Impossible Blogs Of 2021

History is full of fascinating untold stories. Over the last twelve months, I've tried to unravel many of them as best as I could. However, for every blog you end up seeing on Skate Guard, there's usually another one that never made it off the 'cutting room floor', so to speak. Today, we'll take a look at five stories from skating history that I wasn't able to fully delve into for a variety of reasons. The stories may be incomplete, but I think you'll agree that they are very interesting nonetheless!


Throughout the twentieth century, there were numerous instances of Asian skaters showing up at international competitions with programs that weren't the required length. Others misunderstood the required elements in a short program or the steps in a compulsory dance. It's really no wonder either - as written materials from the ISU weren't written in the languages these skaters spoke. Not understanding which death spiral you were supposed to perform is one thing... but not even being eligible to compete is another entirely! The May 1967 issue of "Skating" magazine noted, "Chang Om Ok, petite champion of South Korea, journeyed all the way to Vienna, Austria only to find that she couldn't represent her country at Worlds. An ISU regulation, unfamiliar to the South Koreans, states that a competitor must be twelve years old. Chang Om Ok is ten! But her trip was not in vain. She appeared as one of the skaters at the exhibition following the event." I would have loved to have delved more into young Chang Om Ok's story... but it proved to be an absolute dead end.


From propaganda posters to visits to elementary schools, the American military has employed numerous strategies to recruit new members. One of the most creative - and little known - was a 1959 campaign in New York City that used figure skating to draw in recruits.

In August of 1959, the United States Army set up a portable ice rink next to its recruiting station in Times Square, New York. Five skaters from the Ice Capades, who were performing in nearby Atlantic City, volunteered their time to perform two ten minute shows a day for a week for passersby as part of a recruiting campaign called Operation Hometown.

The campaign caused quite a raucous. Hundreds stopped what they were doing to watch the novel sight of figure skaters performing on a busy street in the middle of summer. Motorists stopped their cars in the middle of lunchtime traffic and one distracted taxi driver even rear-ended a Broadway bus. After the skaters finished each show, First Lieutenant Norman M. Merrill delivered a speech about Operation Hometown's mission to enlist men in the Army Air Defense Command and train them to repair, maintain and operate missiles at Fort Totten. Men who signed up were guaranteed that they'd be trained in new York and were sworn into the Army at a special ceremony at City Hall on August 28, 1959. Some of the recruits from Operation Hometown ultimately ended up going overseas to serve in the Vietnam War.

Why didn't this story warrant a blog of its own? How five skaters from the Ice Capades ended up performing split jumps and Salchows to recruit soldiers is anyone's guess and information on this Operation Hometown campaign isn't available in the National Security Archive.


This snippet, which uses a term that is very offensive today but was common at the time, appeared in "Skating" magazine in 1965. I was instantly intrigued. The same first name as Sonja Henie, from Jamaica, training in Switzerland and a pioneering skater of colour... There definitely had to be a story there. Without a doubt there is, but it's not one I was able to come up with. British and Swiss newspaper articles from the sixties don't mention a Sonja, Sonia or Sonya Blackman and a thorough combing of a big stack of old British skating magazines unfortunately didn't turn up a single mention.  Raymond Wilson remembered that she was really friendly and might have had lessons with Michael Abbott, but unfortunately that was about all I could come up with.


It's pretty rare I make an exception and 'allow' roller skating on the blog... but I started researching this one thinking it was about an ice rink and said "who cares?" because the story was just too juicy!

From 1882 to 1884, twenty-eight year old Thomas R. Ackrill, Jr. served as manager of the Roller Skating Rink on Dwight Street in New Haven, Connecticut. Under his management, business boomed, with over thousands of paying customers coming through the rink's doors each year and carnivals and special guest performers attracting large audiences as well.

Thomas, an emigrant from England, was considered a well-connected, popular and promising young man and was a member of New Haven's First Baptist Church. However, when he married a young woman several years his junior, her parents were staunchly opposed to their union and the marriage was kept quiet for some months afterward.

Thomas packed his bags and disappeared in late January of 1884, leaving his wife and child behind. One thousand dollars went missing as well. The dough belonged to the Roller Skating Rink's proprietor H.H. Bigelow. The January 25, 1884 issue of the "New York Times" noted, "It was his custom to forward each Saturday to Mr. Bigelow, who resides in Worcester, a statement of the receipts and expenses of the rink for the week, with a draft for the amount of the net income. Last Saturday he drew from the bank the entire sum to the credit of the establishment and failed to send either draft or statement to Mr. Bigelow. Sunday he left his wife, saying he was going to New York, but would return the following day. At a way station he telegraphed her to go with her little child to her parents and remain until she heard from him again. Since then nothing has been learned as to his whereabouts. Yesterday the discrepancies in his finances were discovered. His friends say that his departure could not have been due to domestic troubles, for he and his wife idolized each other, nor can his flight have been due to the shortage in his accounts, for he had many friends and relatives who would gladly have aided him had he been financially embarrassed. Until quite recently Ackrill was Captain of the Ramblers' Bicycle Club, and spent money freely to make the organization a success. At a recent election, the club elected another Captain, and Ackrill, who felt that his services entitled him to a re-election, took umbrage and resigned. Several other members, who felt that he had not been treated fairly, withdrew from the club. Ackrill's friends say that he took his defeat so much to heart that he has been despondent, and hardly like his usual self. Of late he frequently talked in a way which indicated serious mental trouble. Many think he is suffering from aberration of mind, and that he will return and clear up his record."

