The Tulsa Figure Skating Club honored Margaret-Anne Graham-Weir at their 2014 summer show. She has been recognized by US Figure Skating for 50 years of service as a judge. Read more about her achievements and contributions to the sport here.
Introduction to Tulsa Figure Skating
The Tulsa Figure Skating Club (TFSC) has a history almost as long as the United States Figure Skating Association. Believe it or not, Tulsa, the city, was an early adaptor to the ice sports. In fact Tulsa had the first manmade-ice rink and arena below the Mason-Dixon Line. Fate had a major role in the random coming together of ice skating in Tulsa in the 1920’s and 1930’s. “Build the rink and the people will come.” And, come they did.
In 1928 Robert and Walter Whiteside constructed the Coliseum that spread a full block from 5th to 6th and a half block deep on Elgin. The Coliseum was the largest sports arena in the Southwest. Ice hockey was a favorite sport of Robert Whiteside and on New Years 1929 he hosted the first professional ice hockey match in the Coliseum. From then on ice skating became a major family recreation for thousands of Tulsans. The Whitesides then hired a manager by the name of E. J. Quigley, who was instrumental in tempting the ICE FOLLIES to rendezvous in Tulsa. Quigley was known as a showman and had booked bands and dances in the Coliseum.
Quigley, a personal friend of the Shipstads & Johnson, saw the potential of the new ice extravaganza and convinced them to open the first professional touring ice show in Tulsa. On November 7 and 8, 1936, the ICE FOLLIES had their world premier in Tulsa. A 40 member cast of figure skating champions from across the nation dazzled the audiences with spectacular 20 act performances of colorful waltz, quadrilles, ice ballets and comedy acts. All of which were executed on a colored surface of stars and diagonal squares painted underneath five layers of ice.
During this same time period, Tulsa had an influx of business people, lawyers and doctors from New England, Upper Midwest and Eastern states. These people wanted a more serious regimen for figure skating and subsequently formed the Tulsa Figure Skating Club for USFSA participation and sanctions.
As fate would have it, events converged during the same time period for the facility, the producer, the crowd getter and the aficionados. The town had motive and means.
During the mid-1930’s, ice hockey was popular among young skaters and public sessions were crowded. Little was known about figure skating or how to make the moves. However, there was a small group of about 60 individuals skating on private ice who were interested in a more serious type of skating. The group consisted of skaters from New England (Boston), Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Michigan and other Northern states. Among the crew were some Oklahomans who had been inspired by the ICE FOLLIES and “rink rats” who had mastered a few rough attempts at spins and jumps.
The Organizational Group and Early Support The Tulsa Figure Skating Club was organized March 2, 1938 with 66 members. The Club affiliated with the United States Figure Skating Association (USFS) in order to conduct sanctioned tests, competitions, exhibitions and shows for amateur skaters. TFSC is one of the oldest continuously operated clubs in the country. When USFS was first formed in 1921 and became a member of the International Skating Union (ISU), there were seven charter member clubs in the U.S. When TFSC joined in 1938, the member clubs numbered 24. Now USFS has more than 600 member clubs across the country. The organizational group is said to include Norman Hulings (the first President), George Jenkinson, Jr., Harold. T. Leroux and Margaret Driscoll. The new membership began by acquainting themselves with the skating moves and terms and the importance of edges, control, practice, etc. The clubs first vice-president, Margaret Driscoll, was a strong inspiration to the skaters and introduced the school of figures. She had been a member of the Skating Club of Boston before coming to Tulsa to teach at the newly organized Holland Hall School. Another prominent skater who introduced preliminary figures to the group was George B. Jenkinson, Jr. He became the second president and was the push behind bringing regional and national competition championships to Tulsa in years to come. Mr. Leroux’s daughter, Jeanne, was an early championship skater.
By 1939 the club had grown to 103 members. With the expanding number of skaters and levels of competence, two sub-groups were formed into Junior and Senior skaters. Also, it became apparent that a professional instructor and coach was needed. George and Leah Mueller were recruited to the club and under their tutoring the skaters became more prominent in the rudiments of figure skating and were able to showcase their accomplishments by putting together an “exhibition” at the end of the 3rd season. This occurred in the Spring of 1940 and was attended by about 500 people including parents and friends. The following year, TFSC launched a full-scale production which was open to the public and was on its way to being family entertainment for Tulsa. In 1939 the Fort Worth Dancers gave an ice show at the Coliseum. Outside the club, public interest in ice skating was demonstrated by the Tulsa Tribune sponsoring “Silver Skates”, which was a racing competition open to all amateur skaters. This event continued between 1938 and 1943 and was very popular with events such as sprint races, one-two-three lap races and puck carrying and candle races.
Harold’s sister Besse was a skater, officer and governor for a number of years. Harold’s father was President of Tulsa Country Club during this time span. The Graham family joined the club in 1940 and Dr. Hugh C. Graham, Sr. later became the fourth president. The children, Margaret Anne and Hugh C., Jr., competed in both singles and pairs and brought much national and world recognition to the club and the city in the 1950’s.
Bob Duffy and Claire Simone were the club professionals the 1940 season and directed the carnival in the spring. As many pros did in the early days, they skated pairs and solos in some of the club acts.
Membership was now 84, with dues at $25 for Senior, $15 for Junior and $15 for Associate members. The Tulsa Figure Skating Club participated in its first out-of-town engagement in 1942. Montgomery Ward & Company of Fort Worth invited the entire cast to present a skating carnival at the 4-H convention. They traveled by bus to Texas and performed to what appeared to them as a “huge” audience. Later in 1942, the club presented its second ice carnival to a full house in the Coliseum. It was a big jump from 500 people two years earlier. Another sign of the growing success and popularity of the ice shows was the start of two evening performances.
