Figure skating in the Red Lake District began in the late 1950’s when Mr. Ed Fahlgren, Manager of Cochenour Mine, hired Carla Delaney, a young miner’s wife, who had moved from Kenora, which had been her home and where she had received figure skating training, to teach skating to some of the Grade 7 and 8 Cochenour girls.
In 1959, the “Skating Club” was formed when Delina Toffanello was hired to assist Mrs. Delaney. The club was then “opened up” to include skaters from throughout the Red Lake district. Bus transportation was provided free of charge from Red Lake and Balmertown to Cochenour with the townships picking up the tab. A token fee was paid by the skaters with all other expenses being absorbed by the mines. As many as 200 skaters took advantage of the opportunity, skating three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
In the early 1960’s Diane Davis was hired as the club’s first official professional. From that time on, the club has always had a pro. At times, someone from Dryden or Kenora would be brought in. Providing quality instruction was often a difficult and arduous task. Other names to be remembered are Terry Thorsen, Diane Hermiston, Faye McAllister, Debi Jorg, and Bonnie Abels. In those days, CFSA test skaters were registered through Dryden and later, the Ear Falls Figure Skating Clubs, as our club was not affiliated with the Canadian Figure Skating Association.
In the fall of 1980, the executive decided to take the giant step of affiliating as an official club. When the name of the new club was to be chosen, it was decided unanimously to register as the Balmertown Figure Skating Club, out of respect for long time Balmertown resident and “First Lady” of figure skating in the area, Delina Toffanello in January, 1981, Kenora hosted the annual Interclub Competition and Test Day. For the first time, our skaters were registered with the Balmertown Figure Skating Club as their home club.
The club initially registered twelve CFSA skaters. These girls all assisted the club as amateur coaches throughout their high school days, with Debra Geary and Kim Veal-Wood returning later to teach professionally for the club with which they began their skating days. In the days before artificial ice, many a carnival would be skated on ice so thin you could literally “skate on the surface below” with sheets of ice falling off the roof as the skaters passed underneath. Often, the show had to be stopped for a quick clean off so the program could continue. We often had quality guest skaters attend, none as prominent though as Donald Jackson, former Canadian and World Champion who graced our carnival with his performances.
As the club continued to progress, so did the qualifications of its skaters. Our skaters attended summer schools in Kingston, North Bay and London, Ontario, Winnipeg, Carman, Manitoba and International Falls, Minnesota. As well, the skaters actively participated in the Regional Interclub Competition, winning several awards and trophies. Members of the club, most notably, Eric Radford, have also competed in Divisional, All Ontario and Canadian and International Championships as well as a team member for the Skate Canada National team for several years. Today the club ranges between 75 – 95 skaters with 5 coaches. The season runs from October to March. Wherever our skaters compete, the high standards instilled by this club stays with them forever.