positions at the east end, and formed themselves into processions, being headed by a brass band. After going through several feats of skating, they turned back to about midway of the bridge leading to the Albert-gate and the Royal Humane Society's receiving house, when some military manouevres were gone through in the shape of attack and defence. The first performance was a discharge of twenty-one maroons, after which a regular cannonading commenced from the south side of the Serpentine, which was carried out by chasserons being thrown alight across the river across the north shore; these were followed by a continuous shower of rockets, Roman candles, and other smaller description of fireworks, which lasted for several hours. The defensive party kept up a similar fire." The following day, a procession of three hundred skaters with lamps on their shoulders skated a procession and later, quadrilles were performed on the ice as a grand finale.

Engraving from William Belch's "Rural Scenes", 1825

The fourth and final tale we will explore today isn't actually of a skating soldier but instead of a skating Red Cross worker in the early twentieth century. Over a nine month period from October 1912 to July 1913, bloody conflicts known today as the Balkan Wars raged in southeastern Europe between forces from The Ottoman Empire and Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. An estimated one hundred and fifty thousand people died during the Wars but more lives were perhaps spared by yes, you guessed it... skating. In a letter to the "New Zealand Herald" published on September 27, 1935, a Swiss skater visiting Auckland recounted how - as a member of a Red Cross unit travelling with the Serbian army - he was dared to give a skating performance during a rare truce between the Ottoman and Serbian fighters on a river near Manastir Vilayet, which is now divided between Albania, Macadenia, Kosovo and Greece. The incident was described thusly: "One day, Mr. Corthesy said, he was feeling restless and somebody dared him to leave the line and go out on the ice on his skates. He accepted the challenge. He donned his blouse, which bore the red cross of his service, and put on his hat with its red cross badge. Then he fixed his skates to his boots and glided out on to the frozen river. The Serbian soldiers had ceased firing by arrangement, but the Turkish troops continued to shoot until they realised the extraordinary and harmless nature of the skater's appearance. Slowly the Turkish fire died down and then ceased, and a welcome quiet reigned while Mr. Corthesy cut figure eights and sped up and down the ice in a variety of skating evolutions. 'Perhaps the Turks were too astonished to fire,' he said." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down primary sources alluding this tale from Mr. Corthesy but if true, it is certainly an astonishing tale.

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

Monday, 12 June 2017

The 1954 World Figure Skating Championships

The women's podium in Oslo in 1954

From February 16 to 19, 1954, many of the most prominent skaters of the fifties gathered at the Bislett Stadion in Oslo, Norway - the old stomping crowds of Sonja Henie herself - for the most frigid World Figure Skating Championships on record. It was so cold, in fact, that Canadian coach Sheldon Galbraith actually intentionally stood in front of the thermometer so that his pupils couldn't see just how dangerously low the temperatures were. Despite the subzero Scandinavian conditions, skaters from Austria, Canada, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, United States and West Germany all claimed medals that year at the venue used for the 1952 Winter Olympic Games and the stories that remain are timeless, fascinating and inspiring. Let's take a little look back, shall we?

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden

The first gold medals awarded at the 1954 Oslo Worlds were won by Canada's Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden... and they won them in absolutely frigid temperatures. "The ice was so incredibly hard that our skates squeaked," recalled Dafoe. "We felt as if we were skating on glue. Since we couldn't wear gloves, our hands froze and we couldn't feel anything - particularly on the lifts." Despite conditions that skaters today would assuredly balk at, the students of Sheldon Galbraith persevered to win first place votes from five of the seven judges. They became the first Canadian pairs team in history to win a World title, defeating Swiss siblings Silvia and Michel Grandjean and Austrians Sissy Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt in the process. Quoted in David Young's 1984 book "The Golden Age Of Canadian Figure Skating", the late Bowden recalled the emotional impact of the team's first victory at Worlds thusly: "It's not just the medal. It's the fact that you're representing your country - that the flag is over your head, and you put it there. It sends a shiver up and down your spine." Dafoe didn't have a shiver down hers afterwards. After competing, she rushed to the women's restroom where Silvia Grandjean gave her a swig of brandy to warm her up.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


