I don’t know what it is about freshly fallen snow, but it made me pull out my old ice carnivals and competitions – already transferred to DVD.
I usually just watch my footage – but this time, certain details popped out. Or, should I say changes.
Helmet use was not mandatory in CanSkate in the mid-80s – it was optional. In one of the carnivals, beginners waddled onto the ice and tried to maintain their balance – and pace with the coaches. The skaters circled the ice, their little legs beetled along and their bodies teetered and tottered. Two years later, it was mandated at my club for beginners to wear helmets. However, it did not include CanSkate as a whole.
Molded plastic skates. While not wildly popular with older CanSkaters, many of the younger CanSkaters wore these. My first pair of skates were molded. Word of advice: don’t. An ankle needs to bend, and not feel like it’s wrapped in duct tape.
While kids would teeter around without helmets in molded skates, the sound of frozen applause filled the air: literally. The arenas were often so cold when we had real ice, for practices parents dressed skaters in long-underwear, snowsuits, scarves, mitts, toques and two pairs of socks. Trust me – our feet didn’t freeze because of the sweat. When we did shows during the days of real ice, my Mom often dressed my sister and I in double tights. It was a nice thought, but nothing keeps you warm in a tiny dress.
When we did get artificial ice, it signaled the end of the glorious balloon drop. Near the end of the grand finale, hundreds of balloons held up in a net in the rafters would plummet to the ice. Of course, since skaters had toe picks we’d just pop the balloons. What balloons survived were squished by kids from the crowd who’d run onto the ice at the end of the show. Fun, but what a mess.
Definitely a Kodiak moment, which I’m sure is engrained in the memories of skaters of that time, and possibly the walls of the arenas, considering the amount radiation given off by flash cameras.
Every carnival, skaters were blinded by the cavalcade of shutter bugs in the audience. Families didn’t appoint one person as a photographer, because it would be risky. Everyone in the family snapped photos, two or three just in case they didn’t turn out because those were the days of film.
And speaking of film:
When my sister and I competing or where in carnivals, my Dad was on video camera duty. I have footage of warm-ups, ice carnival practices and podium finishes – all courtesy of my Dad. Today, that’s not allowed. One person is appointed to shoot a competition or a show and copies are bought later.
But, in those days, it was allowed. Kids skated without helmets, on molded skates, in cold arenas blinded by flashbulbs with balloons dumped on them while someone captured the entire thing on tape.
Those were the days.
[Originally published on the Edmonton Journal website]