The Skating Club of San Francisco, Origin
This is a reprint of an article found in the July, 1972 edition (Vol. 16 No.3) of “The Inside Edge”. This article was written by the late Mr. John Rogers. Successive contributions were made by Rebecca Hurst along with the late Mr. George Stiles, one of the original members of the club and president from 1938 to 1940 and 1949 to 1951.
In the fall of 1932, a group of winter sports enthusiasts assembled by Alex Young, Jr. organized the Skate and Ski Club of San Francisco, for the “purpose of promoting and fostering an interest in the art of skating and winter sports”.
The first season turned up a membership of 106, to skate on Monday and Thursday evenings each week at New Iceland, Sutter and Pierce Streets, in San Francisco. The opening party was held October 31, 1932, at which members participated in single and pair exhibitions, games, races and hockey, after which a buffet supper was served.
The club promptly applied for membership in, and holds the distinction of being the first Pacific Coast club admitted to the USFSA.
The First Season
That first season, professionals Nathan Walley, Douglas Duffy and Alan Murray were hired by the club to instruct the members in the art of figure skating. (Nate Walley won the Professional Championship of Great Britain in 1934 and the “Walley” jump is well known to skaters).
The club took over the rink for an entire Tuesday evening, December, 27th, for a costume party at which there were exhibitions by members and games, including a five minute hockey game for which Lloyd Cook, a veteran hockey player, had coached members at club sessions. The evening ended with supper and refreshments.
For the closing party of the season a “carnival” was held on Monday evening, March 27th, during which there was a hockey game between Skate and Ski Club and the Glacier Skating Club.
During the season, in keeping with their avowed purpose, several trips were made to the Sierras for skiing and snow sports at Yosemite and Soda Springs.
The club helped arrange the First California Indoor Figure Skating Championships at New Iceland, March 4, 1933. One month earlier at the First California Outdoor Figure Skating Championships in Yosemite, eight club members had competed.
The officers for the first season were: Earl S. Douglas, President; Miss Ursula Williamson, Vice President; and Bruce Dohrman, Secretary-Treasurer.
Their first season ended successfully with the members joyfully looking forward to the next winter. They had no way of anticipating the appalling misfortune that was to befall them during the summer of 1933, when the rink was destroyed by fire.
At first there was some faint hope of reopening the rink but that vanished and the dismal fact remained that San Francisco was without a rink. Members were advised that they could skate with the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club at the Oakland Ice Rink, until skating resumed in San Francisco.
Until December, 1933, amateur skating in California was controlled by the California Skating Association. Its president, Don Tressider, was determined that the development of figure skating in California could only be accomplished through the C.S.A.
The USFSA was not only concerned with the momentum of skating in California but was disturbed by reports of violations of amateur rules. USFSA Secretary Richard Hapgood was sent to California “to investigate” and “to do missionary work”. Skate and Ski Club (the only local USFSA Member Club) hosted a luncheon for Mr. Hapgood at the Palace Hotel, on December 26, 1933, to which they invited representatives of other clubs in the Bay Area. The following day Mr. Young and his sister, Mrs. Murray, drove Mr. Hapgood to Yosemite where he remained for two days before proceeding to Los Angeles. As a result of Mr. Hapgood’s good missionary work, the CSA agreed to relinquish control of figure skating to the USFSA. Soon after, following a visit to New York, Alex Young was appointed to the USFSA Amateur Status Committee “with authority to pass upon questions of amateur status in and to grant sanctions for exhibitions”.
The Second Annual California Outdoor Figure Skating Championships, at Yosemite, January 27, 1934, were sponsored by the USFSA under the auspices of Skate and Ski Club.
From January to March of 1934 outing to the Sierras and other activities kept the nucleus of the club together. Under such adverse conditions the club was fortunate to retain 45 members.
Club Returns to San Francisco
The club resumed skating in San Francisco with the opening of a small rink, the San Francisco Ice Rink at 1557 – 48th Ave. Commencing with the opening party, January 7, 1935, sessions were held each Monday night. Acceding to popular demand, the club formed a Junior Auxiliary with sessions each Tuesday from 5 to 7 PM during February and March, commencing February 12th.
