Early Days

In December 2001 we interviewed Wendy Mercer (nee Chapman) on her
memories of the early days of Prince of Wales Figure Skating
Club.







Wendy


The Club started in 1963, although it was not known as Prince
of Wales Figure Skating Club, or officially part of the CFSA for
another two years. A Mrs. Edmunston moved to St. John’s from
Ontario with her husband, an RCMP officer who was stationed here
for two years. She was surprised that there were no
learn-to-skate programmes in the city – St. John’s FSC had been
in existence for a long time, but at that time mostly consisted
of a group who got together at the stadium to practice in a
social setting. Mrs. Edmunston, who was a professional skating
instructor, approached the Avalon Consolidated School Board and
was given permission to start such a programme. It was advertised
through the schools and operated at Prince of Wales and Feildan
Gardens. She set it up with four hour-long sessions on Tuesdays
and Thursdays, with the groups separated by level and identified
by colours – Green Red, Blue and Yellow. Wendy registered for the
skating lessons – she was 11. At the end of year (March) there was
an ice recital, with costumes made out of crepe paper in the
colour of the group. The colours ran when the crepe got wet!










Nutcracker cast


In
the 2nd year, Mrs. Edmunston brought a group of parents together
to help run the club, which she suggested should be called the
Prince of Wales Figure Skating Club. She helped some skaters to
go away to a summer school in St. Andrews New Brunswick,
instructed by Alexander Balisch. That year the Club had a much
more ambitious ice show with the theme the Nutcracker. Wendy was
the Sugar Plum Fairy and there were real costumes!

Next season (1965) the club was registered with CFSA on a
trial basis sponsored by St. John’s FSC. Five skaters went to the
summer school and took lessons and tests there. Wendy passed
preliminary figures, 1st figures, first ice dances, and Junior
Bronze level dances.







Alexander Balisch


In 1966, Mrs. Edmunston had left as her husband had
transferred – the Club had no coach. The five skaters who had
been away to summer school acted as amateur coaches. These
included Wendy, Shirley MacLeod who was about 16, and also her
brother Brian MacLeod. Brian later became a famous guitar
player and rock musician with the band Chilliwack before dying of
bone cancer in 1989.

Shirley was the most experienced and oldest amateur coach –
she had skated in Oshawa before they moved to Newfoundland. She
acted as head coach and helped run the programme, following Mrs.
Edmunston’s methods. This was the first year with a separate
“Junior” programme – dances, figures, free-skate – for the more
advanced skaters.

That summer many skaters went to summer school. Wendy went to
Montreal for nine weeks. The Macleods went to Ontario, and Chris
Chapman (Wendy’s younger sister) went to St. Andrews NB with some
others. That year the executive talked to St. John’s FSC and
agreed that they’d try and bring in a coach for the two clubs, as
St John’s were by now doing more teaching. They asked Alexander
Balisch to move to St. John’s. He was originally from Vienna,
where he had competed at a high level, and had skated shows. He
was also a high school history teacher, and a job was found for
him at Memorial University in the history department. He arrived
with his wife (Faith, who still works at the University) and young son to became the Club’s first professional coach.









Brian Macleod, Alex Balisch, and Wendy Chapman

returning from 1967 Atlantic Provincials


Alexander Balisch instructed for two full seasons with the
two clubs, but then decided to leave coaching. After that another
joint coach Hans Algren (still coaching in Ontario) came to St.
John’s for a year. He was a young European skater, and had done
lots of show work. This resulted in more ambitious ice shows with
a more professional look. From then on the Club held big shows
every year, mostly at Memorial Stadium, often with guest skaters
from mainland. Around this time skaters started going to
competitions on the mainland.










Wendy Chapman, 1969
Atlantic Junior champion




The first competition we ever went
to (both Prince of Wales FSC and St. John’s) was the Atlantic
Provinces Provincial Competition in Amherst Nove Scotia in 1967.
This was Wendy’s first competition as a juvenile (she won gold),
and Brian Macleod won a silver in juvenile men. At this time
(1967-69) Newfoundland was part of the Atlantic Provinces section
of the CFSA. The winners of novice level and above went on to
Nationals. Wendy went to Canadians in 1969, held at the Toronto
Cricket Skating and Curling Club after winning the junior title
at the Atlantic Provinces Provincial Competition (Brian Macleod
won the men’s novice title at the same event). At this time
Newfoundland was working on becoming an independent section
within the CFSA. Wendy’s father Joe was the charter President of
the Newfoundland section and the 1st Newfoundland sectionals were
held in January, 1970, co-hosted by St. John’s FSC and Prince of
Wales FSC.










Ralph Adomeit


Hans Algren left after 2 years with the Club. He was replaced
by Ralph Adomeit, and then a year later by Laura Maybee. Laura
coached Wendy using early morning ice. After Laura left there was
no professional coach at Wendy’s level so she worked on her own.
The last year Wendy skated she did not compete, but amateur
coached and worked with higher level skaters in club, including
Inese Freimanis and Wendy’s two sisters Christine and Barbara.