Anne Collingridge, Figure Skater
by Shirley Collingridge

Anne Collingridge's lengthy and illustrious skating career grew from an inherent grace, acquired skill and a deep love of skating. A breathtaking entertainer, Anne competed only once but performed at countless ice shows for more than three decades. From her selfless efforts emerged dozens of skilled skaters, hundreds of skating advocates and many new skating clubs.

Anne's figure skating career began in Winnipeg at age 15 with a gift of skates from her older sister Mary. Anne's dancing experience and athletic ability made her a natural for the sport. For two seasons, she skated with the Border Community Club in Winnipeg where she won the gold star for "fancy skating" in 1946. The next year, she married Wilbert Collingridge and moved to Quill Lake. How fortunate this move would prove for the little village and surrounding area.

By the winter of 1950 Anne was already the mother of three but had become lonely in her isolated rural home. Her husband was away all day at work, the couple were vehicleless, and there were no nearby neighbours. This seclusion was quite a contrast to Anne's former busy Winnipeg lifestyle. To combat the isolation, Anne began walking into town nights to skate at the rink (a former Dafoe hangar). The lonely, dark walk meant wading through waist-high snow, scrambling over five-foot snowbanks and being serenaded by owls and other nocturnal animals. Although the isolated walks did not frighten her, the Coleman lamp in her kitchen window was always a welcome sight on her return home.

Anne's fancy moves fascinated other young skaters who pleaded with her to "show them how." Anne was pleased to accommodate these youngsters and they caught on quickly. Observers were so impressed that the group was invited to perform at the Kinsmen carnival. Clad in white sweatshirts, navy corduroy pants or red corduroy skirts, the performers wowed the crowd. These youngsters represented the first members of the future Quill Lake Figure Skating Club whose ranks would swell from 12 skaters to almost a hundred.

The Watson Witness reported on that first ice show:

A pleasant surprise of the evening was the thrilling performance of the figure skaters who have been receiving instruction from Mrs. W. W. Collingridge. We cannot write too highly of the results achieved by Mrs. Collingridge in the short time she has had to tutor the young skaters, for in our opinion they performed magnificently. . . . Her troupe of performers included Larry Walker, Bobby Gordon, Jeanette Sigstad, Floreen (Pat) Foster, Melba Taylor, Enola Bannatyne, Gwen Cottrell, Marjorie Jones, June Fulop, Betty Anne Gardiner, Ada McFarlane, and Sally MacDonald.

In 1957, Anne asked the mothers of the growing figure skating club if they would form a club of their own - this one to arrange for costumes and fund-raising for material. The mothers pursued this goal as enthusiastically as their children pursued skating, and the club soon gained renown for its outstanding costumes.

Besides teaching her students on ice, once or twice a week Anne would teach them acrobatics at the old school to help them with their skating.

Anne's figure skating reputation spread like wildfire. Soon other towns were asking for her time. Consequently in 1955 - 56, she not only taught at home and in Watson, but also established the Naicam club where she taught for two years at that time and one more in 1963. Although she could not accept, Anne was also asked to teach in Humboldt in 1955 - 56. By that time, she was the mother of five children under the age of 10 who also needed her attention. In 1965 - 66 she also taught at Invermay and in 1988 - 85 at Elfros with her youngest son Lee.

Despite eight pregnancies, Anne performed solos continuously from 1951 to 1978. Back surgery compelled her to slow down, yet she continued to perform in group numbers, to choreograph and to teach until she was forced off the ice by Alzheimer Disease in the early 1990s. Until then, Anne and her students guest skated at many ice shows. They fought blizzards, bitter winds and icy roads to perform at Watson, Margo, Invermay, Naicam, Raymore and Wadena where warm receptions quickly thawed chilled bones. When the old hangar/rink burned down in 1962, Anne took a contingent of skaters all the way to Coronach on the Saskatchewan/US border. Performers included herself, her two daughters Shirley (Shirley Ann) and Gerry (Geraldine), Donna Marshall and Gail Hoffos.

