Four Fabulous Forgotten Canadian Skaters From The Forties

While war raged overseas in Europe, the Canadian figure skating community certainly felt the reverberations. The Hamilton Skating Club's annual opening tea was delayed by tea rationing until the club's executive could obtain a 'special tea permit' from the powers that be in Ottawa. The Toronto Skating Club donated two station wagons to the Blood Donor Service and stopped using props and stage sets in its annual carnivals for a time as the wood needed for the war effort. By 1944, an estimated fifty percent of adult male members of CFSA clubs were on active or defence duty. Winnipeg and Halifax rinks were taken over for military purposes and many skating clubs were forced to alter their programming or seek new arenas. When London, Ontario skaters lost their rink in St. Thomas, they were forced to skate outdoors in a park, investing their funds in victory bonds. Although we tend to glorify Canadian figure skating in the forties a little because of a fabulous little lady named Barbara Ann Scott, it really wasn't all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. However, many talented up-and-coming skaters emerged on the scene in this period that have somehow fallen into obscurity over the years. Today we'll meet four of these fabulous figure skating folks and learn a little about their stories and accomplishments!


Hailing from Oshawa, Ontario, Alan Anderson was considered something of a child prodigy in his day. As a youngster in 1945, he won his skating club's intermediate boy's title and the McLaughlin Trophy. The following he won the club's junior pairs competition with partner Nancy Burns. By 1950, he was a repeat winner of the club's senior men's title and was runner-up in school figures and the bronze medal winner at the Canadian Championships in the junior men's category.

Again finishing third in 1951 behind Peter Dunfield and Charles Snelling, Alan moved up to second in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships in 1952. A charismatic skater, Alan portrayed "Robin Hood" in a club carnival and wowed audiences with his interpretation of Franz von Suppé's "Light Cavalry Overture". After his skating days, he was a pharmacist. Though he never managed to duplicate his success in the senior ranks, Alan's name is on a heck of a lot of dusty trophies at the Oshawa Skating Club.


Like Alan Anderson, Dawn Steckley hailed from the Oshawa Skating Club and was considered something of a rising star in the mid to late forties. A versatile young skater, she excelled in figures, free skating, pairs and in an 'all girl trio' in the club's carnival. In 1953, she amassed three medals at the Canadian Championships at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa: the junior pairs title with partner David Lowery and the silver medals in both the senior pairs and women's events, behind Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden and Barbara Gratton respectively. Narrowly missing the medal podium in both the women's and pairs events at the 1953 North American Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, she retired from competitive skating after winning a bronze medal with Lowery in the senior pairs event and dropping to fourth in the women's event at the 1954 Canadian Championships in Calgary. While skating, she attended the Oshawa Collegiate Vocational Institute, where she won a scholarship for having one of the highest scholastic standings. She later coached at the Cleveland Skating Club. Sadly, Dawn passed away in 2002 of cancer.


Once considered the 'next big thing' in Canadian women's skating, Nadine Adair Phillips' aspirations for gold were thwarted by the success of Barbara Ann Scott. After winning the 1943 Canadian junior women's champion, Nadine won three medals in the senior women's championships from 1944 to 1947 but she was never able to defeat Canada's Sweetheart. During her competitive career, she divided her training time between the Toronto Skating Club and Oshawa Skating Club. Known for her charming 'gay' style, she skated to everything from "Oklahoma!" to M.K. Jerome's "Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart". Tragically, Nadine passed away suddenly on February 24, 1947 in Toronto at the age of nineteen. Her cause of death was not announced.


Representing the University Skating Club in Toronto, Gerrard 'Gerry' Blair burst on the Canadian skating scene in 1946, winning the silver medal in the junior men's event behind Wally Distelmeyer. The following year, he became the Canadian junior men's champion and 'skating up' in the senior men's event claimed the bronze behind Norris Bowden and Distelmeyer.

Gerrard had been raised and educated in England, became seriously interested in skating at the age of twelve and emigrated to Canada at the age of sixteen.

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Following the War, Gerrard married Betty Lee Dent, a pairs skater from Chevy Chase, Maryland and moved to the States to coach with his wife at the Hershey Figure Skating Club, the Westminster Figure Skating Club of Erie in Pennsylvania and at a rink in Orange, New Jersey run by the Essex County Recreational Commission. The Blair's later taught at the summer skating school in Cobourg, Ontario and in Toronto. Among Gerrard's students was Paul Tatton, the 1954 Canadian Bronze Medallist.

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