Blonde On Blades
Barbara Ann Scott could hit the star dust trail to Hollywood like Sonja did, but Barbara wants a home
FOR FIGURE SKATING 1936 was an important year. Sonja Henie turned professional— the magic girl who had won 10 world’s titles turned them in on movies, flashy shows and the big money.
And in Ottawa there was a girl of seven who took her first skates to bed with her as though they were dolls. This little girl was not well and sometimes when she grew impatient with being sick she would put on the skates in bed and count the days until she could start her career as a championship figure skater.
The girl’s name was Barbara Ann Scott and today in figure skating hers is a big name.
In 1945 it was the name of Canada’s foremost athlete and the name of the best woman amateur skater in North America. In 1946, for a third time, it was the name of the Canadian champion. In 1947 it carries Canada’s hopes for a world’s championship and not even the enticements of being a debutante in the national capital are going to interfere.
As far back as 1931-32, when Barbara Ann was three, she wanted to be a skater. Her first skates were double-runners and on a test run at Dow’s
Lake near Ottawa these let her down physically and spiritually. She turned them in to her father and mother, denounced them as poor imitations of the real thing and asked for real skates.
It was not until Christmas 1935 that she got them. But the skates arrived a week before a particularly severe attack of recurring ear trouble. She went to bed for a week. The skates went with her and when they both reappeared Barbara Ann Scott had made up her mind.
She announced her findings in a two-part statement to her family. First she was going to be a gold medallist figure skater and second the ear trouble was not going to stop her.
HER MOTHER agreed but insisted that Barbara Ann work hard at the piano lessons she had been taking for a year. A second condition on which the skating projected rested was that she remain in the first six in her class at Model Normal School.
Barbara Ann flung herself into her task of becoming a skater. She worked so hard at Minto Skating Club that while she was still eight she had mastered not only the primer stages but the first two of the four official tests of skating competence.
At nine she got a silver medal for another test and at 10 she became the youngest skater to win the gold medal for those who pass all Ihe tests. At 10, too, she was fifth in the Canadian junior championships at Toronto.
At 11, she really began to roll. She won the United States gold medal and won the Canadian junior title on Minto ice. She was the youngest junior champion in national skating history. Her competitors ranged from 17 to 20 years. Age has nothing to do with junior competition; attainments are its criterion.
As a result of her triumph, Barbara Ann Scott automatically became a senior.
She was 12 in the winter of 1940-41 when she laid siege to the throne of Mary Rose Thacker, the Winnipeg girl who had carried off North American honors in 1939 and who had succeeded Connie Wilson and Cecil Smith, Toronto, as the dominant woman skater in Canada.
But for two straight seasons she was among the also-rans in the Canadian meet and in the biennial North American contest which fell again to Miss Thacker in 1941. In 1943 competition lapsed because of the war and Miss Thacker turned professional and began to teach.
Barbara Ann Scott won her first Canadian senior title at 15 in 1944. With it went the Duke of Devonshire Cup.
A year later she defended her Canadian title successfully and defeated the three-times U, S. champion, Gretchen Merrill, Boston, for the North American championship in Madison Square Garden. At 16, she was the youngest continental ice champion in history.
Her victory gave Canada its seventh title in the 11' international competitions since 1923. Of the others, Connie Wilson won four and Mary Rose Thacker two.
In 1946, she won the Canadian title for the third consecutive year. She was named the outstanding Canadian woman athlete of 1946 in a national poll of sports writers conducted by the Canadian Press.
And it was in 1946, too, both unanimously and uniquely, that she was awarded the Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy as the top Canadian athlete of 1945.
Never had one so Continued on page 45
A. Y. JACKSON
You’d never take Alexander Young Jackson, C.M.G., painter of the striking Quebec landscape on the opposite page, for a revolutionist. At 4 he has the genial, ruddy, white-thatclied look of a retired gentleman farmer.
Yet he was a central figure in the Group of Seven, who created such a critical commotion three decades ago when they began to paint the Canadian scene through Canadian eyes.
