Thursday, February 21, 2013

Historical Thursday

In my search for information regarding figure skating, I made the gleeful discovery that the Google Online Library, as well as many other online Libraries, are replete with books dating to the 1800's on the sport. These are all free, all wonderful, and all hysterical. I encourage you to go searching for a few, and once you get past the flowery langauge, you can find some interesting and useful information.

Today we're looking at "Figure Skating for Women" from the Spalding Athletic Library dated 1921. This book is supposedly a beginner's guide, but it jumps from selecting and buying a good pair of skates to rocker turns within about twenty pages. You be the judge. We also learn that the standard by which we should judge ourselves is the premier european female skater of the day, "Charlotte," who is always referred to within quotations because apparently she is so very good that we cannot even say her name without religious pause. "Charlotte" is quoted very frequently, and she speaks pretty derisively of the quality of American Skaters she sees on public pond sessions. But she loves our enthusiasm.

This is "Charlotte."

She also has her own line of skates, proudly advertised in the back for ten dollars a pair.

On clothing, the book recommends that women wear a skirt no longer than the tops of the boots, and no shorter than mid-calf. Material can vary from sheer silk to leather. (Well, now I want a leather skirt.) Silk sweaters are advised, and to avoid bulk and aid in freedom of movement, we should have some silk or satin bloomers. Experts may wear costume "somewhat more striking than that which would be appropriate in public parks," but beginners had best stick to "subdued colors and simple design." I'm going to say it again; Bloomers.

The book goes on to say a few of the same things that Master Shifu says to me today, "don't look down," "bend your skating knee," and "twisting of the body." My personal favorite suggestion was "the palm turned down and the fingers slightly extended, but neither clenched nor spread out like claws." Now I want to try Claw-Hand at my next lesson just to see how that goes. It does state that teaching a friend to skate can be one of the greatest strains a friendship can bear, which I believe when I remember trying a few jumps, shaking and sweating in terror and thinking I was doing a little better, and Master Shifu yawning.

Hogwarts Coaching Team

Speaking of Master Shifu, the book does say that it would be wise to employ a "qualified teacher," but it warns that these people can command the exhorbant rate of four dollars an hour. If you want someone really good, then you can expect to pay fifteen dollars an hour.

Having been written in the twenties, this book doesn't really concern itself with jumping or spinning or any of that fun stuff we do. In fact, this is their idea of Spirals, which my husband would agree with.

No, it's all about school figures. These things, the shapes that the woman who studies Patch does, who gets annoyed with me when I accidentally invade her ice.

The figures range from the relatively simple.

To these things, which the book says we should not try. (I'm not joking.)

All in all, this is a pretty fun trip down skating history. I love history, because you can't know where you're going unless you see where other people have been before you. And now I think I will die if I don't get one of these glorious fur trimmed dresses to go skating in on the public rinks next winter.


  1. What a fun post! I think it would be awesome to do a show built around period costumes -- you know with fur lined coats and muffs. As for the lady who does patch, she's pretty much given up trying to avoid my skating and leaves when she sees me arrive. Ah the joy of being a novice skater and striking fear into those around you:)

  2. I adore this post for all of its history. I am going to send a link to my coach, just for fun, to see if she can do any of those incredible off-limits figures... :)

  3. I loved serpentine patterns when I did patch.