On March 11, 1935, the club held its first USFSA tests. Miss Stuart Ross took the First Test, Mrs. D. Walker the Preliminary Test. They both passed.
The closing party, March 26th, was the occasion for another gala costume party with a variety of refreshments catered by the Bohemian Club. However, the members were reluctant to hang up their skates so a post season was arranged and skating continued for another month for both Senior and Junior sessions. A very successful season ended with 37 adult members and 40 juniors. The officers for 1934-35: Mrs. Edison Holt, President; Earl Douglas, Vice-President; Mrs. Mary Y. Murray, Secretary-Treasurer.
The 1935-36 season began optimistically with an opening party at 8:15 pm. on December 2, 1935, at the San Francisco Rink. The following evening there was a Winter Sports Dinner and Fashion Show at the St. Francis Hotel for which the club reserved several tables. It was planned to have an adult session each Monday from 5:15 to 7:15 starting December 9 through March 30th. Plans for the Junior Auxiliary to hold sessions each Wednesday afternoon from 4:30 to 6:30 commencing December 4th to March 25th abruptly ended after four sessions do to lack of membership.
The adult sessions were also canceled after struggling along for 12 sessions. The enthusiasm with which the members departed from the previous season could not be revived. The small size of the rink seemed to be too great a handicap and the Directors decide to wait for better facilities before continuing.
Two years elapsed before the club resumed regularly scheduled skating sessions but ski trips continued to hold some of the members together. A committee met with Mr. Sutro to discuss the possibilities for club sessions at the rink to be opened at Sutro Baths, and succeeded in arranging for 30 Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30, starting October 5, 1938. George Stiles was elected President; Mrs. Holt, Vice President; and Alex Young, Secretary-Treasurer. With legal help from Lemuel H. Matthews, the incorporation of the club as a non-profit corporation became effective November 22, 1938.
Skate and Ski Club was awarded the California Championships but they were canceled due to the lack of competitors.
The club’s first USFSA sanctioned carnival took place at Sutro Baths on December 19, 1938, from 8 to 9 pm. The San Francisco Junior Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored this event, billed as A Winter Sports Hour. The program contained exhibitions by local skaters and starred Miss Hedy Stennuf, the Austrian champion. Skating and skiing fashions were also modeled by members of the club. The house was completely sold out. The show was running a bit over-time when an obdurate Mr. Sutro, piqued because the show was running a bit over-time, ordered the light switch pulled, ending the show in darkness and confusion.
Two young members of the club, Murray and Sheldon Galbraith were showing great promise. They were encouraged to enter the National Novice Singles in St. Paul, January, 19-20, 1939, becoming the club’s first national competitors. Confidence in their ability was not misplaced. Sheldon won second place and Murry finished third. Later, at the Pacific Coast Championships in Los Angeles, Murray and Sheldon won first and second places respectively, in the Men’s Junior class. Other club skaters did well too and Skate and Ski Club won the cup for highest number of points.
George Stiles was Chairman for a program of skating exhibitions presented at the opening of the Sonoma County Ice Palace in Santa Rosa, March 25, 1939. Skaters from Skate and Ski Club and St. Moritz Ice Skating Club combined their talents to produce an entertaining show.
The season ended on Wednesday, April 26th with a special session, with a Tyrolian theme, to which members of the St. Moritz Club were invited. After skating, the costumes were worn to a dinner party at the Hotel De France.
The club now had a membership of 120 and was making plans early in May for the next season, at a new rink. So, with the advent of the 1939-40 season, Winterland, at Post and Steiner Streets, became the next home of the club. The president, George Stiles, enthusiastically arranged for two adult sessions, Monday and Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30, for 30 weeks, starting September 11; and Junior sessions on Saturday mornings from 9 to 10 o’clock, starting November 4.
At the elections, on October 9th, the officers of the previous season were re-elected.
An Ice Review at the Sonoma County Ice Arena, September 30th, gave some of the competitive skaters an opportunity to display their talents. On December 18th, a Christmas party was climaxed by exhibitions.