A young David Jenkins

After the school figures, defending champion Hayes Alan Jenkins of Akron, Ohio led the pack with 514.1 points and nine placements. Twenty two year old Jimmy Grogan was only one tenth of a point behind with 514.2 and eight placements. They were both well ahead of a tiny fourteen year old from France named Alain Giletti. In the free skating, Jenkins repeated as champion with 178.28 points to Grogan's 175.22. Giletti ended up third, followed by another fourteen year old, Jenkins' younger brother David. Ronnie Robertson of Long Beach, California was fifth. "The Schenectady Gazette" noted, "Experts predicted a nip-and-tuck duel between [Jenkins and Grogan] but despite obvious nervousness and a spill at the start of the program, Jenkins put on a sparkling exhibition. Grogan, reputed a brilliant free skater, presented a fine program, but his performance lacked the usual lustre." Another American, Dudley Richards, had initially been slated to compete at the Oslo Worlds after finishing in third in the 1953 U.S. senior men's competition, but he was drafted in the Korean War and missed the event altogether. In light of a neck injury, he ended up being assigned to skate at the Casa Carioca instead. Sadly, he was among the victims of the 1961 Sabena Crash. Not everyone was thrilled with the 'new' athletic trend in men's figure skating inspired by Dick Button. Former Canadian Champion and CFSA President Melville Rogers lamented, "In nearly every case the highlights of the programs were obtained or in some cases attempted to be obtained by acrobatic tricks rather than by beautiful or expert skating."

Tenley Albright, Hugh Graham and Maribel Vinson-Owen. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Used with permission.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Conditions in Oslo for the ice dancers were even worse than they were for the men and the pairs. Jean Westwood recalled, "I remember smiling in the mirror to freeze the expression before skating outside in twenty six below weather." With partner Lawrence Demmy, the defending champions were first unanimously on the scoring sheets of every judge in the four compulsory dances, followed by teammates Nesta Davies and Paul Thomas. Carmel and Edward Bodel of Berkeley, California were a strong third. In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On The Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves noted, "Snow during the compulsory Foxtrot and American Waltz slowed the dancers. It snowed so hard that several couples had trouble maintaining their bearings in the Foxtrot. If they could not see where they were going, how did the judges see them? Then the sun shone down on the Quickstep and Blues, lightening the steps of the dancers and the hearts of the spectators... The standings in the compulsories remained the same after the free. Westwood/Demmy looked like champions through the entire proceedings. Britain's Nesta Davies and Paul Thomas, fourth in 1953, came closest to the champions in rhythm and edging to end second, although their free dance seemed too compact and repetitive. U.S. Judge Margarette Spence Drake placed them sixth overall. Many preferred the true skating to music of Barbara 'Bunty' Radford and Ray Lockwood, but Davies/Thomas had a six-point lead in compulsories over the new British couple. The sticktuitiveness of Carmel and Ed Bodel finally paid off. Skating the best free dance they ever performed, they finally edged one of the ubiquitous British couples for third place. Austrian Judge Hans Meixner had the Bodels fifth overall, and the Swiss Judge, Eugen Kirchhofer, had them fourth. The other three judges placed them third." After claiming yet another World title, Westwood and Demmy and the fifth place American pair, Virginia Hoyns and Donald Jacoby, took and passed the first two ISU Gold Dance tests in history."

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Gundi Busch

Twenty absolutely freezing young women from eight countries braved the elements in hopes of claiming the "ladies" crown in Oslo. Defending champion, eighteen year old American Tenley Albright was the leader after the school figures, followed by Gundi Busch of West Germany and Erica Batchelor of Great Britain.


