History of the London Skating Club
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Skating in London started as early as the 1860's. Skating was practiced on the Thames River near the Blackfriars Bridge and the Coves, and members of the British Garrison stationed in London also participated in the sport in those early years. On October 28, 1862, the Honourable John Carling was elected president of London's new Skating Club. The Carling family continued to be associated with the Club as late as the 1950's. On March 10, 1863 the Club sponsored a ball at the Tecumseh Hotel downtown to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales to a Danish Princess.
With the building of several indoor natural ice arenas in the city during the 1890's skating became more popular. There was the Simcoe Rink on Simcoe Street, the Westminster Rink accross the river in south London which was the first to install electric lights, the Crystal Rink in east London and the Princess Rink located on Queens Avenue where our former library now stands. The Skating Club was organized in 1907 at a meeting in Eldon House. Forty skaters were present and George Becher Harris was elected president and Miss Amelia Harris and Miss Edith Complin were appointed the Ladies Committee. Both of these ladies were in the Club until the 1930's.
The Club flourished and skating sessions were first held at the Simcoe Street Rink and then the Westminster Rink and finally at the Princess Rink on Queens Avenue later known as The Winter Gardens. During this period several fancy dress carnivals were held, consisting of straight skating by the members in masquerade costumes. In 1913, the London Skating Club was one of eight skating clubs in Canada to form the Canadian Figure Skating Association of Canada, now known as Skate Canada. The club disbanded in 1916 due to the First World War.
In 1924 the Club was again reorganized with a prominent Londoner, Colonel Ibbotson Leonard as president. The skating sessions were now held at the new London Arena with artificial ice, located at Bathhurst and Ridout Streets, demolished a few years ago. Mr. Kenneth Mallen, a former pro hockey and instructor at The Ottawa Club was engaged as Professional Instructor. The Club's membership soon grew at this new rink with both Senior and Junior memberships offered. The Club produced many very elaborate carnivals in the 1920's and 1930's attracting audiences of up to 3000 fans. Charles and Vida Uksila from the United States coached for nine years with the Club and were mainly responsible for these shows. Other Professionals such as Gus Lussi, Bunty Nobel, Clarence, Hislop, Norton Waite and Madge Austin also were engaged by the club and moved on to prominent positions in the United States. The Club was chartered on January 22, 1927 and was incorporated under the laws of Ontario at that time.