Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gay Blades Ice Skating & Else Ege Story!

In 1964, Gay Blades came to Glen School. While it sounds funny today, Gay Blades was a fun and very popular afterschool ice skating club. It seemed to go on for years - and in fact it existed for about 14 years all because of one mom's dedication! Ask anyone who was a "Gay Blade" - and they'll tell you it was one of the happiest memories of life at Glen School! Everybody wanted to be part of it - there were 100+ kids participating in Gay Blades at its peak - if you know Glen School that's a hec of a lot of kids! Can you imagine the carpools?

Above is a photo of Else in her Mahwah, NJ home in February, 2009.

If you don't know Else (her name is pronounced Elsa Egga) and come to meet her for the first time, you like her immediately. As a child - to us she was a magnet! She was so much fun and always shared an interesting or funny story! Every kid - no matter the grade - knew who Else Ege was! A little over a year ago I sat down and spoke with Else in her Mahwah home and we reminisced about Glen School, Roslyn Road and life in Ridgewood. I followed up on the phone this past Spring (2010) and as recently as August, 2010 and she recalled everything with great fondness. She certainly was a tireless mom and committed to 100's of Glen School kids, but first I want to share a little about where one of Glen School's favorite moms grew up and came to be in Ridgewood.

Else was born Else Lindstrom in 1928 in Bergen, Norway - a coastline town that has so much rain that the locals say their children are born with golashes on their feet! It easily rains 300 days a year there. Bergen had once been the capital of Norway but Oslo became its capital in 1299. Bergen is also known for its local hospitality - with locals flying flags denoting they are home and neighbors are wlecome to come visit.

Above is a modern-day photo of the coastal city of Bergen, Norway where Else was born.

From Bergen, Else moved to Oslo at the age of 4. She lived on Holmenkollveien about 3 miles away from the famous ski jump used in the 1952 Olympics. They have recently begun construction on a huge new ski jump. Else spent 3 months there this past summer and tells of a very bustling city getting for the ski championships there. The view from the jump site is tremendous. Oslo of course was the site of the 1952 Winter Games which Else remembers well.

Oslo in Winter. Norway is truly a beautiful country as are most Nordic countries.

Above is the original ski jump first used in the Oslo Winter Olympic Games in 1952 - just about 3 miles from Else's home on Holmenkollveien!

Above, the same site with a new ski jump under construction Summer 2010.

She is one of 3 siblings - Fredrik, Else & Jan. Her younger brother Jan passed away at the age of 49.

When Else was a little girl, the town soccer field (across from her home on Holmenkollveien) was flooded each winter to form an ice rink and it was there that Else would learn to skate - and become a talented skater. It was also here that Else learned a game that she loved called "Bandy" which is incredibly popular and similar to football as far as rules are concerned and hockey using a ball instead of a puck on the ice. Also known as Ice Football, the game is usually played on a frozen football field. The objective is to score as many goals as possible in 90 minutes. All players carry wooden sticks to hit a small rubber ball into a goal. The origins of Bandy go back to early England where they played an informal game of hockey on frozen ponds in the nineteenth century. It became incredibly popular in countries like Norway and Sweden.

Above is a young boy in the early 1950's playing "Bandy" - a game just about every Nordic child grew up playing.

Above are samples of "Bandy" balls old & new.

In addition to her talent as a skater Else learned how to ski at a very young age and still skis to this day. She recently skied in Park City, Utah in 2008 and at Camp Gaw Mountain in Mahwah, NJ in 2009. Else would share her love for skating and skiing by teaching the neighborhood kids when she & Hans lived in Ridgewood. To teach the kids to ski, they would use a small slope of a hill that would start at the Knies' house and the Roslyn Road kids or "Roslyn Road Runners" as they were affectionately known would end up skiing into the Samson's driveway. The Knies' lived on Westrook Road as did the Samsons. The kids would also set up homemade ski jumps that would add to the fun!

Above are Margaret Silvers' brothers Reed & Peter skiing at the Samson's. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

Above photo shows Reed & Robbie Silvers doing ski jumps at the Samson's house. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

In the photo above (l to r) Margaret Silvers and Karey Samson hot dog it with their homemade ski jump in front of Karey's house on Westbrook Rd. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

As the kids took to skiing, Else would then take them on local ski outings to places like Camp Gaw Mountain, Sterling Forest or Silvermine at Harriman State Park. Those who went on these various ski outings included: the Knight's, the Henckler's, the Daly's, the Silvers', Lis & Tina Ege of course and many others.

