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THE POLAR PALACE, Los Angeles
Edition of August 2015


1948 Skating Class, photo supplied by Marie (Shepardson) Cruzzetti-Lintz who is one of the six year olds in costume.

Recital 1978 and Bazaar roster. Provided by Candace Earnhardt in Dec. 2014.
Roster names:PP FSC. Joan O'Connor, Lori Foster, Katie Helmark, Ellen Fields, Nicki Mouchou, Candace Earnhardt, Susan Fitgerald, Lisa Silverstein, Tami Anderson, Susan Mallory, Shawn Weekley, Karen Jones, Valerie Johnson, Pammy Donato, Kim Thorstinson. Laura Masciello, Shauna Freeh, Lisa Smith, Kimberley Ann Schewe, Traci Parker, Liz Dalmatoff, Stephanie Smith, Wendi Buchi, Priscilla Casap, Jenny La Russo, Sheri Snapp, Katrina Wasson, Jennifer Donato, Shari Snapp, Shari Cottingham, Debra Jo Poorman.


Polar Palace photo, circa 1960 by William L. Udell, renowned west coast skating photographer. Built in 1926, a few miles west on Melrose at the corner of Van Ness and Clinton St. ( a block south of Melrose ), now part of Raleigh Studios. Also called "Glacier Ice Gardens" and "Winter Garden"..Used as a velodrome in 1933-34.  Reported to be a 'very worn wooden structure' after WWII when it burned down in 1963.

photo supplied June '05 by Roy Wagelein '68 Olympian  (passed away 6- 25, '08 at  home in Phoenix, AZ.)  


Sylvia Clay Stoddard supplied the Udell photo and wrote the following on January 25, 2005 and has lots more on her website.


"I skated at Polar Palace every afternoon from about 1956 until it burned and watched it burn down.  The photo was about 1960, when the old incandescent lights hanging from the ceiling were replaced by flourescents and the old mountain scenes on the end walls were plastered over.  After the fire, the permafrost went more than 40 feet into the ground and the property could not be built upon.  In the many years the Van Ness Ave. property was not buildable, it was occupied by Walter Allen Plant Rentals--a greenery service for the studios.  

It was the largest indoor ice surface in the world--110 by 230.   The only time I saw the place (that is, seats) filled was for the 1956 North American Championships (when this competition between the U.S. and Canada still took place) and I remember Tenley Albright skating down the middle of the rink with a huge American flag.   Most of the stars of Ice Capades and Ice Follies would skate at Polar when they were in town.

There was a "private" patch session from 11-1 pm every day run by Mrs. Ballace (her
daughter Elaine is still around) and the public sessions were from 2-5:00. On Mondays and Fridays, we'd all go (in our skating clothes) around the corner and across the street to Oblath's, a wonderful restaurant right outside the Paramount studio gates, and have dinner before the LAFSC sessions, which were from 5:30 to 7:30.   The "gang" in the early 1960s included Sandy Carson, Billy Chapel (passed awau 4-4, 2009)., Roy Wagelien, Jerrie and Jackie Crandall, Jenny Marsh, Gale Thomas, Karen Andrews, Robin Reese, Kathy Lynn and Elaine Ballace.   We all attended Hollywood Professional School  which had half-day sessions so we could skate in the afternoon.   Our "pros" were Jerry Rehfield, Mabel Fairbanks, Eugene Mickler, Bill Udell and others.

A major hazard at Polar was little mountains of ice that formed from condensation which would drip from the pipes overhead (which sort of held the building together and also used to hold the old lights).   We were always having to run around scraping these deposits off the ice before someone fell.   The water was rusty, which helped us see them. In the summer, Polar was a lake.   There used to be at least 4 inches of water on the ice surface in the summertime.   The building wasn't well insulated. But on Sunday mornings at 7 am, which was when figure skating tests were
held, it was the coldest place on earth, and there was always fog shrouding the place.   In those days, no one used the rink after the evening public session until the first patch session at 8 am.   No hockey team practiced there, and no one rented private ice.

Cliff Oddson was manager of the skate shop and was one of the best sharpeners in town.   He had skated in Sonja Henie's shows and a couple of her movies. He had a great collection of antique skates which all went in the fire. We all had personal lockers (50 cents a month was the charge, as I remember) in the ladies room, so most of us lost our skates and all skating clothes, rulebooks, skate hooks, etc. in the fire.

Dick (Morgan??) and several other guys were the "guards" at the public  sessions and resurfaced the ice (this was pre-Zamboni)--done with hand scrapers and  a device that looked like a 10 gallon drum with a wide stip of chamois hanging  from it--the drum had water in it and it fed to the top of the chamois, which laid a beautiful surface on the ice.   This was done for patch sessions
and competitions.   For regular resurfacing, there was a tractor with a rotating blade to scrape, then a hose and squeegees were used.   The corners used to have a big buildup from the hoses.   Anyway a guard named Ron lived across the street from the rink and called all of us when the rink caught fire (bad wiring in the coffee shop) and we all dashed up there and watched the grand old
lady burn.   Later, I found a tiny corner of one of my dresses in the debris, and one of my skate blades.  