At the National Championships at the Cleveland Skating Club, February 9-10, Murray and Sheldon again represented the club, this time in Men’s Juniors, placing 2nd and 3rd respectively. The California State Championships, originally scheduled for January 26 and 27, at Yosemite, but washed out by rain, were held on February 23-24 at the Sonoma County Ice Arena under the sponsorship of the Skate and Ski Club. The Galbraiths were the only entries in Men’s Seniors, which Murray won. At Pacific Coast Championships in Oakland, March 29-30, 1940, the results were the same.
Excited over their most ambitions undertaking to date, over 100 members eagerly rehearsed for their show “Cinderella of the Silver Skates” scheduled for March 11-13. The eminent success of the show was particularly attributed to the managerial expertise of William Baxter, and in recognition of this a grateful club conferred on him an honorary membership.
Summer skating was introduced during the summer of 1940 and the club held sessions each Sunday at Winterland.
Officers for the 1940-41 season were elected as follows: Mrs. Edison Hold, President; Robert Eglight, Vice President; James Ryburn, Secretary-Treasurer. The contract with Winterland Auditorium called for another 30-week season starting October 7, 1940. Announcements sent out in July produced and abundance of members. The season started off with 200 adults and 75 children.
The busy skating schedule was augmented by ski trips; one to Sugar Bowl where a Tyrolian party added to the merriment; another to Yosemite where a meet was held with other ski clubs; and a third to Mt. Hood. A cocktail party featured movies of the “Cinderella” show.
The club was well represented at the State Competition in Berkeley and at the Pacific Coast in Colorado Springs, and at Nationals in Boston, the club was represented by Marcella May in Ladies Juniors and Margaret Field in Ladies’ Novice. By this time, the Galbraiths had joined the Ice Follies to skate their famous “Synchro-Skating” act.
At the USFSA Governing Council Meeting in New York, April 19-20, 1941, Alex Young, Jr. was elected 2nd Vice President, to become the first elected officer of the USFSA from a West Coast club.
There would be many problems and difficulties to follow, but the club was well established during the formative years so that future skaters would enjoy the fruits of the labor of those individuals who contributed so much to the heritage we call the Skating Club of San Francisco.
Reprinted from The Inside Edge, January, 1966
Once again we are proud of competitors from the SKATING CLUB OF SAN FRANCISCO, INC. for their showing at the Pacific Coast Championships which were held at Culver City on December 9, 10 and 11, 1965. Besides winning the Junior Pairs Championships, BARBARA placed seventh in Senior Ladies and SAM was fourth in Junior Men. JUDY DRAEGER came in ninth in Junior Ladies and MIKE HOFFMAN and his partner Dona Taylor were seventh in Bronze Dance.
These young people have joined an illustrious group, who, throughout the years, have brought honor and prestige to the club. … Do you all know that MICHELE MONNIER was Pacific Coast Champion for two years, that Ed and Carmel Bodel, also our members, were National Dance Champions and that Bill and Laurie Hickox were on the 1961 World Team? Our Competitor’s Fund, known as the Bill and Laurie Hickox Memorial Fund was established in their honor and is used to assist our present competitors defray their traveling expenses.
The Grand Opening of the Yerba Buena Gardens was October 17th, 1998 and was sponsored by SCSF and sanctioned by USFSA. The San Francisco Chronicle had an article on the opening in the August 22, 1998 issue.
Two segments of skaters performed from the Skating Club of San Francisco, 11:20 am. and 1:45 pm. The skaters included Alex Arnold, Janine Davis, Taylor Hampton, Maggie Harding, Jay Kobayashi, Jessica Marie Liu-Wong, Aurelie Martin-Chiari, Bree Reardon, and Farrell Topham.
Ice Dancing segment was at 3 pm. with SCSF members skating together with members of other clubs: Gilbert Chiang & April Ellis, Farrell Topham & Joseph Tiger, Kia Samii & Sharon Walston, Cheryl Russell & Francisco Leta-Pomba. Also included in the day’s activities were Brian Boitano and kids from his Youth Skate Program, other figure skating exhibitions from members of other clubs, hockey scrimmages, Michigan J. Frog & Friends, Tweety Bird (WB20), and much more.