The Mail Bag Overfloweth

Happy New Year! After a brief and much needed post-holiday break, Skate Guard is 'back in business' for its seventh year. In 2020, I'll once again be digging deep in the archives and piecing together puzzle pieces to share untold stories from figure skating's colourful past. Before we start talking Walleys and winners, it's high time that I unpacked the mail bag, answered some of your questions and shared some of the interesting e-mails and social media messages that have come my way over the last six months. I'm going to try to do this quarterly from now on so things don't pile up. As always, if you have a question you'd like me to tackle or feedback over a blog please reach out via e-mail.


Q: From Jenny (via Facebook): "I have a homework assignment for you... Roy Blakey got this and doesn't know anything about it. I said, I know just the guy. Can you figure this out? Thanks!"

A: This one was new to me too, but I think I was able to figure it out. Sanger's Royal Circus was a Victorian era British travelling circus and menagerie run by George Sanger and (for a time) his older brother John. His shows would have been touring during the 'Glaciarium' era of early artificial ice rinks in England, when John Gamgee and others concocted 'ice' out of all manner of noxious substances.

I was able to find an advertisement for this very "Carnival On the Ice", no doubt a temporary affair designed to be a novelty during the holiday season in the December 12, 1885 issue of the "Cheltenham Looker-On". As a sad aside, Sanger was murdered by one of his former employees in 1911, just six years after he retired. I suspect that this coloured lithograph is not only old, but quite rare.

Q: From Linda (via Facebook): "Are there any websites where we can view some of the earlier figure skating movies like Sonja Henie? or Barbara Ann Scott?"

A: There are some amazing people who are going above and beyond in terms of digitizing vintage figure skating videos. First and foremost, Frazer Ormondroyd has uploaded all kinds of fascinating footage on his Floskate YouTube channel. If you just search Sonja Henie and Barbara Ann Scott on the British Pathé and BBC Movietone YouTube channels, you'll come up with all kinds of interesting stuff as well. Quite a few of Sonja Henie's films are also on there.


The National Film Board of Canada has a gorgeous film of Barbara Ann Scott called "An Introduction To The Art Of Figure Skating" that may want to check out as well.


Gretchen Merrill, Nancy Lemmon, Governor Tom Dewey, Eileen Seigh, Dick Button and Barbara Jones in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

From Dick Button (via Facebook): "On the far right is Barbara Jones, national novice champion and my pair partner in the Eastern Pair Championship in Baltimore where we skated my single program as a pair substituting a Lutz lift for a Lutz. Things were simpler then."


Photo courtesy Jim Hurst

From Jim (via e-mail): "Loved the piece on skating in Hawaii! I performed with Ice Capades West Co for 6 years in the 1970's and Honolulu was our last city of the tour! We all LOVED Hawaii. We kept our own tank equipment there! We played the HIC building featured in your piece, now I think it is called Blaisdell Arena. Before and after the show and at intermission we'd see people reaching over the dash to actually FEEL the ice; they had never seen such a big ice cube, LOL. Attached is a photo from back back stage area ever.  I am the taller guy. Back stage Honolulu was legendary for us Ice Capades skaters! West Co would play Vancouver in Jan and then go to Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, ending up in Halifax and Moncton! We couldn't wait to get to warm weather after our long winter."


Jim Sladky, Minerva Burke and Judy Schwomeyer in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy Joseph Butchko Collection, an acquisition of the Skate Guard Archive.

From Kathie (via Facebook): "Tough judge... 'Burke's Law'!"

From Gerry (via Facebook): "Minerva Burke from Baltimore. She was a National judge who was hard of hearing. There are many colorful stories surrounding her."

From Linda (via Facebook): "Min Burke, she judged many of my dance tests. Yes we wondered how she knew we were on time because her hearing was failing."


From Barbara (via Facebook): "He was Charlie Tickner’s coach for awhile in Berkeley and at Squaw. He was a creative choreographer."

From Laurie (via Facebook): "Tim was always an enigma... I never saw that clean cut view, rather the man with the flowing beard and amazing calm kindness."

From David (via Facebook): " I had seen Balanchine's fabulous pas de deux 'Tarantella' to music by Gottschalk on television and fell in love with the music, Grande Tarantelle, a tour de force for piano and orchestra. I headed to the record store to find a recording and I was successful. I took it to Iceland to play on the freestyle. Knowing Tim was an accomplished pianist I asked him if he was familiar with it. He said yes and asked how I discovered it. A few weeks later one of his students was using the music for her competitive program."

