The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York on February 16, 1930 · Page 73
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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York · Page 73

Brooklyn, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 16, 1930
Page 73
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BROOKLYN EAGLE MAGAZINE. 7 RATING, the FASHIONABLE A brilliant, dashing foray of skaters Jlrt By Lydia Paul THE SUBWAYS are placarded with the big red ball. The street corners proclaim it and over .' . ' the lake in Prospect Park the white banner of the symbolic fiery disk flies and whips gaily in the. wind. The news columns give it a paragraph and Brooklyn knows that there is "Skating Today." Tennis courts are flooded overnight and, lo! there are a hundred more rinks of smooth and shiny ice produced and tested by the aid of mechanical innovations. Miss So-and-So gives her boy friend, Mr. What's-His-Name a buzz on the phone. He laconically agrees to meet her on the ice. Miss So-and-So dons whoopee socks over her chiffon hose-clad legs, sets a jaunty red beret over her bob and adds last year's short skirt to the skating costume. She is ready; packs her sixteen -inch tubulars under her arm and goes forth to meet the boy friend on an equal footing, well prepared to lace the high skating shoes, to check her street shoes and step out upon the ice unassisted by male solicitude. - "Ah, me!" they would sigh those gallants who first introduced skating to their fair ones back in the toddling era of the art And "Ah, me!" they might well sigh, for all the dear, tender and now dead niceties that accompanied the sport in those good old days when it was less athletic and certainly more social. The knew the joys of conducting their fair ones through the intricacies of observing at one and the same time the law of gravity and the law of balance. As one elegant writer of the period that was at about 1660 when skating on the ice was first introduceddescribed it: "To intervene at the critical moment, after the departure of one's lady from the perpendicular and her assuming the horizontal, is to enjoy a combination of duty and pleasure not often within the reach. And no relation is more calculated to produce tender attachments than that of pupil and teacher under such circumstances."' He knew also, our hypothetical gallant of the good old days, "that the ice itself suggested that human atoms under the influence of a low state of temperature should come together, like the aqueous particles of the pond, and amalgamate." All these charming and lavender-scented sentiments can be regarded today by our likewise hypothetical Miss So-and-So and her boy friend, Mr. What's-His-Name, as just so much hooey. They are out for the sport of it And as a sport they take it about as earnestly and seriously as any seasonal sport is taken in the boro. But skating in Brooklyn, when it made its first appearance took on the semblance of a mania. It all started when the elders agreed that the time had come. And like all such regulated affairs it emerged for fair when in the multiplicity of business interests and the awakening of a broader community spirit there was felt tVit need for outdoor sports for vigorous outdoor sirts. The famous Capitoline, Wash ington and Williams "ponds," precursors of the later "rinks" then came into use. In the fall of 1861 the Nassau Skating Club was organized. This club leased a pond of six acres on the Lefferts Farm. It was sustained by the sale of season tickets and offered the comfort of a clubhouse. A curious feature of the "Steenbakery" or "Steamer," as the skating pond of the Nassau Club on the edge of Flatbush was called, was that it furnished from ten to twenty days more skating each year than did the lakes in Prospect Park, according to the careful observation of an attention-caller of the 1860s. Evidently the heavy-spirited jejunes belles and beaux, devoured by the inexpressible emptiness and ennui of parlor life, found ice skating a pleasurable pastime. It was a fillip to the spirits. A jubilee of fun and frolic. And then, besides the exhilarating quality of the sport, what boundless fun there was to be derived from all the incidents and accidents and contretemps which it drew in its train! Skating became the most fashionable of all accomplishments. And fancy dress carnivals took the place of indoor balls and hops. Of course, the young ladies had to dare the stigma of their sets in the beginning. Before the '60s the very thought of appearing on the ice on skates should have induced swoons and vapors. Why, it outraged the sense of feminine propriety. And at that time the sense of feminine propriety, as you doubtless know, was something worthy of being embroidered on a sampler and enshrined in a prominent place upon the front parlor whatnot. The prospect of some fragile flower of Brooklyn womanhood taking part in the strenuous activities necessitated by maintaining her equilibrium on the ice was just something not to be entertained by any right-thinking mamma or papa no less than by the very correct young lady herself. But as soon as Society put its O. K. on the matter and Society did not take long to take up this new-fangled sport why, the very correct young ladies were just not in it if they could not execute an "outside circle." In fact, they were "slow" if they could not do the "grapevine twist." Society approved, too, of the "morality of the sport." And the morality of the sport, it appears, became soon evident in that at the skating pond one could assist those in trouble, meet with and dispense courtesy. And it was so very democratic also. Each and every skater, no matter how accomplished, was a candidate for a fall or two. That was where the meeting with and the dispensing of courtesy came in. It seems that what was a six-year probationary period elapsed before ice skating was intrenched in the calendar of the boro's winter activities. In December, 1867, the Brooklyn Skating Club of the City of Brooklyn was organized, incorporated and chartered with the "object to perfect, perpetuate and establish on a firm basis the art and science of skating-" The officers of the organization were: President; Charles C. Brady; vice president, Victor S. Allien; treasurer, Henry C. Dixon; recording secretary, James T. Sprowl; financial secretary, William Jennings Jr.; corresponding secretary, C. F. Alchtenacht. The Brooklyn Skating Club also boasted a "meteorologist," Parmenus Johnson, whose duties were to keep a record of the weather during the skating season and make report to the club thereon." The official roster was completed by the executive committee, which included W. M. Cole, E. Parker, E. W. Richardson, L. S., Cole, F. X..Tukky, S. B. Decker and H. J. Peters. ... . The members of the Brooklyn Skating Club wished, too, "to create comity and unanimity of feeling towards each other to establish a system of rules to govern and direct our actions as skaters and as an organized body to secure as far as possible good, smooth ice upon the lake or pond during the natural season for same." The Brooklyn Skating Club flourished until 1906 and up to that time it sponsored many well-known skaters. It withdrew from the Amateur Hockey League in January 1906 and the disbanding of its own team left the league with only four clubs. Its retirement from the competitive field was keenly felt by the sportsmen of the time as an athletic loss Back in the beginning, when ice skating had its foundation on the wide, curlicued, wood runners that were tied on to the. shoe, there was one thing which tended to give skating the precedence. That was the privilege that a gentleman had while he was engaged in supporting his young lady and explaining the art to her. Then, too, even the serious thinkers, with a thought to the future of the race, urged ice skating upon the limp and delicate young ladies of the time. It was their duty "as the mothers of men, to stretch their limbs, to give their bodies the exercise required.' Whether these sermonizers were heeded because of the justification of their words is not known. But there were other inducements to attract the wan and demure parlor flowers of the '60s and the '70s to skating. They became "goddesses with ruddy cheeks and crinolines and mortals in pulmptitudinous loveliness," who found that the keen air, the rhythmic, swaying motions of skating "planted roses and carnations in their cheeks." And this color was healthy color. Consider, too, all the possibilities the sport offered for colorful costumes, for jaunty and bewitching little hats and plaids, furs, flowing scarfs, scarlet "bal-morals" and "tucks" and darling little finger muffs. "A brilliant, dashing foray of a piebald company of skaters," elegantly disporting, in full view of the elders of the family, pushed around in comfortable chair sleds. Ah, those were the days! The days when synthetic ice and the Brooklyn Ice Palace and indoor skating were far away in the future; the days when a skating party was organized weeks in advance, then loaded into huge, fur-lined sleighs with tinkling bells and all the rest of the gay accoutrements; the days when the parties drove for hours to the lake and found it good. - ' t

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