The 1955 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

A Mickey Mouse lunchbox, Slinky and home perm all cost less than two dollars. "Sincerely" by The McGuire Sisters topped the music charts and pink typewriters and refrigerators were all the rage. Dwight Eisenhower was President and Marlon Brando was the hottest star in Hollywood.

The year was 1955 and from March 30 to April 2, America's best figure skaters gathered at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs for what was then the grand finale to their season: the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was the fourth time in less than a decade that the U.S. Nationals were held at the Broadmoor.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

The weather was all over the place. There was a light snow, a wind storm and several days that were so summery that skaters put on their bathing suits and hopped in the outdoor pool! A who's who of figure skating was in attendance including Maribel Vinson Owen, Theresa Weld Blanchard, Norah (McCarthy) and Michael Kirby, Cecilia Colledge, Gene Turner, Hedy Stenuf, Jimmy Grogan and Pierre Brunet. Who were the big winners? Who were the 'losers'? Let's take a look back!


Robert Brewer. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Fourteen year old Carol Wanek of the Skating Club of New York's lead in the figures was enough to secure her the novice women's title. She was upstaged in the free skate by a twelve year old from Brooklyn named Lynn Finnegan, who moved all the way up from fifth to take the silver. Wanek lived in Ozone Park, New Jersey and was coached by Pierre Brunet. In her free time, she enjoyed ballet, horseback riding and speed skating. Seventeen year old Jim Short of Los Angeles, fifth in 1954, similarly used a lead in figures to his advantage in winning the novice men's crown.

Tommy Moore. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

It was a different story in the junior men's event, when Tommy Moore came from behind to defeat Robert Brewer, who had won the figures. Sixteen year old Moore had two first place ordinals to Brewer and Barlow Nelson's one apiece. Moore had been skating for eight years and excelled in track and field and football.

To the delight of Maribel Vinson Owen, her daughter 'little Maribel' and partner Chuck Foster were the clear winners in the junior pairs event. Maribel had won the same title with Thornton Coolidge twenty eight years prior. Nancy and Bruce Heiss, siblings of Carol, placed sixth. Thirteen year old Nancy made up for her finish in junior pairs by winning the junior women's title. The standings had been very close after the figures and when three of the top contenders faltered in free skating, she was able to earn a three judge majority over Los Angeles' Janice Marie Crappa.

After skating the European Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Paso Doble, the top Silver (Junior) Dancers were deemed to be Californians Barbara Jean 'Bobby' Stein and Raymond Sato. Years before Wen-an Sun claimed the novice women's crown in 1967, Sato was one of the first Asian American skaters to win a national title. He was thirty two years old, roller skated in his spare time and financed his skating with a job as a sales clerk at a supermarket. 


Two time U.S. Champions Carole Ann Ormaca and Robin Greiner were fresh off a fourth place finish at the World Championships in Vienna. They easily defended their national title, besting Lucille Ash and Sully Kothman and Agnes Tyson and Richard Swenning. The judges were unanimous in their marks for first, second and third... a rarity at the national level!

Ed and Carmel Bodel with Barbara Jean Stein and Ray Sato. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

In the quest for the Harry E. Radix Trophy, Gold dancers performed the Three-Lobe Waltz, Blues, Kilian and Viennese Waltz as well as a free dance. Married couple Carmel and Ed Bodel managed to win their third national title in a very close competition. They received two first place ordinals and three second's.

Third place Phyllis and Martin Forney tied with second place Joan Zamboni and Roland Junso in points, but the Forney's had two first place ordinals to Zamboni and Juno's one. The  fact that Zamboni and Junso had two second's and the Forney's three third's was what decided second and third.


Fresh off reclaiming her World title and defending her North American title, Tenley Albright of Boston was the clear favourite in the senior women's event, but as always faced stiff competition from Carol Heiss, the young upstart who was clearly 'waiting in the wings' to fill her shoes as the next U.S. Champion. Albright took a strong lead and figures and skated a strong enough free skate to earn a wild ovation and unanimous first place marks on her way to her fourth consecutive U.S. title. Her marks averaged at 9.7. Fifteen year old Heiss was again second but won the hearts of the crowd. Catherine 'Chado' Machado moved up past Patricia Firth to take the bronze. She won the Oscar L. Richard Trophy for the second consecutive year. The trophy was awarded for the most artistic performance by a woman at Nationals.


As in the senior women's event, twenty two year old Hayes Alan Jenkins was considered a heavy favourite heading into the National Championships. A bout with bronchial pneumonia forced World Silver Medallist Ronnie Robertson to the sidelines, but he still had his brother David to contend with in Colorado Springs. Motivated by a challenge between him and Tenley Albright to see who could earn the higher point total, Hayes delivered a more jam-packed program than normal to "Rhapsody In Blue" to earn a spate of 9.8's and win the informal challenge, gold medal and Oscar L. Richard Trophy for most artistic men's performance. David Jenkins was unanimously second, but landed two double Axels, a triple loop, triple Salchow and a double Axel/flying sit spin... showing clearly that in 1955 technical content didn't trump the pecking order. Hugh Graham Jr. took the bronze, ahead of Tim Brown and Raymond Blommer.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

The Broadmoor Skating Club and Los Angeles Figure Skating Club tied with sixty six points each, and thusly became the joint winners of the Bedell H. Harned Trophy. After the competition was over, Tenley Albright wowed the crowd with an exhibition as "Peter Pan", dressed in a gold spangled forest green jacket and gold cap. An awards presentation and supper dance at The Broadmoor Hotel capped off another successful Nationals.

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