Jackson began in his native Montreal as a lithographer’s apprentice, studied art in Paris, lives in Toronto, but is apt to be found at his easel anywhere in Canada. Late in winter he's usually in rural Quebec, where he’s known as Pere Raquette (Father Snowshoe). He did this painting near St. Urbain in 1933.
Blonde On Blades
Continued from page 16
young won it before. Never had a woman won it before. Never before had its award been decided without dissent on the first ballot.
So one night in the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa she was presented with a miniature of the trophy at a civic dinner and she describes it as her second major thrill.
The first came that night in Madison Square Garden when she won the North American title.
In winning the Marsh award she joined such athletic greats as Dr. Phil Edwards, the Negro runner, Gerard Cote, the marathoner, Bobby Pearce and Theo Dubois, the scullers, and Bob Pirie, the swimmer. She took an extra bit of pride, she said later, in winning something like this in a nation that could recognize greatness in a Negro. At the time this was written, the Marsh trophy for 1946 had not yet been awarded.
Last fall was a busy one for Barbara Ann as she practiced in preparation for the biggest campaign of her career. She sailed early this year to represent Canada in the European figure skating championships at Davos, Switzerland. These were held Feb. 1 and 2.
She goes from Switzerland to Stockholm for the world’s title competition from the 14th to 16th of this month.
In order to compete for the European and world titles she was forced to abdicate the Canadian championship; a new champion was chosen at the Canadian meet in Toronto last month. However, she expects to be back home in time to go into training to defend her North American title at the international competition in Ottawa, Mar. 29.
On her 106 pounds and her 5 feet 3 x/i inches of height she carries to Stockholm Canada’s hopes for its first world skating title. But these competitions abroad are to her just a prelude to her highest ambition—to take part in the Olympic Games of 1948. Cecil Smith once placed second in a world’s championship but no Canadian skater has ever come close in the games.
The Crowd’s Delight
To meet all her ambitions the 18year-old Miss Scott lives by a motto. It came to her in a “nice, sweet” letter from John S. MacLean, Toronto, a skater and a scholar, who saw her skate when she was very young and saw a greatness in her. He wrote her and, quoting Milton, he told her to “scorn delights and live laborious days.”
She has hewed to that Spartan code ever since.
But to understand just how Spartan it is, you must know something about the demands of the sport itself.
In senior competitions, there are two major phases. Of the available marks, 60% are awarded for school or technical figure skating, the rest for free skating.
The master of the first is a skaters’ skater. It consists of the intricate, tedious, unending conquest of 40-odd figures that are all patterned on the basic framework of the figure eight. Fifteen minutes before a contest the judges announce the six on which the competition will be founded. But hours and weeks of training are spent in getting ready for any or all of them.
The master or mistress of the second phase is the crowd’s delight. It is free skating that Sonja Henie does when she goes racing, leaping and dancing about before a Hollywood camera. It is free skating that has gained the sport the popular appeal it has today.
Individuality and initiative count
here but each skater gets only four minutes to show his or her abilities in the jumps, spins, spirals and other feats.
Those who know skating and know Barbara Ann Scott say she excels in both phases. But, somewhat surprisingly for the uninitiated, she says she gets more enjoyment out of the first than the second. This, skaters report, is a great and almost essential boon for one who aspires to the heights.
With this introduction, you probably are ready to hear the details of what she means.
Her autumn and winter training day keeps her on the ice nearly nine hours, most of it devoted to the figures in school skating.
This goes on from November to April. She relaxes through May and June, skates five hours a day during July and August—at Lake Placid, N.Y., before the war, at Kitchener, Ont., during the war, and now at Schumacher, a Northern Ontario mining town whose palatial rink and “wonderful people” she discovered during the Canadian championships of 1946.
In Bed at 8.30
This winter she pitched into her heavy schedule as soon as there was ice in the Minto rink, at the beginning of November. From Monday through Friday, she rises at 7 a.m., is at the rink at eight and jousts with the figures until 11.45.
Through most of this she is freezing in every bone for there is no heat in the skating portion of the rink. At 11.45 she has a 15-minute “thawing - out period.” Then she engages in another 90 minutes of free skating and calls it a morning.