Above is a 1960's photo of a busy Silvermine Ski Area at Harriman State Park, NY.

The photo above shows Silvermine Ski Area as it looks today - abandoned and unused for quite a few years. The weather-beaten ski lift still stands today - waiting for skiers like it did back in the 60's.

Some of The Roslyn Road Runners - and there were a lot of them - would take ski trips to Pleasant Mountain in Maine. The above photo shows a late arrival back to Ridgewood after getting snowed in. Dad's that would go on these trips included Sam Silvers, Bill Knight, Bob Samson & Paul Knies. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

Photo above left shows Bill Knight cooking and feeding the boys - photo on the right is Phillip Knies. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

Chowing down on the Pleasant Mountain ski trip are l to r: Bobby Bennett, Ricky McDaniel, Hank Henckler & Karey Samson. Photo is property of Margaret Silvers-Myatt and used with permission.

In her late teens, Else attended the state Art School in Oslo where she would perfect her skill as an artist. Please see photos below of some of her artwork and fliers that she did for Glen School events.

In 1952, Else would meet Hans Ege through her brother Fredrik - where did they meet? On the slopes of course!

In September 1953 at age 25, Else & Hans married in Oslo and would eventually make the big move to the United States. Hans was private secretary to the US Ambassador to Norway Charles Bay under President Truman's administration. When General Eisenhower became President in 1952, Charles Bay would return to the United States but he asked Hans if he and Else would return with him - Hans agreed and this is how they came to the United States, settling in New York City.

Above, US Ambassador to Norway Charles Bay and his wife - Charles would ask the Ege's to come to the States with him!

In April 1957, they would move to 877 Roslyn Road in Ridgewood, NJ. This wonderful, sprawling neighborhood street would quickly become active with new famlies with lots of kids! Despite living in Ridgewood, Else would return to Norway every summer and still does.

Above photo is a great shot of life on Roslyn Road in the 1960's - compare it to 2010 and you can appreciate how greatly it has changed. It was such a sprawling, open neighborhood and is now covered with and heavily shaded by the mature trees - the redone homes sometimes hard to recognize. Drive slow and you find yourself saying things like, "There's the Silvers' house!" or "Isn't that where Katie lived?" The photo above shows an Easter egg hunt that was a neighborhood tradition at least for a few years. Photo is property and courtesy of Roslyn Road Runner Hank Henckler - who's mom Muriel incidently still lives on Roslyn Road!

The above photo is a classic! My sincere thanks to Else for sending it. It shows a very young Lis Ege in front of her home at 877 Roslyn Road in winter - note the classic wooden skis! Lis is one of those important Glen School kids who today runs a successful business in California called Cowbell.com - importing MOEN Bells of Norway. Cowbell.com has been licensed to market souvenir cheering bells for the Olynpic Winter Games in Lillehammer (1994), Salt Lake City (2002), Torino (2006) and Vancouver (2010).

For Else there would be no PTA - she didn't want anything to do with that - but she wanted everything to do with working with the kids at Glen School and when her daughters Lis and Tina started school Else quickly became a very active mom.

She would become a "book mender" at the school library - though the libraian and Else would clash over silly issues like Else wearing slacks - the libraian told her it was inappropriate! With that Else elected to take a box of books home each week and mend them there!

She would also help teachers during class. One of her favorite tasks was teaching the kids about Norway. She would show them Norwegian costumes and how each costume would denote what part of the country you were from. She would involve the kids in making Norwegian vests, share music, traditions and a kids favorite - the Trolls Dance. She also would sometimes knit her own Norwegian sweaters and would often remember her firends and neighbors by bringing back handmade sweaters from Norway - Katie Knight and her mom Rene recalled that they had each owned a handmade sweater from Norway.

Above a sample of what traditional Norwegian clothing looks like - the vest would denote what part of the country you were from.

Another interest close to Else's heart of course was art and she revelled in teaching the kids about artists and their artwork - pointing out artwork and prompting the kids to tell her who the artist was. She loved how excited the kids were when they would take a field trip shortly afterward to various art museums in New York City and how interested they were as they pointed out the same artists and paintings.