In payment for her teaching and performances, Anne received everything from pens to roses to rhinestone necklaces and tiaras but she received very little money. There wasn't much money in the early days and although Anne had little of the green stuff herself, she didn't mind. She did it for love, not money.

Anne's training was ongoing. Recognizing her potential, the Kinsmen sponsored her to train at Winnipeg's Granite Club for three weeks in the summer of 1955. There she passed her preliminary figure test, and studied free skating and dancing.

The next time she attended summer school, it had to be closer to home at the Regina Wascana Club, because this time she had five children in tow. And yes, all the children accompanied her to skating school.

In 1971, for two days in Muenster, Anne attended one of the first amateur skating coaches' clinics. There she earned the NST coaching badge which she followed in 1976 (along with daughter Shirley) with the senior coaching badge.

By 1979 Anne was grandmother of five but took on and passed the power skating clinic in Humboldt. In 1975, her 50th year, she had undertaken and passed the Dutch Waltz, the Canasta Tango and the Swing Dance.

Anne's contribution to skating did not go unnoticed. In 1976, the Quill Lake Figure Skating Club held a tea in her honour, recognizing 25 years of commitment. The club awarded her with an engraved tray and fine tribute. It was indeed a fine tribute, but certainly not the end of Anne's skating career or her skating affiliation.

In July of 1981, Anne sponsored her own celebration — a wonderfully successful and memorable reunion which brought together several generations of her skating students. The old Legion Hall was packed to the rafters as one hundred and sixty people attended the reunion, including four original members: June (Fulop) Leitner, Pat (Foster) Finlayson, Ada (MacFarlane) Griller, and Bob Gordon. In the place of original member Margaret MacDonald came her mother Sally MacDonald.

Anne's skating involvement extended beyond teaching and performing. Her stepson Harold was among the first members of the club. Four of her own children also skated, including Gerry, Shirley, Martin and Lee. As well, the younger three trained at summer school in Winnipeg, Edmonton and/or Saskatoon.

Anne had always encouraged young skaters, and in 1972 took that encouragement to a new level. She began awarding the "Anne Collingridge Trophy for Best Junior Free Skater from a Natural Ice Surface," later adding the "Most Improved NST (or Junior) Skater" award. Diane Strome of the home club was the first proud recipient. Others included Marcia Hleck (QL 1983), Jordan Drobot (QL 1986), Jaylene Pisio (QL 1989), Regan Wilderman (Jansen 1989), and Chantel Hoegemann (Leroy 1990).

In 1977, Anne was appointed Regional Area Co-ordinator for the local district of the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA).

In 1985, the CFSA recognized Anne's "outstanding contribution to figure skating in Saskatchewan" by honouring her at a banquet in Kindersley.

And in 1996, she was honoured again, this time by her daughter Shirley. While a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, Shirley established the "Anne Collingridge Recreational Figure Skating Club" (ACRFSC). The ACRFSC provides a forum for adult skaters (17 and up) to maintain their skills and, if they are so inclined, to continue testing. The club's logo pictures a spiralling young Anne from the 1940s, framed by the club's name. Skaters range from single to triple jumpers, second figure and preliminary freeskate to triple golds.

The ACRFSC held ice shows in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Anne's youngest grandson David Collingridge (Martin's son) guest skated in the 2000 ice show, much to the delight of the audience.

Anne was famous for her opening cartwheel, her beautiful spread eagle and the jump which carried her high off the ice then downward in an awe-inspiring split formation that sent her spinning dizzily across the ice. Anne will long be remembered for these fantastic performances, for her choreography and her teaching contributions. But she will be remembered even more for her dedication and her ability to put others at ease. That's why, although she has eight children of her own (plus some extras from her husband's first marriage), dozens more fondly call her "mom."

Created by: Shirley Collingridge, Wordsmith