Exploring The Collections: Competition Programs

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

This month, I'd like to talk about Competition Programs! As early as at least the roaring twenties, these fact-filled booklets have served as 'companions' to the experience of viewers at competitions, listing the names and (at times) skate orders of skaters, the clubs or countries they represented, offering a time schedule and in many cases, spaces for spectators to write down and calculate the judges scores. 

If you're lucky enough to come across a used Competition Program, you may find the scores recorded in pencil, as well as notes about the performances as the spectator saw them - what colour dress the skater might have worn, whether or not they fell or not, what jumps they may have performed, etc. Some collectors may get giddy over pristine copies of things, but there's far more value in a well-loved, written-in Program as far as I'm concerned!

A flip through the program for the 1989 European Championships in Birmingham reveals messages from Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, ISU President Olaf Poulsen and World Champion Courtney Jones, who was the Chairman of the Organizing Committee and President of the ISU at the time. There's a list of all of the people who served as Committee Chairs, a timetable of events, a history of the European Championships by ISU Historian Benjamin T. Wright, guides to judging and 'what to look for' by NSA Historian Dennis Bird and sportswriter Sandra Stevenson, short bios and photos of competitors, skating-themed puzzles, a map of the venue, a list of past winners, an autograph page, an order form for event merchandise and numerous advertisements.

A program from the 1970 Canadian Championships in Edmonton, which sold for one dollar, is somewhat abbreviated in comparison to the robust 1989 European Championships program. There's a list of Committee Chairs and CFSA Officers, letters from CFSA President Doug Peckinpaugh, Alberta Premier Harry E. Strom and Edmonton Mayor Ivor G. Dent, a list of the judges and where they were from, a brief history of the sport, schedule, list of competitors and clubs, the eligibility requirements and prizes for each event, an explanation of judging, a list of the 1969 Canadian Champions, a handful of photographs and an autograph page.

One thing that's of great interest from a historical perspective that I often see in Competition Programs are articles detailing more regional or club histories. These articles, often penned by club members or local historians, give a sense of the city that hosted the Championship's past and what sense of importance the Championships may play in that region's own skating future. Take a city like a Halifax, which hosted the World Championships in 1990... but hasn't hosted the World Championships since. A flip through that year's program gives a real sense of what a big 'get' the Championships were as compared to an international competition in say, Vienna which has hosted many ISU Championships.

For a list of the Competition Programs in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you've got programs collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you!

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.