Did They Skate?
March 06, 2014
Recently, I visited the open ice skating rink at Crown Center in Kansas City. I was pleasantly surprised to see people of all ages. I started skating. Naturally, I started thinking and comparing my experience with how it could have been in the past. Did our ancestors enjoy any such pastimes?
The ice skating championships and Olympic skating are a sport for the younger generations. But what winter activities did the people of my age participate in? Did they also enjoy winter sports? Did they have the same passion for winter sports that I do? That was when I decided that I would attempt to find historical videos showing ordinary people enjoying ice skating and other winter sports in their leisure time. People of my age. Did I mention my age? Oh, never mind. The question is, did our ancestors skate on Sundays?
As I was lost in my thoughts, the circular motion of the entire crowd suddenly stopped. Wow! We had the pleasure of being witnesses to a marriage proposal, right there on the ice. It was quite romantic. The unsuspecting girl was stopped by the young man right in the middle of the ice. He knelt down and spoke the magic words - Will you marry me? She replied - Yes. We all started to clap and cheer. It was a very nice bonus to an already enjoyable outing.
So let us ask the question again – did our ancestors skate? And the answer is yes, they did, if they had access to ice, of course. The oldest pair of skates found is about five thousand years old, and it was discovered on the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. The skates were made from the bones of large mammals. When I arrived home, I opened the library’s website, checked the history databases, clicked on Times Digital Archive 1785 - 2006, and read various articles about skating in the 1850s.
On Modern World History Online, I enjoyed the articles about a great skater named Sonja Henie. Sonja was a Norwegian figure skater and later an American actress who was a true pioneer of ice skating, as she combined the athleticism of figure skating with the art of ballet dancing. Not to mention, she turned the fashion of ice skating upside down. She was the first skater who wore a skirt above her knees. Sonja won three gold medals in three Olympic Games and ten world championships. Later, as a Hollywood actress, she became the third greatest box office attraction of the time, only after Clark Gable and Shirley Temple. What a career!
I continued exploring. U.S. History in Context and American History in Video were my friends. As I typed ‘ice skating’ in the search box, I found exactly what I was seeking. Historical video footage of real people, young and old, women in long skirts, all skating in Central Park at the brink of the 20th century. I truly enjoyed this video and I hope you will, too. It amuses me every time I view it.
It would be exciting if it was possible to interview the individuals in the video. Why were they skating? What was their favorite aspect of it? As the routine work schedule in the cities was becoming more standardized and employers created the common workweek hours and leisure time for their employees to spend with their families on the weekends, people were able to start enjoying various sports and activities. The video serves as proof and a window into the past.
If you happen to enjoy the history of ice skating and how it evolved, you may also want to visit American Periodicals Series Online 1740 to 1900. And if you have a chance, take a trip to any of the ice skating rinks in the area. You may expect to see the unexpected. Another marriage proposal? Or the next Sonja Henie? Or, a lot of people falling? No worries. There is always a fellow skater’s helping hand to assist in getting back up, and friendly smiles all around.
Midwest Genealogy Center