The 1957 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

The top news story was the FBI arrest of labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Thousands forked over sixty cents to see the hit film "Around The World In Eighty Days". Teenagers bopped to "Don't Knock The Rock" by Bill Haley and The Comets.

The hottest toys were the Atomic Missile Pedal Car and Captain Kangaroo Tasket Basket. If you were to believe "Everywoman's Magazine", you'd be a huge hit at your next pot luck with an absolutely terrifying 'Hot Dog Macaroni Aspic'.

The year was 1957 and to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first U.S. Championships to be held in the state of California, the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club and the Skating Club of San Francisco joined forces from March 13 to 16 to host the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the recently renovated East Bay Iceland rink. 

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

As is still often the case at the beginning of a new four year Olympic cycle, a considerable number of the previous year's medallists had turned professional or retired. In fact, reigning U.S. Senior Champions Joan Zamboni and Roland Junso were the only winners from the previous year's Nationals who had returned to defend their title. 

An unusual feature of this competition was a special exhibition by members of the Japanese national team. Harry A. Sims recalled, "It was very interesting to see how far these young skaters had progressed under the handicap of their isolation from the normal skating world. They had picked up much of their knowledge from visiting G.I. skaters, also from the visits of Tenley, Hayes and Dick Button, and from many motion pictures. This charming group of skaters made many friends... and we enjoyed very much our visits with them."

Top: Bradley Lord, Ray and Ila Ray Hadley and Carol Heiss. Middle: Diana Jean Lapp, Nancy Rouillard and Ron Ludington, Gregory Kelley. Bottom: David Jenkins, Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright, Claire O'Neill and J.J. Bejshak and Carol Joyce Wanek. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The biggest social 'to-do' of the week was the competitor's party, held at the Hotel Claremont where the officials were put up. A judge's dinner, also at the Claremont, and a private cocktail party at Henry F. Swift's home were also highlights. There was also a meeting of judges at the Shattuck Hotel, where there was great discussion about replacing the College Tango with the Canasta. In what little spare time they had, competitors went sightseeing at Sutro's, a seaside ice rink that also included a unique museum full of curiosities such as a life-size replica of da Vinci's "The Lord's Last Supper" and the personal belongings of some of P.T. Barnum's more famous circus performers. How did things play out Berkeley in 1957? Let's take a look back!


Ila Ray and Ray Hadley. Photo courtesy Joan Sherbloom Peterson.

Seattle's Ila Ray and Ray Hadley took the junior pairs title, the only victory in Berkeley by skaters from the West Coast in the novice or junior ranks. They were coached by their stepmother Linda Hart. It was very close between the top three teams, with the Hadley's taking two firsts, silver medallists Sharon Constable and John Hertz taking two and Margaret Jurmo and Roy Pringle one. The Hadley siblings had a mascot that accompanied them to Berkeley - white French toy poodle named Honeybee. Ray took ballet classes and Ila Ray was a member of her school's debate and drama clubs.

Fourteen year old Diana Lapp of Denver took top honours among the novice women, while sixteen year old Carol Joyce Wanek of the Skating Club of New York won the junior women's title. Both winners won in two-three splits of the judging panels; Wanek over Lynn Finnegan and Lapp over Brenda Joyce Farmer. Their leads in the compulsories was what helped them both win gold. Lapp was an eighth grade student that enjoyed painting, ballet and playing the piano. Wanek was a junior at Rhodes Preparatory School. She was an only child who collected sweaters and miniature toy animals from all around the word.

Claire O'Neill and J.J. Bejshak

In Silver (Junior) Dance, Baltimore's Claire O'Neill and John 'J.J.' Bejshak were victorious over Margie Ackles and Howie Harrold despite the fact that their home rink had burned to the ground. Their free dance included the twizzle from the Argentine Tango. O'Neill was a high school senior who was absolutely obsessed with fashion and Bejshak was a freshman at the University Of Baltimore who hoped to get into advertising. He collected records suitable for skating.

Skating to a medley that included "La Traviata", seventeen year old Bradley Lord of Swampscott, Massachusetts bested a trio of California skaters - Jim Short, Lorin Caccamise and Don Mike Anthony - to win gold in the novice men's event. A month prior to the event, he'd accidentally left his skates on a bus. A thoughtful bus driver had kept them safe until he showed up to claim them. In his spare time, Lord enjoyed water color painting.

