A Number Of U.S. Novice Men's Champions

In today's world, technology has played an important role in increasing the visibility of novice and junior figure skating competitions. In years past, novice and junior winners at national figure skating competitions were treated as footnotes in newspaper articles and their performances were rarely - if ever - featured on television broadcasts. Today, we'll be taking a trip down memory lane and exploring the stories of 6.0 young men who each had one thing in common - they were U.S. novice men's champions.


"One Samuel F. should heed the rumour
And read that which a costumer
Of highly celebrated rating
Has put in glowing words in 'Skating.'
Let him think more of fabric pliable,
Of Glitter Ray and Taffeta reliable.
And for her poem thank Miss Bijur,
Although its truth may be abjured
For men who skate may well make haste
And go consult a lady's taste,
Since what men wear on skates
Is more important than their eights.

Oh men, remove your eyes for skirts
And pay attention to your shirts!
Your habits - such as price can buy -
Should never with the rainbow vie.
With double-breasted coat enhance
Your manly form - (and also pants),
And never merely buy a cap
But have one made that has some snap.
The moral: Gentlemen look nice
For skating if you'd cut some ice."

- Samuel Ferguson, "Skating" magazine, February 1931

Would-be poet Samuel Ferguson of the Skating Club of New York holds the distinction of being the first person in history to win a U.S. novice men's title. He took top honours back in 1932 at the Ice Club in New York City.


Photo (HUD 346.04, Page 181) courtesy Harvard University Archives. Used with permission.

The son of William and Dorothy More, Richard 'Dick' Wilson More was born July 28, 1924 in Buffalo, New York. His father was a second generation fur hat and men's clothing merchant. The More family was well off, with a live-in cook and maid attending to their needs. Dick attended the Nichols School in Buffalo and enjoyed playing golf as a young man.

Dick started skating at the Buffalo Skating Club during The Great Depression, and won the Eastern novice title in 1940. The following year, he took the Eastern junior title (on his first try) and placed third in the novice men's event at the U.S. Championships. In 1942, he held on to a strong lead after the school figures to best Marcus Nelson of Oakland, California and win the U.S. novice men's title at the age of eighteen.

Al Richards and Edith Whetstone, Walter Noffke and Doris Schubach, Jane Vaughn Sullivan, Walter Sahlin, Bobby Specht, Dorothy Goos, Dick More and Mabel MacPherson at the 1942 U.S. Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Dick's figure skating career ended due to his military service in the Navy V-5 plan in World War II. After being released as an Ensign to inactive duty in 1946, he briefly entertained a comeback to skating "with dreams of a slot on the Olympic team until I saw Dick Button really unwind one day at the Boston Skating Club, whereupon I decided I could never beat him no matter what."

Dick completed his Bachelor Of Science degree at Harvard University, married a Dutch woman and had three sons, two of them twins. After working for the Durez Division of the Hooker Chemical Corporation, a plastic and chemical concern in North Tonawanda, New York, he was transferred to New England as a sales rep for the company's Resins Division. After over a decade living in Massachusetts, he returned to Buffalo, where he got his M.B.A. at the University of Buffalo. He and his wife got divorced in 1983 and he remarried to a Canadian. In his later years, he served as Chairman of the Friends of School of Architecture at the University of Buffalo and was involved in the restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House. In his spare time, he enjoyed woodworking and model building. He passed away on May 19, 1996 at the age of seventy one.


Born March 20, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, George Austin Holt was the son of George Herbert Holt, a Kansas born Baptist minister, and Rose (Edmonds) Holt, who originally hailed from Massachusetts. As a youngster, he lived on Hargrave Street in Inglewood, California, but he later moved to Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley.