Membership was reaching a point of overflowing and the club had an extensive waiting list. Beginning in 1943, a matinee performance was added to the regular evening show for the men and women of the armed forces. Still, crowds were being turned away. So, the following year, TFSC initiated its first two night attraction. Both evenings sold out. H. T. Leroux, the club’s third president, suggested the name ICE TRAVAGANZA for future ice shows. It was first used in 1943. Previously the ice shows had no set title and were called Annual Frolic and Skating Party (1941) and Annual Carnival (1942). The club was incorporated under Oklahoma law in 1943 as a “Benevolent” Corporation. The club was gaining national recognition through their activities and tests passed.
Many skaters were taking summer sessions in other cities and promoting the club with their accomplishments in competition as well as exhibitions. Jeanne Leroux was the club’s first competitor and first to pass the 7th test figure. She frequently skated in Lake Placid during the summer months and skated in several sectional and national championships.
Many of the ice show performances were executed to live music. The Coliseum supplied a large pipe organ, but the most exciting were those performed to full orchestra. Joe Linde and Orchestra played at many engagements at the Coliseum.
The competition record of the Club is shown in some detail below. Membership varied over the years depending somewhat on the competition for the recreational time and dollars. In 1970 the USFS National Finals were hosted in Tulsa and the membership peaked at more than 400 with waiting lists for new member requests. Today, the club averages between 160 and 180 members.
One of the key hallmarks of the Tulsa club has always been the USFS Officials who are members. George B. Jenkinson was a visionary for the club in starting so many great judges on their respective careers. Margaret Anne, Hugh, Franklin and Barlow each started judging at the tender age of about eighteen. They were very good competitive skaters, so their judging careers advanced rapidly. Today, TFSC has five judges with their Fifty Year Recognition Pins from the USFSA. Margaret Anne Graham Holt, Dr. Hugh C. Graham, Jr., Phil Stover, Dr. Franklin S. Nelson and J. Barlow Nelson have each received their acknowledgments before the Governing Council. Elizabeth Kiper received her Forty-Year acknowledgment at Governing Council in 2003. Will Smith will be close behind the pack for his achievements. Will was an Olympic Judge in the 2006 Italian event.
Tulsa was represented in USFSA governance by Harold. T. Leroux as secretary and treasurer; George Jenkinson, Hugh Graham, Jr. Franklin S. Nelson and Will Smith as Vice Presidents and Hugh Graham, Jr. and Franklin S. Nelson as Presidents.
As important to the club are the lower level Test judges. The Test sessions and nonqualified competitions rely on the cadre of judges at the Test level. The cost factor for judges for a nonqualified competition is almost as great as the cost of ice. Because Tulsa has so many judges, the economics of events, and hence the profit of events, are greatly improved. There is a very significant cost impact from having ones own judges close and not having the travel expenses.
In the past, many of the TFSC skaters had gone out of state for special coaching. By 1970, the reverse was happening. Skaters from outside Oklahoma were traveling to Tulsa to work with Carlo Fassi’s incredible knack of turning good skaters into winners. Some of the new skaters joined the club such as Julie Lynne Holmes. Carlo’s coaching improved the results for TFSC. In December 1970, 27 entrants went to Southwesterns, one of the largest contingents ever from TFSC. In 1970 and 1971, Dorothy Hamill trained with Carlo Fassi in Tulsa. He also coached Peggy Fleming. He died from a heart attack at the World Figure Skating Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1997 at the age of 67.
History of Skate Tulsa
In 1978 the Ice at the Williams Forum was opened and with it a new event for the Club. With the advent of the new ice venue, the club started a competition as its fundraiser, displacing the ICE TRAVAGANZA type of events that were conducted at the Civic Center Ice. The first Skate Tulsa was held at The Ice at Williams Forum on March 17 and 18, 1979. TFSC President Kevin Kelly introduced the event as the “premier of an annual invitational competition designed to appeal to all skaters and their families.” The announcement carried a warning of the “low clearance zone” where the restaurant extends over a small portion of the ice surface.
Tulsa Figure Skating Club has enjoyed and presented both competitions and exhibitions since its very early days. The draw from participating clubs was immediate. As many as 24 clubs from upwards of nine states were represented at any given competition. In recent years that number has declined because of event and schedule competition.
Skate Tulsa continued its rich tradition and became a fixture on the July schedules for skaters, competitors and officials. The officials are well hosted and show an appreciation for the hospitality shown by the club.
2004 was the 25th Anniversary of the Skate Tulsa event and the new logo was designed to mark the occasion. The Tulsa Ice Arena closed its doors very unexpectedly in May of 2005 and the scramble for a venue by the July dates was quite intense. Skate Tulsa 2005 was designated a “Future Champions” event by USFS and the new ISU judging system was included at the higher levels. With the shift in location, complexity of the production and the much higher ice cost, the competition exhausted everyone. After calculating the financial results, it could no longer be called a fundraising event.
Both 2006 and 2007 competitions were cancelled because of a lack of venue certainty. Construction was planned to make a two sheet ice surface by the current home rink facility, but that has yet to occur. The next Skate Tulsa schedule is undetermined.
The compiling of a “complete” history of TFSC is an ongoing process. Many thanks to John Martens who gave us a great start. Jennifer DeAngelis, a former club president, is continuing the process and any questions, suggestions or historical details can be directed to her for inclusion.