GEORGE & GLADYS WERNER'S SKATING ERA (1940-1970)
(AS AMATEURS -- IMAGINE BEING TAUGHT FREE FOR 5 YEARS BY A TOP ICE PROFESSIONAL)
I have to begin with how we started to skate when we were 15 and 16 years old. I always went to Hillside Rollerdrom in Queens, New York, on Saturdays with my girlfriends and we always had a great time. One Saturday, a man by the name of JOSEPH CARROLL (who on ice had produced Senior Dance Champions for many years) and wrote the "Carroll Swing Foxtrot" and "Carroll Tango" happened to come into the rink and he called George and myself over after we did a "Couples Only" number. We did not know any dances, how to turn, or even skate backwards, but he explained to the both of us that he would like to teach us FREE for 2 hours each day and then we had to practice 2 hours that same day also. He wanted to prove that he could "make roller dance champions in Senior Dance on the rollers as well as on ice." We asked him why he picked us out and he said, "I want someone who knows nothing and Gladys, you have had ballet training as I saw the pointed toes in your free leg positions and George, you are very powerful and look like you have skated previously." George was an ice hockey skater for Jamaica High School.
Just imagine the workouts we had as we had to take tests on all the lower dances to skate Senior Dance and learn all the Gold Dances as well. Mr. Carroll stressed posture and power very much in everything we did, and he was so fussy on turns that they be really good. We even had to pass some figure tests to satisfy him.
Well, we worked out every day 4 hours and it was amazing how we progressed. He made us enter the Senior Dance Championships in 1941 against all the great Mineola Skating Rink champions and other good teams and to our amazement we won 5 firsts in Senior Dance. What an upset that was!
Not only did Mr. Carroll make us champions that year, 1941, but also 1942, and 1946 after George got out of the Army Air Force in 1945. The years in between George was over in Europe flying 50 missions in a B-17.
We also were the first ones to take our GOLD MEDAL PROFICIENCY TEST on the ice or rollers in 1942 in Twin City Arena in Elizabeth, New Jersey. We had all ice judges and it was a marathon as they did not want a roller skater to be the first Gold Medalists but they passed us after about 3 hours of heavy skating. Then, you had to skate every dance 3 minutes and sometimes alone also.
When Mr. Carroll passed away in 1946 with pneumonia because of his ice teaching, we then turned Professional ourselves in 1947 and were teaching in Mineola Skating Rink.
(OUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER AT MINEOLA SKATING RINK AND LEVITTOWN ARENA)
We started teaching at Mineola Skating Rink and we were 2 of the 5 Professionals there. We not only taught private lessons but CHILDREN'S CLASSES (with over 100 children), GIRL AND BOY SCOUT BADGE CLASSES, PROFICIENCY TEST CLASSES, and a FIGURE CLUB on Sundays.
One thing that we did which many Pros didn't do, we even taught sometimes in a session how to stop on rollers and an easy dance FREE to the public to get them interested and come back. We also skated at least 2 sessions a week in the evening and most of our lessons would come down as we helped them FREE then. At Mineola Skating Rink, if you were in the Figure Club, you had to purchase 2 session tickets a week to skate as you could then come down and practice any time in the rink FREE. Our evening sessions had about 1,000 skaters and about 4 Floor Guards employed always keeping the crowd skating safely and not fast.
We especially liked putting on shows (Carnivals, skating shows at Jones Beach State Park, and even Macy Day Parade shows on Thanksgiving). Our skaters enjoyed this the most as they could display their talent without being judged in a meet. Our shows at Mineola Rink got so popular that we had to put bleacher seats up. The money that was made helped to send our skaters to Nationals. The Rink was always closed on Monday evenings and that was when the shows were put on.
George was appointed COACH OF THE WORLD TEAM for many years and, of course, I helped out. We went to Italy, Spain, England, etc. and met many great skaters and professionals from all the European countries.
I want to mention one thing that I enjoyed doing even more than making champions and that was helping a cerebral palsy young lady skate and helping her in her basement on a cement floor, a pupil with one arm, and even a private lesson with a blind girl. To see how much these pupils enjoyed doing something that they thought they never could do was so rewarding to me.
I'll close before I write a book but I must say in closing that SKATING WAS OUR LIVES AND WE ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
We want to especially thank Jim Kohl for restoring all these wonderful moments and it is so great to view his superb web site. THANK YOU JIM FOR ALL YOUR HARD WORK!