Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Dorothy Snell Curtis: Ice Dreams

Dorothy Snell Curtis was a competitive figure skater who grew up in St. Paul. As a child, ice skating was her passion. She remembered her earliest experiences on the ice in her memoir, "Changing Edges", a portion of which is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Memoir Excerpt

Mostly the lake froze white or pale blue but when it was best for skating it was at its most beautiful, a dark sapphire. We rode out through windswept patches, lured onward by the murmuring resonance beneath, until discretion suggested retreat to circling parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends near the warming fire on the shore.

Our skating parties were orchestrated by my mother's brother who, uncled while still a boy, was our playmate and friend. John, with his wife Ella, skates still on racers, two or three times a week, continuing a lifelong association with the sport during which, as J.E. Strauss, he made blades for many of the world's most famous figure skaters, from Sonja Henie to Frick and Frack.

My first recollection of skating is reserved, however, not for Lake Owasso but for the flooded playground near where we lived in St. Paul. Here I took my first strokes on that year's Christmas present, a pair of hockey rockers mounted on black boots. The heavy blades, shaped to a radius of six to seven feet, were held with brackets attached to the sole plates. Principally used for hockey, they were an excellent choice for a beginner because their quarter-inch width made them stable. In those first moments, exhilaration in free motion held me spellbound. The joy never got old. It would seize me over and over, every time I set foot on the ice.

My parents, father a sometime pond skater who could dance a passable waltz or fourteen-step, albeit over the side-saddle hip that he never corrected and my mother, an enthusiastic long blader, decided that I should be encouraged. Their decision as to have enduring and constructive consequences for in the next winter, figure skating became the focus of my life coincidental with the greatest advances in the sport since Jackson Haines, seventy years before or maybe ever. It was in the 'Thirties that a rather uncommon pastime grew into a widely admired art that today carries its best practitioners to the top of the entertainment industry.

Read full memoir, "Changing Edges"



Curtis, Dorothy Snell, Changing Edges. copyright 1990, used with permission of the author.