Impossible Blogs Of 2020

One thing that 2020 hasn't taken away from me is my curiosity. I'm always on the hunt for fascinating new tales from skating history to share with all of you. Nine times out of ten, my wild goose chases result in a "finished product." However, for a myriad of reasons, some photographs or blurbs in old newspapers I come across just don't pan out. Today, I'm sharing five impossible Skate Guard blogs that never made it off the drawing board this year.


Berlin's Oskar Uhlig is remembered historically as the very first skater to win the European Championships. He claimed his first and only European title in Hamburg in January of 1891. Those Championships, which included both figure and speed skating competitions, were organized not by the ISU but by the German-Austrian Federation. Though speed skaters from six nations competed at this event, the seven figure skaters that participated all hailed from Germany or Austria. Oskar's score was over thirty points higher than the second place finisher, Herr Schmitson. 

Following the 1891 European Championships, Oskar finished as runner-up at the 1892 German Championships to Vienna's Georg Zachariades. In 1893, he was elected as the Chairman of his home club, the Berliner Eislaufverein. He later served as the club's Vice-Chairman. Oskar acted as a judge of the men's events at the 1894 and 1909 European Championships and the women's event at the 1909 World Championships

Aside from his contributions to the figure skating world, the historical record offers few clues as to who this mystery man was! Searches in the German and Austrian newspaper archives were far from fruitful but two possible clues are a entry for one Otto Oskar Uhlig, born circa 1860 and an 1869 book of rankings of the Royal Saxon Army published in Dresden listing an Oskar Uhlig among its officers.


I came across this article in the January 20, 1940 of "The Fife Free Press". It describes a series of unprovoked attacks at ice rink in Kirkcaldy, Scotland not long after the start of World War II. There's definitely a story here, but I wasn't able to come up with enough other sources to fill in the blanks.


Dr. Frank Mills, Guy Saunders, William Bonnell, Gordon Trent, Herbert Sheen, John Ryder and H.W.D. Foster recreating "The Wizard Of Oz" in the 1931 Toronto Skating Club carnival. H.W.D. is the Tin Man. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library.

While researching several pieces on skaters from Toronto in the roaring twenties, the name H.W.D. Foster kept on popping up. After I discovered that he medalled at the 1929 Canadian Championships in fours skating with the Smith sisters - Cecil and Maude - and Jack Eastwood, I became more curious about who this 'mystery man' was.

Sam Jarvis and H.W.D. Foster as Antony and Cleopatra in the 1926 Toronto Skating Club carnival. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

It turns out that he represented Canada at an international competition in Lake Placid in 1926, where he won medals in the junior men's, pairs, Waltz and Tenstep events. His partner for the latter three was Maude. This would have been before she teamed up with Jack Eastwood. Although I was able to link him to a fabric company called Cutten & Foster and The United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada and find several photos of him both on and off the ice, my quest to learn more about H.W.D. was cut short pretty quickly... when I couldn't figure out what H.W.D. stood for. I might have solved that mystery in the summer of 2019, when I found a mention of the death of one Horace W.D. Foster, husband of Doris Catherine Neal, in the November 1965 issue of "Skating" magazine, but wasn't able to find out much more.


Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Betty Schalow was the only daughter of Gustav and Mildred (Gross) Schalow. Her father was a German immigrant who worked as a repair mechanic for the telephone company. She started skating at the age of twelve at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and in New York City in 1943 won the U.S. junior pairs title with Arthur Preusch. She also placed fifth in the novice women's event at those Championships.

Not long after, Betty moved to Oakland, California to attend Mills College with aspirations of becoming a medical technician. However, when Ice Follies came to San Francisco, she auditioned and was signed as a member of the famous Ice Folliettes chorus.

Betty Schalow with film stars Cesar Romero and Ann Miller. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Five foot three, one hundred and fourteen pound Betty began studying under Roy Shipstad and Evelyn Chandler and quickly moved up the Ice Follies ranks, skating pairs acts with Arthur Preusch, Hugh Hendrickson and Marshall Beard before landing the 'leading lady' role in 1952, as a replacement for Canadian Champion Norah McCarthy.

Betty Schalow and Marshall Beard with the cast of Ice Follies

Betty's style of skating was described by reporters as a hybrid of Roy Shipstad and Evelyn Chandler's styles. World Champion Jacqueline du Bief noted, "The distinctive signs of her style are purity of line, speed, and the bite of the edges, as well as the blending of the movements." She became particularly known for her spread eagles and intricate footwork. Many of her performances were quite theatrical in nature. On the 1953 tour, she appeared as Venus, skating among the clouds in the "Symphony Of Stars". Betty was a fixture of the tour for well over a decade. An injured ankle and a broken leg didn't even deter her from appearing in the Ice Follies twentieth anniversary tour in 1956.

Left: Betty Schalow with Peter Lawford and Ava Gardner, Right: Betty Schalow with Bob Hope. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

Betty married two of her tour mates from Ice Follies, Carlos Romero Jr. and Patrick Shanahan. Shanahan skated a comedy act on the tour with Bill Cameron. The couple's French poodle, Pierre, even appeared in the show for a time. Off the ice, Betty enjoyed reading, cooking and collecting antiques.

Although there are no shortage of pictures of Betty floating around (and even a short clip of her performing from the late Carl Moseley's collection) I was unable to find any information about her life post-skating, or even a birth date.


This one's pretty short and (not so) sweet. When I came across this 1953 clipping, I just knew there was a story there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find out who RenĂ© Fensom was (presuming she was indeed British) or which ice show she was touring with... possibly one of Tom Arnold's Continental troupes? At least, as they say, she died doing what she loved. 

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":