In an interview in the December 21, 1954 issue of the "Chicago Tribune", Busch described how the tides turned in her favour: "I trailed Tenley Albright (defending champion from Boston) by three points after the compulsory figures. Only once before had the champion been dethroned in the world meet. It didn't look hot for me, because Tenley is best at the free skating, where you can go all out. So I went all out, and at the end, five of the seven judges voted for me for first place over Tenley." Busch was incorrect in her assessment that a defending champion had been dethroned only once before. It had actually happened twice in the women's event at the World Championships (1927 and 1938) but her victory was certainly a rarity that even she claimed to be surprised by.

Tenley Albright

Tenley Albright's loss in Oslo was largely owing to an uncharacteristic fall. Maribel Vinson-Owen, covering the event for "Sports Illustrated" magazine noted, "Tenley went into a combination axel and double loop jump and promptly stunned the stadium and herself by inexplicably falling flat. Tenley went through the rest of her free program in a trance. She never really recovered." On her first attempt, seventeen year old Canadian Barbara Gratton was only two ordinals away from a medal. Sadly, it would be her only appearance at the World Figure Skating Championships.

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

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Marvellous Maxsons


Born January 5, 1920 and November 27, 1921, Robert and Ruby Maxson were the children of Frank Francis Maxson, an automobile salesman, and Florence Newstrand Maxson. Raised in Duluth, Minnesota during The Great Depression, Robert (Bobby) and Ruby learned to skate as children with their younger brother John and soon became quite proficient on the ice. They joined the Duluth Skating Club, taking their first lessons from Roy Shipstad. Dabbling in competition, they held the local junior pairs title for several years but their real joy came from putting on impromptu shows on local lakes, their spotlights the headlights from old jalopies.

Ruby and Bobby's mother died when they were only teenagers and their father was forced to move the struggling family in with his in-laws. An invitation from their former coach Roy Shipstad to join the cast of the Ice Follies in 1937 allowed them both to make more money than their father and help put food on the table. Though less experienced than their peers in the show, the 1940 Ice Follies program raved, "Their juvenile pair act in the [Arctic] Fantasy of this current 'Ice Follies' is truly sensational, and a great future is predicted for them."



That great future did come, but it was delayed by World War II. Bobby enlisted in the army and left the tour for a time to serve overseas. In his absence, Ruby teamed up with another Bobby - the handsome Bobby Blake. After the War, Bobby Maxson returned to the Ice Follies to join his sister. The March 13, 1948 issue of "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" noted, "It was that altogether pleasing pair, as close to rhythm at perfection as anything that has ever graced the ice here. His time in the army has not robbed Bobby of any of his skill, and it was a brother-and-sister tandem very welcome back."


In 1949, Ruby and Bobby left the Ice Follies and joined the Ice Capades, where they enjoyed great acclaim for three years with their elegant performances. Critics dubbed them "the Sweethearts of the Waltz". However, in 1951 both siblings retired from the gruelling gypsy life of professional figure skating and lived in San Francisco for a time. She taught skating; he dabbled in the real estate business. They both later headed to Colorado Springs and coached at the Broadmoor. Ruby became a long-time and very well-respected coach at the prestigious club, juggling marriage and motherhood with a busy coaching schedule. Bobby married fellow Ice Follies alumni Helen Davidson, a former student of Edi Scholdan who served as the club's secretary. Together, they remained involved in both Ice Follies and Holiday On Ice as choreographers. Both Ruby and Bobby's families were as much rink rats as their parents. While some of their children excelled at spins and Salchows, others were sensational speed skaters. Sadly, both siblings passed away in Colorado Springs within years of each other. Bobby passed away on November 15, 1999 after a long illness. Ruby passed away on March 22, 2003. They were both inducted posthumously into the DECC Hall Of Fame in May 2017. Though their time at the top of the professional skating world was relatively short, there wasn't an Ice Follies or Ice Capades audience member in the forties who weren't impressed by their elegance, skill and precision.

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