Then the idea of skating as an afterschool activity was put to a number of mom's and Else gladly took the cue and said "I can do that!" The idea was to make skating available to all the kids who thought they'd want to give it a try - it was both a great learning experience and a major social event each week. So starting in about 1964 for 13 weeks each year - basically from November to February - nearly a 100 kids would sign up and be carpooled to & from the Fritz Dietl Ice Skating Rink in Westwood, NJ. Even Dorothy Hamill made the trek down from Riverside, Connecticut in the early 70's to the Fritz Dietl rink (among other ice rinks) to hone the skills that would lead to her Olympic gold medal in Innsbruck, Austria in 1976!

Above we find Fritz Dietl himself (on the far left) and various skater kids in front of his ice rink in Westwood, NJ. (Sorry for the poor quality)

Fritz Dietl Ice Skating Rink as it looks today - unchanged!

Above, the adorable Dorothy Hamill upon receiving her gold medal and winning the hearts of 1,000's! Hamill would use the Fritz Dietl ice rink to practice.

For $13 your child could skate every wednesday afternoon for 13 weeks from the beginning of November til the middle of February. Each session was from 3:30 pm-5:30 pm. Can you imagine that? 2 hours of skating each week for 13 weeks for $13?! It was made available to all kids at Glen School - from kindergarten through 6th grade. Some would bring their own skates while others would rent them. Perdue's Sport Shop was a popular place for the kids to get their skates - the classic, rustic wooden Perdue's sign still vivid in our memory - not to mention Mr. Perdue's classic Woody. Perdue's sold skates but also rented them as well as part of their skate & ski exchange.

Here is part of the description as written by Else on the 1969-70 season flier:

".....We invite mothers and fathers to skate if they wish. It is a great way to get a little exercise and have an afternoon of fun with your youngsters.................."

Above is one of the many Gay Blades fliers handed out to every child at Glen School in October every school year for 14 years.

Part of another flier read like this: "Come skaters, do not wait - there is still time, why be late? Send in your application quick, remember Gay Blades starts the 8th of November..........."

Above is a phone book advertisement of everybody's favorite sport shop - Perdue's! Now in Westwood too!

There were also plenty of chaperones. Some would help on the ice while others like Jeanne Stanley-Brown were always ready for an emergency. All would be picking up gloves and hats and coats and shoes - trying to keep everybody's things from getting misplaced and helping kids to lace up!

Above l to r: Lis Ege (Else's oldest daughter) and another classic Glen School and Ridgewood mom - Jeanne Stanley-Brown! Photo taken by Terri Dimodugno.

The moms who drove would pull up to the circle in the Glen School parking lot with their big Town & Country station wagons (no seat belts of course!) and as school let out theirs and up to 6 other kids would pile in and follow the caravan to Fritz Dietl!

Above is the classic circle in front of Glen School as it looks today where our moms would pick us up on rainy days and of course Gay Blades!

The boys would skate a little - they would be known as circle skaters but would always look forward to playing hockey on a section of ice cordoned off for just that purpose. The girls would dress in their sweaters and special outfits like Ann Rimmer - dressed in her fuzzy pink sweater over a black skirt - proud to have been selected as a leader - the ribbon pinned to her sweater denoting such a responsibility! As Annie recalls: "I loved Gay Blades!...........I felt very important!" The girls would skate the whole afternoon - doing twirls and jumps and spins which the boys in large part, wanted nothing to do with! But the girls would also join the boys in their hockey games sometimes.

Nope - not a Glen girl - just a stock photo! But you get the idea.............

Else always supplied the pucks and sticks for hockey and would take on the role of "Skating Guard" complete with a whistle - trying to keep everybody safe - preventing collisions and pile-ups on the ice.

Else would always come up with fun skating games like The Whip which was a skating conga line or races back and forth across the ice. There was pairs skating and twirling practice in the middle of the rink. As Lis Ege recalls "......just enough to wear us all out before going home for dinner!"

Margaret Silvers finds it very easy to recall that she almost always had the back of her shirt sticking out of the back of her pants "........and Mrs. Ege would come behind me and go for a ride grabbing onto my shirt!"

Over the course of 14 seasons there would be a typical assortment of injuries - mostly minor - a sprained knee, a broken arm and assorted other bumps and bruises but hours and hours of fun! And of course hot chocolate!

Like all the other fliers and booklets that Else would design for school events and activities, our prinicipal Mr. Linden's secretary Agnes Larsen would always be there with a smile and a helping hand copying all the posters and fliers on the ditto machine for Else!