At three o’clock she is back again at the figures and this goes on for three hours until, at six o’clock, she whoops back into the free skating for half an hour and is done for the day. Over the week end, she takes Saturday and Sunday afternoon off but skates Sunday mornings.
Over the years she has had the guidance of a succession of professional coaches, of whom Czechoslovakian Otto Gould saw the longest service and directed her to her highest laurels, the North American title.
But Gould is in Vancouver now and a nonprofessional, and Melville Rogers, a former North American champion himself, has been helping her recently.
Her coaches, her training have been the prime factors of her life for years. Everything else is secondary, including social life, including music, including flying, including boy friends.
Occasionally when she is in training she goes out on a Saturday night, but generally she doesn’t. Through the week she is in bed at 8.30. On Sunday nights she attends St. John’s Anglican church.
She says she likes to dance but sometimes the fear broods in her that some of the young folks her age “think I’m a pill” because she doesn’t let dancing or anything else interfere with her training.
But she likes meeting people and likes parties. She neither drinks nor smokes. The heaviest winter of her skating career and the most important winter of her social life have coincided. Last fall the Ottawa papers published the picture of a pensive, long-haired debutante named Barbara Ann Scott. At 18, her time had arrived to come out in capital society.
But, to Barbara Ann, her debut is a secondary consideration. Her education, too, has been pushed around a little by her skating. Between the ages of three and 10 she went to private schools but since then she has been tutored by Miss Sylvia Seeley. She is
now studying for senior matriculation but there are indications that studies may fall behind this winter.
Her music and her music teacher, Miss Gladys Barnes, have felt the j tyranny of skates. For years Miss Barnes has been trying to sandwich two hours a day at the piano into the routine of the Scott existence.
She Cooks and Sews
Although it cannot be reported that she has succeeded, it can be said that Barbara Ann plays well enough to have appeared in the odd concert. She played for me one evening in the flat she and her mother share in downtown Ottawa. Warmth and ability show in her music.
She rides well and likes to jump. Indeed, when she was younger the only thing she wanted as much as singlerunnered skates was a horse of her own. She still thinks she will own a horse some day.
She flies. She got her student’s license a week after she joined the Ottawa Flying Club, two hours and five minutes after she began taking instruction. Her next object is a private license.
She cooks and sews. At eight she knit a pair of socks for her father and he wore them proudly to work. She still knits socks. She swims, canoes, shoots and likes golf. She would like to have more time to study art because she has an aptitude for sketching. She would like to have more time to soothe the harassed Miss Barnes. She would like to have time to study ballet. She would like . . . but there is always the skating.
Barbara Ann has a brother, the former Flight Lieut. William Scott, an RCAF bomber pilot, who is now with a civilian airline, and a sister, Mary, or Mrs. E. F. Woodcock, who lives in Brockville, Ont. Her father, Col. Clyde Scott, was a veteran of World War I who later became military secretary to the Department of National Defense. He died in 1941. Her mother has accompanied her to Europe.
“Everybody Likes B. A.”
Barbara Ann Scott says she wants to be and intends to be a completely normal person. Her successes have not escaped arousing what seem to be the inevitable jealousies but generally speaking she is popular and well-liked. One group of the younger set at the Minto was asked one day how she was regarded and they grinned and one of them said, “Oh, everybody likes B.A.”
Her voice is soft and nice and her eyes, light blue, almost grey, are the kind in which the whites give the pupils a vivacious, dancing touch.
Her hair is long and blond shading into brown. When she is in training she puts it into braids sometimes. But usually she lets it hang to her shoulders.
Her looks and poise are such that you feel sure it wasn’t entirely her skating which prompted offers from Hollywood. There have also been offers to turn professional but you gather from Barbara Ann and from her mother that she won’t. Well, maybe to coach a bit, hut she won’t try to follow Henie.
Instead she has set for herself a plan that would seem to lead directly to the altar and into a home. She wants to go to McGill’s Macdonald College and take its homemaking course.
She wants to do this after she has come through this arduous winter of skating and after the 1948 Olympics, j That, says Barbara Ann Scott, would j be the end of her competitive skating. But in her opinion that is the way it should be. ir !