/Minden Skating Club unearths missing history
Jane Symons points out part of a letter that says the Minden Figure Skating Club got its start in 1948, and was fully sanctioned in 1950. This revelation has introduced a mystery surrounding the club’s true age. /NICK BERNARD Staff

Minden Skating Club unearths missing history

By Nick Bernard

As far as Jane Symons understood, 2021 was very much the 50th anniversary of the Minden Skating Club. An email with Skate Canada even confirmed it – the Minden Figure Club was inaugurated in 1971. Or so everyone thought.

It wasn’t until Symons began preparations for the Big Five-Oh that she discovered a Tupperware bin, filled with scrapbooks, tucked away on a forgotten shelf somewhere. Inside one of the scrapbooks, mixed in with various news clippings that spanned the decades, was a letter prepared sometime in 1984 by one Eleanor Hall.

“The Minden Figure Skating Club was formed in March of 1948,” the typewritten letter said. Eleanor Hall’s name was written in the corner, after it was prepared. “In 1950 the Club became active under the sanction of the Canadian Figure Skating Association.”

Jane Symons reads from a scrapbook detailing the history of the Minden Figure Skating Club. A mystery has arisen surrounding the true length of time the club has been active. /NICK BERNARD Staff

Its first president was Mrs. Olga Myles, and Joseph Pope the first Club Professional. The letter went on to list the successive presidents and all of the club’s instructors, covering over 30 years of club history.

“I didn’t get the chance to read it all, but I was quite mesmerized,” Symons said of her discovery of the scrapbook and the letter within. “I also have the email from Skate Canada that says we joined in ‘71. But thankfully, this Eleanor Hall was so on top of it.”

She says Hall’s letter is absolutely not a typo.

“I’m very doubtful it’s a typo,” she said. She wonders whether Skate Canada had, in fact, researched the wrong club. “I sent [Skate Canada] another memo saying ‘I think we’re older than that – can you confirm.’ Because here I was, all ready to celebrate 50 years and I thought I would make a big stink about it, but I didn’t want to be wrong.”

She also says much of the club’s history can be found in some of the names that appear in the letter.

“Some of these coaches that go way back: Grace Coburn? Oh my goodness. Elwood Cox, Marg McKay, Libby Griffiths?”

One name that appears is Guy Gordon’s, who has been a member of the skating club since the 1960s. He agrees with Eleanor Hall’s account of the club starting in 1950, based on his knowledge of the facilities and other nearby clubs’ activities at that time.

“Bobcaygeon’s [skating club] started in ‘54,” he recalled. “And Minden had an arena before then … their old arena that was downtown before [the former S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena, decommissioned in 2019] was built. It was an old tin roof one. And the rain came through on a test day.”

A plastic container full of scrapbooks contained news clippings and other photos from across the Figure Skating Club’s history. /NICK BERNARD Staff

Symons, a lifelong skater herself, has been part of the skating club since she was just out of college.

“I had called around to see if there was a club that I could skate,” Symons recalled. She was given the offer to be an instructor right off the bat. “I’ve skated for years. I’ve been on the ice since I was five.”

When Symons first started, instructors didn’t require certifications. When the time came for Symons to complete hers, it was a shoe-in. She went on to become certified to coach at the national level, which she has been doing since the 80s.

As for which anniversary is the true anniversary, Symons says she’s given up trying to figure it out. She says there have already been at least two celebrations for the club’s 40th. 

“I kind of chuckled because … [2021 was] my 40th year,” she said, with that same chuckle. “I remember celebrating the club’s 40th twice now, so I don’t know how old we are.”

For now, all the paperwork seems to disagree. With three potential actual anniversary dates in the running, and with Symons’ dedication to teaching the next generation to skate, the Minden Skating Club will always have a reason to celebrate.