Reader Mail Time


It's once again time to unpack the mail bag, answer some of your questions and share some of the interesting e-mails and social media messages that have come my way over the last few months. As always, if you have a question you'd like me to tackle or feedback on a blog please reach out via e-mail.


From Jennifer (via e-mail): "When did pairs start doing overhead lifts?"

A: Great question Jennifer! If you watch fabulous grainy newsreel footage of skating, you'll notice that a lot of the lifts that early pairs performed were along the lines of what we'd call dance lifts today. There were some exceptions to this though, of course. Overhead carry and adagio lifts were a thing (mostly in professional skating circles) in the 1940's. The partners doing the lifting didn't have a ton of experience in this area though and there are actually stories of men practicing off-ice by lifting arm chairs and sand bags before attempting lifts with their partners. Overhead rotational lifts really didn't start making their way into amateur skating until the 50's. As late as the early 60's, there was an ISU rule that overhead lifts could have a maximum of two revolutions. The German pair of Margret Göbl and Franz Ningel did four revolutions at the 1961 Europeans. It was very close between them and another German pair and some felt that was why they lost the title. 

From Susan (via Twitter): "During the 1988 Calgary Olympics closing ceremony, Barbara Underhill & Paul Martini skated to a piece of music by a Canadian composer which to this day I really liked the program and the music but have never been able to find out what the piece was or who the composer was. I know this is rather obscure - but anyway I think they only skated this program once but it certainly stuck in my mind."

A: The music used for Underhill and Martini's program when the flame was extinguished in Calgary was "The Cello and The Girl" by Juno award winning musician Tommy Banks. While we're on the topic of that Closing Ceremony, I will say as a skating history lover, I thought the performances in that Closing Ceremony were an absolute dream. Beautifully put together and so many fabulous skaters participated - Toller Cranston, Robin Cousins, Dorothy Hamill, Barbara Ann Scott, Karen Magnussen, Don Jackson, Petra Burka, Debbi Wilkes, Brian Pockar... the list goes on and on. Brian Pockar was the Artistic Director, Kevin Cottam the choreographer and Frances Dafoe the costume designer. A beautifully done tribute to skating history. If you haven't seen it, it's on the YouTube - give it a watch!

From Jeff (via e-mail): "Why did they stop holding international competitions outdoors?"

A: Have you seen Mother Nature in action?! At the last World Championships held outdoors in Vienna in 1967, all events but the men's and women's school figures were held outdoors and the weather conditions weren't exactly lovely - competitors had to contend with changing temperatures, high winds, rain and snow. This not only put a damper on the competition, but affected ice conditions and caused delays as well. While competitors had an awful go of it skating outdoors sometimes, the real victims were the judges and officials who were outside in terrible weather conditions for prolonged periods of time, unable to move around and try to stay warm. While we might look at those stunning pictures of skaters competing in Davos and St. Moritz with the mountains in the backdrop in awe, the reality of how things often played out wasn't always as idyllic as photographs might suggest.

Engraving of skaters at the Palais de Glace, 1906

From @ismiicassie (via Instagram): "Do you have any unknown/hard to find information on the Théâtre du Rond Point in Paris that used to be an ice rink (Palais de Glace)?"

A: I took a look in my files and unfortunately, I do not have much on the Palais de Glace aside from some beautiful pictures and advertising posters. One book I'd recommend checking out is Jeanine Hagnauer's "Le patinage sur glace: historique". I'd also take a look in the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. They have over sixty issues of a wonderful 19th French periodical called "Le Patineur" that was in print around the time the Palais de Glace opened. Hope this helps a little bit! 

From Susan (via e-mail): Just a memory of the Old Smoothies. I couldn't wait to see them in the Ice Capades. I think my first was around 1952, Buffalo, NY. We all in our family skated at Buffalo Skating Club, which was Nichols School hockey rink part of the time. I was 7 then and knew how hard it was to keep on the correct edge. I always looked forward to seeing them perform!

Photographs of a scrapbook from the family of Armand Perren. Photo courtesy Anne-Catherine Rickli.


From Anne-Catherine (via e-mail): Armand [Perren] was the uncle of my mum (the brother of her mum). The wife of one of Armand's brother just died and I got different albums of ice skating. One is about Armand, some are about Fredi (his brother) and there are also a lot of newspaper articles about them.

From Richard (via e-mail): "I am a retired Navy Captain born and raised in West Seattle and graduated from West Seattle High School in '55 (Frances' school) and the University of Washington. I read your skating blog account of Frances Radecop’s murder with interest. Growing up, I lived a half-block away from both the Radecop and the Jones residences and although I did not know Frances, I knew her murderer, Carl Jones. In fact, he taught a gaggle of us younger neighborhood kids how to shoot basketball. The story of how he was finally caught is fascinating... I talked to two people who knew both Frances and Carl. One a classmate and the other my and their high school teacher. I also learned from Jack Porter, the assistant Seattle Chief of Police, who was a friend of my father’s and lived right across the alley from the Jones residence and knew him as a neighbor as well as a murderer, how they caught onto Carl. The Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper, at the behest of the police, periodically reviewed and printed unsolved cold cases in the hopes of developing new leads. A copy of the newspaper featuring the Radecop murder with a large photo of Frances Radecop on the front page was lying on the table when Carl Jones signed up at a West Seattle boathouse for a local fishing derby. When Jones caught sight of the newspaper, his reaction was so pronounced that the woman recording the registration entries contacted the police, stating that she was convinced he knew something. Carl Jones had a police record. He had been arrested as a juvenile for burglarizing a boathouse and stealing an outboard motor. Moreover, Carl and Frances had not only been classmates but lived within a few doors of each other. It was enough. On the pretext that they were investigating another boathouse burglary, the police asked Jones to voluntarily come in and clear his name. He did so. They asked him to take a lie detector test, to which he readily agreed since he was innocent of the fictitious crime. As soon as he was hooked up they started questioning him about the Radecop murder. According to Jack Porter, Assistance Chief of Seattle Police (and later King County Sheriff), Jones confessed within 15 minutes. Omitting names, I wrote about this story, which I entitled 'I was taught to play basketball by a murderer,' in my high school creative writing class. When I finished reading the story out loud to the class, the teacher declared, 'You’re writing about the Radecop murder.' I acknowledged that that was true, to which she replied that almost everyone in the school, faculty and students, suspected Carl of the crime at the time. He and Frances had had a secret affair that she had broken off, which he took badly. Decades later I was telling this story to a group at a gathering when a woman who was a classmate of Frances confirmed this. But both the teacher and the classmate said the police never questioned anyone at the school and apparently no one thought to contact them, so he escaped justice for eight years. As a footnote, Carl Jones served honorably in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star. A killer turned war hero turned convicted murderer."

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":