Gregory Kelley and Bradley Lord ominously shaking hands in front of a sign advertising a flight. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The novice men's champion, five foot tall, one hundred and ten pound Gregory Kelley was at twelve years old the youngest of the entries in his class. He was competing in his first U.S. Championships. The silver medallist in the novice men's event was Maribel Vinson Owen's young student Frank Carroll. Bruce Heiss, Carol's younger brother, placed fifth. Sixth and seventh were two young men who -like the winner - would later perish in the Sabena Crash, Bill Hickox and Douglas Ramsay. Kelley, the youngest child in his family, had never lost a competition he entered. He enjoyed playing tennis and swimming when he wasn't skating.


David Jenkins

With both Hayes Alan Jenkins and Ronnie Robertson out of the picture, the path to victory was clear for twenty year old David Jenkins, a pre-med student from Colorado Springs. As the reigning North American and World Champion, Jenkins was heavily favoured to win his first U.S. title in Berkeley. In the school figures, he defeated Tim Brown four judges to one, but was only able to amass an eight point lead. Jenkins unanimously won the free skate on his way to a gold medal and was the only man in the competition who attempted (and succeeded at) triple jumps. Tim Brown settled for silver, and Tom Moore moved ahead of Robert Lee Brewer of Alhambra, California to take the bronze.


Claralynn Lewis and Joan Schenke

On January 20, 1957 - Carol Heiss' seventeenth birthday - Tenley Albright announced her retirement from eligible competition. As Catherine Machado, the bronze medallist at the U.S. Championships the previous two years had also turned professional, Heiss found herself in an enviable position as she vied for her first U.S. title. Like David Jenkins, she entered the event as the reigning North American and World Champion... and like David Jenkins, she amassed a whopping lead in the school figures. She won the free skate and the gold medal in something of a landslide.

Heiss' free skate, set to Franz von Suppé's "The Beautiful Galatea", Adolphe Adam's "Giselle" and Gioachino Rossini's "La Gazza Ladra", earned her marks ranging from 9.4 to 9.9. No other skater earned a mark any higher than 9.3. The silver medal went to seventeen year old Joan Schenke of Tacoma and the bronze to nineteen year old Claralynn Lewis of Colorado Springs. Carol's younger sister Nancy placed fourth. Finishing out of the top four were Charlene Adams, Sherry Dorsey, Gladys Jacobs and Carol Keyes. To the disappointment of Maribel Vinson Owen, both of her daughters failed to qualify for the Nationals in Berkeley.


Diana Lapp, Nancy Rouillard and Ron Ludington and Gregory Kelley. Photo courtesy Diana Lapp Green.

None of the senior pairs medallists from the 1956 U.S. Championships in Philadelphia made an appearance in Berkeley. In a wide open field, Nancy Rouillard of Stoneham, Massachusetts and Ron Ludington of Roxbury, Massachusetts took top honours, besting Mary J. Watson and John Jarmon and Anita Tefkin and James Barlow. Ron Ludington had only recently 'converted' from roller skating to the ice and had spent much of his time practicing between midnight and the early hours of the morning, when hockey games ended. He and Nancy's coach was Maribel Vinson Owen.

Left: Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright. Right: Joan Zamboni and Roland Junso. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

To the delight of the California audience, Bill Kipp's students Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright - only fourth at the Nationals the year prior - pulled off an impressive upset in the Gold (Senior) Dance event, defeating Andree Anderson and Donald Jacoby, defending Champions Joan Zamboni and Ronald Junso and four time Champions Carmel and Edward Bodel. The Bodel's fifth place finish in the free dance was quite surprising.

McKenzie and Wright were the unanimous winners of the Three-Lobe Waltz, Blues, Paso Doble, Viennese Waltz and free dance. They performed the latter to a medley of foxtrot, blues and polka music. They were both competitive roller dancers. He was an accountant at the Richfield Oil Corporation; she had just left high school and found a job. Their win was a major factor in the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club winning the Bedell H. Harned Trophy for the club who earned the most points by their placements at Nationals. It was only the fourth time that the trophy had been won by a club from the West Coast.

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