Free Skate Favourite - Bev

by April 11, 2017 0 comments
Bev came and visited at the Arena bringing incredible photos and great memories, here is what she had to say:

I must have been about 9 when I put on my first pair of skates at a public session at Kerrisdale . I had no gloves and soon fell down. A kid skated right over my fingers and I was cut and bleeding - a terrible first experience on the ice! But somehow my parents got me back again and bought me a pair of skates!

My parents and brother, Howard, and I joined the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club and we skated Club and Family sessions together. It was great fun. I really loved skating - no one could stop me! Betty Cornwall was the Pro (skating coach) at Kerrisdale Arena and I took lessons from her for 2 years. Then, around 1954-5, Dr. Helmut May came to Vancouver from Vienna, Austria and became the new Pro. My Dad was a Director of the club at the time and told Helmut “my daughter will take lessons from you”. I was Dr. May’s first pupil. His English was not that good but it got better but we all managed to understand. I did my tests and competed eagerly. Many times I wished I had started skating earlier as I would have completed my gold medal by the time I was 16. Helmut was a wonderful professional and he and his wife Doris, a ballet instructor and choreographer were quite a team. The annual Ice Shows were spectacular.

My mom would save up her housekeeping money to pay for my personal lessons. Dad didn't contribute at all. I took a job when I was 14 and went to work Saturdays for a radio importer, testing radio parts, labelling them and sweeping the sidewalk in front his shop for 60 cents an hour, saving every penny. I bought my first pair of custom made Knebli boots with Coronation Ace blades that way. They were extremely expensive ($200) back in the mid 50’s.

They were beautiful! My feet were still growing so every year new boots were required.

Several of us would come to the Arena at 6 in the morning with Dr. May and do 'patch' from 6-8am. At that time I went to Point Grey School for grades 7, 8, 9 so I would come back over after school 2-3 days a week and do free skate for an hour then go home, do my homework, have dinner and come back to skate from 6-8pm! It was my life and I loved it!

'Patch' is a section of ice that is the width of the arena and about 15 feet wide.  There were lines that we’d score across the arena and we would rent that 'patch' of ice to work on our figures.  We would do figures for an hour followed by an hour of free skate, working on jumps, footwork and programs.  Figures in those days were 60% of your score, when you were in competition, and free skate was 40%. Figures were always my hang-up. I'd pass my tests well but it was really hard work, you had to trace over a figure 8,  3-turn, bracket, or rocker - names for all these figures that we had to do.  It was nerve-wracking, the judges would be on their hands and knees watching and making sure you were on your outside edge or your inside edge and your turns were clean.  So it was really hard to win at competition, some girls were much better at figures than free skate.  Free skate was my real love and the way they judge today, my outcome would have been totally different.  I would win the free skate but I would be 2nd or 3rd in the figures back then!  Today you do a short skate program of jump and footwork elements followed by a full program incorporating all the elements along with more artistic and interpretive elements.

Stephie Brown and Bev in Junior Ladies Pairs

I was about 12 when I won the free skating competition at the club and it was just a fun little thing and then Stephie and I skated ladies pairs and we won the Junior Ladies Pairs. I think Harry Atkinson took these photos of us. I had braces on and didn't smile very readily. 

Sandra Holmes' Mom was the secretary for the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club.  Sandy skated with me at Club sessions, this picture was taken in 1953. The “had to have thing” in those days was the knitted skating skirt.  They were hand knit, usually by the Moms, and they were absolutely gorgeous. 

This picture shows Linda Clark and my mom and you can see the knitted dresses were fitted from the waist to the hips and then the skirts flared out and our mothers used to make these! My mom would take a whole summer to knit mine but other mothers could knit them much quicker. 

Several parents would come skate and monitor the junior sessions just to help get the kids organized. We would do dances like the Dutch Waltz or The Swing. Then they would get everybody lined up and we would have a Grand March in the middle of the arena and end up in a giant pinwheel.
These are funny pictures, they are both 1954, my Mom and I are about to do the Dutch Waltz... 

...and in this one my Dad and Mom are at a Halloween party! There were a lot of different kind of skating parties.

My brother, Howard, skated and my much younger brother, Brian came along to Family sessions too! He sat on my boots most of the time and I would take him for a ride!

We used to have incredible Ice Carnivals here! I remember the first year I had just started to skate and I was a toadstool in Fantasia’s The China Dance, another year we were Queen’s Courtiers and we had to go out and dance the Dutch Waltz in big white wigs and beautiful silk costumes. The costumes were all made to measure so we went several times to a big factory where the ladies measured and fitted us. It was a big deal and the shows were always a sell-out!

When Dr. May arrived we then did a Vienna Ice Review and that was truly amazing. Dr. May could skate on stilt blades and he did a solo one year. It was breath-taking and scary watching him jump as he was so high off the ice. Several of us had solo performances and they were exciting as the coloured spotlights would follow you around the arena.

There was a lovely lady on the Blvd that would make our dresses - mine (far right) was white lame lined with pale pink satin and pale pink lace at the neck

Then, in January of 1958, I was in the Western Canadian championships and that was held at the Kerrisdale Arena. To participate in the Western Canadians, competitors came from anywhere west of Sudbury Ontario. I came third that year. Patsy came first.  She had was a lovely free skater and she was much better at figures than me.   Leslie was exceptional at figures. 

I skated to Spanish music during the juniors and this costume was red and gold - I absolutely loved that one!

The next championship was the B.C. Coast and I won the Ladies Junior Singles. It was the one that was in the Province newspaper with my leg up in the air! That was December of the same year as Westerns but almost a year later.

The Kerrisdale Arena had a concession – opposite the skate rental and sharpening shop. The concession had the best hot chocolate - the Arena was a bustling place back then, it was a neat place to be. It was relatively new and it was the best of the best at the time! Brian Legge was the disc jockey for the Club and he’d play the music for the sessions, in the little box high up at centre ice. The club sessions were really fun! Juvenile sessions were 6-8 years old I believe, followed by Juniors and Intermediates and Seniors. It was mixed skating (boys and girls). Friday nights was public skate - as I got older - I had friends and the odd boyfriend who would come and skate and Helmut (Dr. May) would have a fit because it was 8-10pm after patch (6-8pm on Friday night) and he would say "you are ruining your skates, don't use your good skates out there, you will ruin your blades!" I’d sneak on after he left and we would just go round and round and we were cheek to jowl, the place was absolutely PACKED! It was the happening place on Friday nights. It probably cost 25 cents and the music would be blasting and we would be holding hands it was really fun. Then we would all turn around and go the other direction.

Dr. May tried to encourage us to keep going and compete in bigger and bigger competitions but there was a great expense involved, you had to pay your own way, it meant more lessons and more ice time, and in those days nothing was funded by the Figure Skating Association. Besides the commitment, there is also the stress of competing, you start to get more nervous and anxious and I felt I just didn't need that. I decided to just skate for pleasure. I was almost 18, was going into grade 12 and I had to think about university and what I was going to do and so although I did skate for fun, I couldn't go on like I had done before - throwing my whole self into it. If only I had started younger!!

The Arena hasn't changed since then. I still have boots and have come and skated. About 10-15 years ago, I was working nearby so I thought I would come over at lunch to skate and I bumped into Helmut and told him my boots were old and he said he had a pair of Wifa’s for one of his pupils that didn't fit properly and he said "You try these on" and it was like they were made to measure for me so I bought them from him and I still have them and I still skate. I also have a grandson and granddaughter that are skaters albeit hockey players but excellent skaters!

Arena Rock


Interested in people and history. And fun.