In the days following Thomas' disappearance, a highly suspicious Mr. Bigelow travelled from Massachusetts to New Haven to conduct an investigation of his own. He interviewed Thomas' family members and friends and learned that prior to his disappearance, Thomas had been spending too freely and living beyond his meager salary. In April of 1884, Thomas' father-in-law took his landlord to court. This came about because when Thomas' wife followed his instructions and fled to her father's house with their child, she left the rent unpaid. The landlord, Henry M. Gorham, kept the couple's piano. Thomas' father-in-law argued that the piano belonged to his daughter, and could not be held for Thomas' debts.

Here's the hole in this story... and it's a rather big one. At some point, under unknown circumstances, Thomas returned to Connecticut. Newspaper archives don't offer up any clues as to what happened when he returned or how he got himself out of the jam he was in. Unbelievably, in January of 1885, Thomas was named assistant manager of the Roller Skating Rink in Lincoln, Connecticut. That autumn, he another job managing the Qunniac rink. It lasted around a month and then he resigned and got a job at a bakery.

In 1891, he was charged with embezzling $125 from Philando Ferry, his boss at the bakery on Church Street in New Haven. The February 28, 1891 issue of the "Morning Journal And Courier" noted, "The story connected with Thomas R. Ackrill's embezzlement... is another one of those cases in which the wife of some other man is involved. The woman is Mrs. Charles P. Thompson, wife of the member of that name of the firm Platt & Thompson of Orange Street. Ackrill has been paying her attentions for a considerable length of time and the husband's suspicions were correspondingly aroused. Private detectives from New York have been busy for some weeks shadowing both Ackrill and Mrs. Thompson. A detective occupied the next room to them at one of the local hotels, and this with other facts coming to light led the wife to take her departure to New York, where she is now. She sent word to Ackrill that she was out of money, and that led to the crime he committed, but which without much doubt he intended to replace. He met Mrs. Thompson in New York and there was apprehended by a detective who was following the party in the husband's interests, but knew nothing of the embezzlement. Ackrill confessed this and was given the opportunity to voluntarily return." Upon his return to New Haven, Thomas was arrested and Mr. Thompson filed for divorce from his wife. Philando Ferry ultimately dropped his case against Thomas after a "harmonious settlement" was made.

Thomas later remarried and got a job as a labourer in a die machine factory. He passed away in 1915, and I suspect the 'whole story' went to the grave with him.


The success of Charlotte Oelschlägel's shows at the Hippodrome during The Great War led to an figure skating's explosive popularity in America. Rinks were bustling with activity, women were going gaga over the latest skating fashions and the country's top skaters became legitimate stars... and one of the biggest names of the era was a woman who went by the name Hala Kosloff.

Hala first grew the attention of the press in 1916 when she gave a series of figure skating exhibitions with Carl Waltenberg on an ice rink at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. Not long after, she materialized in New York City, where she gave a series of exhibitions at Iceland and the rink on the roof of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. However, it was a series of bold and balletic skating exhibitions at Thomas Healy's Golden Glades that drew her the plaudits of theatre critics. On November 11, 1917, the "New York Herald" raved, "Hala Kosloff, who is as fresh as the North, a refugee from the bitter tragedies of the war trodden countries, left Warsaw, Russian Poland, and made her fame in Paris. The Palais de Glace, known by the cosmopolitans as the best Parisienne attraction, worshipped the charm and grace of this beautiful and supple mistress of the ice. For two years the fame of Hala Kosloff in Paris made her the favourite. Now she comes to America and surpasses her former station in the Winter Ice Show. Miss Kosloff, who glices out on the ice from the self-opening egg, is a marvel in white in a well rendered travesty on Chanticloer. Her other numbers impel a lasting impression of her acting ability on the ice." In another number, reported "The Sun", she depicted "her majesty the Leghorn, and around her skate a flock of as beautiful chicks as ever wore the down of incubator babyhood." For this number she apparently wore a giant feather headpiece. As late as January 1923, she was performing duets at skating carnivals in Lake Placid with no less an authority on skating than Irving Brokaw himself.

Irving Brokaw and Hala Kosloff. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

But who was Hala Kosloff? Conflicting reports claimed that she hailed from Riga, Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and Warsaw. French newspapers from the decade prior to the time she surfaced in America offer zero mention of any skating performances of a Hala or Mlle. Kosloff.

The only possible clue to Hala's identity that showed up in the 1920 U.S. Census was a record for a boarding house on Broadway and 101st Street that listed a twenty-two year old named Hala Rusloff, who emigrated from Poland in 1914. This address was only a short distance away from Thomas Healy's Crystal Carnival Ice Rink on Broadway and 95th Street. Yet, there's zero mention of any Hala Kosloff or Rusloff anywhere after 1923. What became of this skating star of the silent film era... and who was she? In this case, history seems to be hiding the whole story.

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 figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":