Austin had the good fortune of taking to the ice at the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club around the time Maribel Vinson Owen was teaching there and he came out of nowhere to win the 1943 U.S. novice men's title at the age of sixteen. After his win, Maribel told Associated Press reporters, " Imagine! He never had on a skate - literally that - until two years ago November. For a time he skated with groups and had no individual instruction. He's the kind of boy - and a real boy, too - who doesn't need to be told twice. The fact he is majoring in orchestral music has been beneficial, in the development of rhythm. He's... a really good prospect." Like Dick More, military service forced Austin to put his skating career on hold. While serving in the Navy V-12 course at the University of Southern California, he only found time to take to the ice on weekends. Unlike Dick More, Austin came back to the skating world. After his navy stint, he married Anne Fitzhugh Wright in April of 1947... and then returned to competition the following year at the age of twenty.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Unfortunately, Austin had the terrible timing of competing during the same era as Dick Button, Jimmy Grogan, the Jenkins brothers and Richard Dwyer. He placed off the podium in fourth in the senior men's event at the U.S. Championships for three consecutive years, but managed to place a very respectable seventh and fifth at the 1949 and 1950 World Championships. In fact, at the 1950 World Championships, the Canadian judge had him ahead of Hayes Alan Jenkins and Hellmut Seibt. Cognizant of the fact that defeating Dick Button would be next to impossible, Austin decided to switch to pairs. With wife Anne, he finally managed to win a senior medal at the U.S. Championships in 1951, but placed a dismal eleventh in his only trip to the World Championships as a pairs skater, with ordinals ranging from sixth through last place. After turning professional, Austin became a coach in Berkeley, California and at San Bernadino Valley's Arrowhead Figure Skating Club. He passed away in 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina.


Barbara Roles and Jim Short. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Sandy-haired, blue-eyed Jim Short of Alhambra, California started skating in 1947 after seeing a professional show. Representing the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, he won both the figures and free skate on his way to claiming the 1955 U.S. novice men's title. He was seventeen years old at the time, and coached by Nancy Rush. After finishing third in the junior men's event in 1957, he handed Gregory Kelley his first defeat ever on his way to winning the 1958 U.S. junior men's title. That same year, he and Barbara Roles took the silver in Silver Dance. After winning the novice and junior titles, moving up to the senior ranks was the next step for Jim. Fortunately, Deane McMinn stepped in and talked judges into showing up when the test session where he was going to take his seventh and eighth tests was almost cancelled. After a dismal last place showing in the senior men's event at the 1960 U.S. Championships, Jim decided to call it quits and get a job at a high end furniture store. 

David Edwards, Scott Ethan Allen, Monty Hoyt and Jim Short at the 1962 U.S. Championships

After the Sabena Crash, Jim vowed he'd never skate again. After several months, he rethought his decision and felt the USFSA needed him to come back. He began training again, only to be drafted for military service. He got assigned at a missile site in Pasadena but only was able to train for two hours a day. He finished off the podium in fourth in the 1962 U.S. Championships and later told Patricia Shelley Bushman, "I did as well as I could [but] my skating was kind of a shadow of what it had been." After retiring for a second time, Jim became a coach... and regularly placed ads in competition programs that said, "Skate because you love it!"


Born March 13, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, Harvey Michael Balch was a precocious young skater at the Blade and Edge Club who came out of nowhere to claim the U.S. novice men's title in 1958. Fifteen year old Harvey was the unanimous winner that year, defeating a young Monty Hoyt as well as Bill Hickox, Jr. who perished in the Sabena Crash along with his sister Laurie.

Harvey Balch (front right)

Unfortunately, Harvey was one of those skaters who never quite managed to translate his novice win to success in the junior or senior ranks. After finishing seventh in the junior men's event at Nationals in 1959, he dropped to eighth the following year. Though his poor results were disappointing, they saved him from getting on that ill-fated flight in 1961. He went on to study at the University Of Southern California and become a dentist.


Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Jimmy Demogines hailed from Pacoima, a city in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. One of his brothers served in the Vietnam War, and both his paternal and maternal grandparents came from Greece. Because of his heritage, he was nicknamed 'Zorba The Greek'. He started roller skating when he was eight, but switched to figure skating when his roller rink was furnished with ice. As a young man, he divided his time between his studies at the Hollywood Professional High School and on-ice sessions at the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.

Left photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Jimmy's first big breakthrough was when he pulled up from sixth to first in the intermediate class at the Southwest Pacific Championships in 1968, and his biggest accomplishment was when he unanimously won the 1969 U.S. novice men's title in Seattle. Jimmy and Mahlon Bradley (the silver medallist) were the smallest competitors that year and Jimmy was Frank Carroll's first student to win a national title. After winning the Pacific Coast junior men's title and U.S. junior silver medal in 1970, Jimmy moved up to the senior ranks - and to Colorado Springs to train - and finished an incredible fourth in a field of twelve at Nationals. Unfortunately, over the next few years he dropped down to sixth and then eighth, and his hopes of translating his novice success to a senior medal were never fully realized.

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