During my years, it cost 75 cents to get in and the coffee shop was fabulous. They made many hot and cold sandwiches, including the best hot meatloaf sandwich I ever ate, but the hands-down favorite was a bearclaw heated on the grill in sizzling butter.   Yum.

There were black circles on the old wooden barriers which were guides for drawing the lines between patches for patch sessions.   I think these sessions (the 8 am and the 11 am one) cost $1 each.   The rink was so huge, there was room for about a dozen patches in the middle during public sessions and two on each end.   The preferred place to switch from figure to freestyle skates
(yeah, we all had two pair), was the first row of boxes above the walkway.   They had angled wood rails at exactly the right height to jab your blade into to lace them up.   Each rail had a big hole in it from years of this usage.   In the photo, the LAFSC club room is on the far end of the rink on the right, next to the pit into where they shoved the scraped ice after resurfacing.   The coffee shop is on the near left.

You should have been there in the spring of 1961 when the World Figure Skating team was killed.   Many of them had skated on our ice just a day before. We'd all gone to the airport to see them off.  Afterwards, we went to 8 funerals in 7 days--Dona Carrier, Rhode Michelson, and so many others.   A joint memorial service was held March 5, 1961 at the Lafayette Hotel in Long
Beach.  But there was gloom at Polar for weeks, with clusters of skaters huddled in corners.  

I also skated at a "studio" rink (about 40' x 60') at the corner of Jefferson and Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City which was made into a 5 and 10 cent store, and now adjoins a CompUSA.   The building is virtually untouched.   I also skated several times at an outdoor rink in Clear Lake, CA.  

Lots of 1970s TV shows used the Santa Monica rink, including Hart to Hart. BTW, the Sonja Henie film "It's a Pleasure" was shot at Polar Palace and the Westwood rink."


David Price emailed from Australia in April 2005;  "I skated at the Polar Palace late '59 and' 60 with Loren Cacamous (O'Neil), Barbara Anne Roles, Jimmy Short, Roy Wagelien, a speed skater Bill Disney.  I can't remember names of the other skaters, but I remember going to Oblarths a lot so this must have been regulation for the figure skaters. I shared a unit across the road from the rink with a guy who was on the management staff, I think his name was Paul Durst(see below),  sometimes after a few drinks we would go and skate in the middle of the night under one security light. I moved on to the UK where I was a pupil of Gershwiler at Streatham. Barbara Roles visited the UK in '62 I think on her way to Worlds, she was lucky to miss '61. I never realized the Polar Palace burnt down but it will always remain a happy memory for me. I have included 3 photos, the first one above is of  of Loren and was by Wm Udell,  Loren lived in Westwood but trained at Colorado Springs and was Mid-Western Champion I think. The one of me on the right at the Polar Palace (not a great photo) but I think that is Roy Wagelien behind me and the middle photo of three, Jimmy Short on the left who was US Junior Champ and Barbara Roles who of course won a bronze medal at Squaw. I also used to skate at a studio rink in the valley, Howards I think? I skated there with Loren and a pairs skater whose name was something like Sully Kaufman. I'm afraid the memory's slipping."

Paul Durst emailed on Feb 17, '07; "Thanks Joe.  I was a guard at Polar from 01/57 till 11/61.  Boy,  if that place could talk.  Gracie at the Cashier's Booth was an old Mack  Sennett Bathing
Beauty.  The rink charged 25 cents to get in as a  spectator.  One day Mabel  Fairbanks arrived in her white Cad limeo along  with her entourage and guess  what, no freebe, 25 cents each.   And so  on and on and on.


  • Walter Hypes emailed in Feb '05; "I skated at the Polar Palace from 1952 till it burned down in 1963.  I  was one of Jerry and Louella Rehfield's students and their first pupil to make it  to the National Championships. I was a little older than those mentioned on your page and I worked nights to support my skating.   In 1954 the US Nationals were held there Tenley Albright was crowned National Champion for her second women's singles US title."
     
    Bob Turk emailed in Feb '05, "former producer of Ice Capades. Roy Wagelien  advised me of this article about the old Polar Palace. I was born about 4 blocks from the wonderful ole rink. I spent my youth in that rink. My recollection go back to 1937 when I began skating there. There aren't many of us left who remember that period of time. I do. As a kid I used to bring my classical records to Polar when Sonja Henie wanted to practise with some music. I would sit up there in that booth and play everything she liked.  Incidentally Roy Wagelien was on the US Olympic Team in 1968 in pair skating  with Susie Barens and  starred in Ice Capades in the West Tour for some  years."
  • Joe Appicie emailed on Dec. 23, 2005;