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Unidentified female ice skater from the Ward Hunt Collection (P33).
Help us solve the mystery!
Can you identify this photo? Do you know the story behind the photo? Please send us your comments.
Appears to be Sonja Henie "...Norwegian figure skater and actress. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (1928, 1932, 1936), a ten-time World Champion (1927-1936) and a six-time European Champion (1931-1936). Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater. At the height of her acting career she was one of the highest paid movie stars in Hollywood."
"On April 7, 1936, Earl Reflow chaired the organizing committee for an “International
Skating Carnival” at the Arena featuring Sonja Henie, who had just turned pro after winning
her three consecutive Olympic gold medals (1928, 32, 36). She performed several times,
including the routine that won the Olympic title in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Jack Dunn,
English champion and silver medal in the Olympics, also appeared.
In the days when the only female athletic starts were figure skaters and tennis players,
Sonja Henie was an inspiration for the first generation of female skaters in St. Louis. One of
them was Helen Nightingale, the most accomplished female skater from the St. Louis Skating
Club, who recalls, “Nobody knew what skating was until they saw her in ‘The Picture Show.’
She was the original godmother of all skating.” She performed several times in St. Louis.
Earl Reflow’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Shirley, who was then nine, performed in
the 1936 Carnival along with Sonja. A USFSA rule excluding rink managers and their
families from skating clubs made it impossible to be the daughter of a rink manager and
compete, but Shirley became known as an outstanding amateur show performer and was
often a guest at club shows throughout the Midwest, which was unusual at that time. Some
of her programs were considered risqué in their day, such as “A Persian Fantasy” in the St.
Louis Skating Club’s 1944 Victory Ice Revue, which featured a costume with a bare midriff,
but she remembers, “I was the most shy and scared – I never dated anyone.” In 1955 she
left St. Louis for Chicago when her husband was transferred. Her married name is Shirley
Sherman, and today she is a national-level judge in singles/pairs and dance who has judged
eleven senior nationals since 1979. Her sister, Elizabeth Binder, still lives in St. Louis"
and either , very likely, could be contacted to verify the identity of the photo.
Thank you very much for contributing such a lengthy explanation for one of our mystery photos. We love it when people like you contribute to our knowledge of our photos!
Sherrie Kline Smith
Web Content Librarian
Missouri Valley Special Collections
Kansas City Public Library
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