From Moira (via email): "Great article on Tim Brown! In 1989 I met Tim and Frank Nowosad (a close friend of mine) in Sun Valley during the summer. Frank wanted Tim to teach Gary Beacom (Co Artistic Director of the Sun Valley ice show at the time) the antique figures. It was a fascinating week!"

From Ellen (via email): "You made my day with your post on Tim Brown. I was a recreational skater in Philly and then went out to Denver with a friend for summer skating before starting college. I remember Tim when he was in Baltimore. He spent that summer of 1952 in Denver being coached by Eugene Turner who had spent the previous winter at the Philadelphia SC&HS in Ardmore, my home town. The delightful and classy Tenley Albright was there also. Tim was a very earnest young man and enjoyed a friendship that summer with Charles Snelling whom he teased re the Canadian eh!
Even then he would seem to forget his rehearsed program when performing in the summer show and just fill in. I so wanted him to win a medal in Squaw Valley and was crying in front of the TV whenever he faltered. When they announced the Belgian plane crash, the first thing I did was look for his name and was so happy to not find it. Obviously I was unaware of the team's names then.
Over the years since the internet, I have typed in Tim's name and did finally read of his death. The video you shared is so delightful to watch for the beautiful line and edge changes. Now we see ugly spins, multitudes of high rotation jumps, footwork with flailing arms and lots of stroking as the norm with some notable exceptions Then there's the music you wish would stop. The result is empty sections in the arenas where once they were packed. While Richard Dwyer still glides gracefully, young skaters develop serious injuries that derail their careers. Thank you so much for your work of sharing the history of the figure skating world with those of us who relish it."

From Wanda (via Facebook): "I took from Tim in about 1975 in Berkeley - his long hair and beard period. I had no idea he was an MD!! He lived a couple blocks from Berkeley Iceland and if he forgot my 7 AM lesson, I’d walk to his house and find him playing the piano..."


Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

From Alice (via e-mail): "1972 Silver Edge FSC show had Linda Leaver as one of the choreographers and her student Brian Boitano performed in his first ice show as a Sesame Street kid, with Oscar, kneeling far left.

Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

Dorothy Hamill also skated in the club's 1972 show.  My Dad, Roger Mansell, negotiated with her Father, for her to come out to California for the show. The club parents bought her an air ticket, found her a homestay with a club member, arranged for her to be fitted for a brand new pair of Harlick skating boots, and said her coming west would allow every West Coast judge to see her skate  - and they almost all came.  The club members loved rooting for her as "one of our own" in her later competitions.

As best I know, Silver Edge did not have another ice show during its existence. Silver Edge FSC was active between from the mid-1960's to the mid 1980's when the Sunnyvale Ice Palace rink closed and the club merged with the Peninsula Skating Club.

Photo courtesy Alice Mansell

While researching the history of the old Sunnyvale Ice Palace rink this past year, I stumbled on a write-up about a Los Altos, California Rotary talk by Linda Leaver and a 1988 Chicago Tribune item about her.  (She was also my first skating coach.)  I had no idea she had so many close friends killed on the 1961 Sabena airliner crash. Her coach Linda Hadley and many of her fellow Seattle/Spokane skaters were killed.  I suspect the 1972 Slver Edge show program of her is from her competitive days.  I recall she skated a solo number called "Meditations" during a segment celebrating the NASA Apollo Moon landings with skater/astronauts and skater/"Moon Creepers" at the 1971 club show.  That was the first ice show Brian Boitano ever saw I learned later. We had a tradition at the club that every club member child who wanted to be in the show could be, even if his or her hand needed to be held.  And, every new club member could get a short free group lesson on club ice time."


From Mae (via snail mail): "I found this picture one day and thought you may like to have it. This statue is in Oslo. I took it about 15 years ago."


From Zoie (via Facebook): I just read your article on Herbert S. Evans. I have a pair of Barney and Berry silver plated skates with his name on it. I am sure my grandfather knew that he was a skating champion but I had no idea. I think these may have been his skates. What a great article.


From Angela (via e-mail): "I wonder if you might be able to help me? Corinne Altmann was a French figure skater born in Paris, around the same time as Alain Calmat and she appeared in photographs and competitions around the same time as Alain in the 1950’s. She was/is my husband’s cousin and I would love to know what happened to her after 1959. Do you have any knowledge? I would be very grateful if you have any information or advice as to where I can search for her."

Corinne represented France at the 1958 World Championships and 1959 European Championships. Anyone with any information on her story can reach out and I'll pass on the information to Angela.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":