A Man By Any Other Name: The Ferdinand G. Chatté Story

Photo courtesy Flin Flon Heritage Project

Ferdinand Georg Chatté was born on January 23, 1886 in Riga and in order to understand a key part of his story, it's only right to start with a short Latvian history lesson. At the time of Ferdinand's birth, Riga was part of the Governorate of Livonia, an administrative unit of The Russian Empire. At the time, Livonia wasn't ruled by Russian laws but instead was administered by the local German Baltic nobility. These nobles insisted that the German language be preserved in the region and it was common for German pastors to issue birth certificates with Germanized names. Ferdinand Georg Chatté was given the name Carl Waltenberg.

A talented and largely self-taught young skater, Ferdinand left the Livonia and weaved his way through the skating centers of Europe, making a living teaching in the early ice rinks of Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Manchester and Grindelwald. A personable young man with brown hair and blue eyes who spoke four languages, he had no trouble making friends along the way.

Left: Hala Kosloff and Ferdinand G. Chatté performing in California during the Great War. Right: Ferdinand G. Chatté  at the Manchester Ice Palace.

Ferdinand emigrated to America in 1913 and made a name for himself in the skating world during The Great War. He performed at the Zoological Gardens in Cincinnati, the Arcadian Garden of the Multnomah Hotel in Portland, the College Inn in Chicago and the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and taught skating in New York City and Seattle. To supplement his income from skating, he worked as a lifeguard in the warmer months.

After the war ended, Ferdinand moved north to Canada and taught at the Rideau and Minto Skating Clubs in Ottawa, the Toronto Skating Club and Montreal Winter Club - working with many of the top skaters of the day, as well as teaching upper-class socialites and their children the finer points of figures. Most notable was the impact he made on Western skating clubs. He began teaching at the Winnipeg Skating Club in 1925 and was largely responsible for the breakthrough successes of Manitoban skaters during The Great Depression.

Ferdinand's most famous student was North American and Canadian Champion Mary Rose Thacker, whom he coached from the age of three to twelve, before she began working with German coach Leopold Maier-Labergo. 

Ferdinand went on to coach at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, Vancouver Skating Club and Flin Flon Figure Skating Club. He also taught at several Eastern clubs including the Copper Cliff Skating Club in Sudbury and the Winter Club of St. Catharines. He passed away in Vancouver, British Columbia on January 24, 1958, one day after his seventy-second birthday - having paid a direct or indirect role in the development of thousands of skaters on two Continents.

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