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Preserving our Past, February: Ice skating in Whitefish Bay

Feb. 5, 2014

By Tom Fehring:

Shortly after publishing a book entitled, “Images of Whitefish Bay,” I received a letter from Mary Hansen Lourigan. The book included two images of men working on flooding the annual ice rink at Cahill Square, taken in the 1950s. I had assumed that the men worked for the village’s department of public works. Mary recognized them and wanted to pass along their names.

“I received a copy of “Images of Whitefish Bay” as a gift.  The picture of the man wearing the skates in front of the Quonset hut is Mr. Norbert Studelska. The gentleman with the fedora is Mr. Adelbert Rietz.  Norbert and Adelbert were both history teachers who worked as chaperones at the skating rink. I believe the man in the center is Mr. Richard VandenAvond. He came to Whitefish Bay as a teacher after I graduated (class of ‘59’). I used to skate almost every night and many weekends and remember them well.  Mr. Studelska and Mr. Rietz were two really good teachers.

“I have really enjoyed the book and the many memories that it has brought back.”  

The images that Mary refers to are shown below.

A Quonset hut once stood at the approximate location of the current Cahill Square recreational building, serving as a warming house for ice skaters.

 


The tennis courts were apparently once used as the surface for the ice rink in the 1950s. Earlier records indicate that the high school football field was once flooded in the winter for ice skating.

 

I’m delighted that Mary Lourigan filled in this missing history.

This morning my barber, who grew up on Hollywood Boulevard in Whitefish Bay, reminisced about skating with her friends on the Cahill ice rink. She said that she went almost every evening and most weekends, wearing skates with self-made pom-poms, and hanging around in the warming house.  She recalls that there were two vending machines in the warming house, one for cold beverages and one for hot, and that the hot beverage dispenser included coffee, hot chocolate and hot Dr. Pepper.

I’m guessing that very few residences remember when Dr. Pepper was marketed as a hot drink alternative – I certainly didn’t.

 

The Dr. Pepper website provides the following note, for anyone interested in trying it:

Hot Dr Pepper was developed many years ago as a refreshing winter drink. Heat Dr Pepper in a saucepan to 180 degrees, place a thin slice of lemon in the bottom of a coffee mug or insulated cup and pour the heated Dr Pepper over the lemon.

 

In more recent years, a group called the Friends of Cahill Square has built the ice rink. It can be difficult work, since it is generally flooded during the evenings, and only when the temperatures are satisfactorily cold. 

The following image was taken in about 2010, showing students from Whitefish Bay High School using the skating rink at Cahill Park. 

 

Now that Cahill Square has been reconfigured to accommodate a water retention basin, there doesn’t appear to be room for a skating rink.  However, the Village recently announced that the hills of the basin are available for sledding. Given the relative lack of hills in the Village, this might prove very popular for young kids.

At least one Whitefish Bay resident has reached prominence in ice skating. Sally-Anne Kaminski became international synchronized ice skating champion. She started skating at age 8 and began competing at age 10. She notes that “there's no feeling like stepping out onto an ice rink and hearing the words ‘representing the United States of America’.” 

Kaminski talents in synchronized skating resulted in a silver medal at her first national competition, and eventually to the 2001 Prague Cup where she competed and succeeded as part of Team USA. "Very few athletes get to represent their country, and I was lucky enough to do it at age 16," said Kaminski. Team USA captured the silver medal in Prague.

Fortunately the Village continues to build an ice rink at Klode Park.

If you have memories of ice skating in Whitefish Bay, please send them to me at thomas@fehring.us. 

 

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