Yup that's the original ditto machine that Agnes Larsen used to make 100's of tests, quizzes and fliers! We need more fluid Mr. McFall! Mmmmmm that smell................!

Fritz Dietl - who was famous in the ice skating world (Olympic coach, star ice performer, legendary skating partner of Sonja Henie and member of the Ice Skating Institue's Hall of Fame) could always be found at the rink often engaged in conversations with Else about Norway, skating & Sonja Heine who of course won 3 consecutive Olympic gold medals and was born in Oslo, Norway where Else grew up!

The famous Fritz Dietl!!

Oslo's sweetheart Sonja Henie would turn her skating gold into Hollywood gold making movies often highlighting her skating skills. She died at the relatively young age of 69.

Else also gave lessons on the proper way to lace up your skates - spending strict attention to ankle support while not making them too tight using one finger in your skate as a guide!

Lacing up your skates the right way was important for good ankle support and good skating!

Generally the ice skating lessons were given by the moms - many of them beautiful skaters, among them were Else, Anita Bennett, Mrs. Avery, Ruth Glisch and Carol Casey - I'm sure I'm leaving out some too! Margaret Silvers says that Else "..............could skate on hockey skates or figure skates - wow! Beautiful skater!"

The car rides to and from the rink were almost as much fun as the skating. There was a rule about how many kids could be in the car, so when Else would see a police car she'd yell "Duck!" and the kids would laugh hysterically and duck their heads as they drove past him!

Lis Ege recalls her mom's metallic, dark tan 4-door Dodge packed with various kids which any given week could be made up of Karey & Julie Samson, David & Beth Stanley-Brown, Reed, Robbie & Margaret Silvers, Scott, Doug and Stacey Yates, Katie Knight. Lis happily recalls piling back into the family car after skating and on the way home they would drive down a steep hill that had a sharp left turn ".............we'd chant 'straight, straight, straight!' and then mom would make the sharp left and we'd all lean to the right laughing!"

Well its not the Ege's tan Dodge but you get a feel for what it was like - 7 kids piled in the family car each week and Else and the other moms making even a just 15 minute trip in the car a lot of fun!

On the last day of skating, each child would earn their skating diploma. On some nights some carpools would head right over to The Fireplace for dinner on the way home as a special treat.

Above is an assortment of Gay Blades diplomas handed out to the kids who came to the 13th week of skating.

By the mid-1970's, Gay Blades would be renamed Glen Blades (just not the same!) and would last until 1978-1979 - quite a few years after Else's own 2 daughters - Lis and Tina - had already left Glen School!

Over the years Else would be honored on 3 separate occasions for her work and dedication at Glen School and in particular with Gay Blades. Else you have our deepest gratitude for all the time you spent giving us all new and fun experiences growing up!

Note on the above plaque that it says "Glen Blades" - the famous name change!

Above photo was taken in November, 2009 at our Glen School reunion at Glen School - l to r: Margaret Silvers and Else Ege. Else had just received yet another honor - this time from the students of Glen School. Photo taken by Terri Dimodugno.

Over the last 2 years I have asked a few people for some their memories of Gay Blades - their responses are below:

Lis Ege - "Tina was at Glen until 1974 (I think). Mom continued Gay Blades after Tina left too! There was a name change before they stopped. They stopped after 1978-79 because when I came back from college I helped mom."

Karen Eide: "I loved Gay Blades! I begged mom for figure skating lessons! And, of course, my skates came from Perdue's Sport Shop!"

Judy Wilson: "I too went for Gay Blades! Great fun!"

Ken deGruchy: ".....My mom had involved myself and Cheryl with that (Gay Blades) for a time. Do you remember the mean man who ran the place and operated the special machine that prepared the skating surface?............Hot chocolate at Gay Blades was always a treat!"

Cynthia Wagner: "I was a member of Gay Blades - I think in 6th grade only. It was a BIG DEAL that my parents let me sign up for it finally after begging for a few years - money was always tight and this was a luxury. It was one of my happiest memories of Glen School! It was such a treat for me since I was the youngest of 4 children. I really became a very good skater because of it. It was such fun socially - I felt cool that I was part of it."

Diana Wagner: "No - bad ankles and I could never stay warm!!! Cool hands, cold feet, warm heart!"

Beth Daly: "............Everyone went. Mrs. Ege was the one who ran it but I remember huge carpools and moms picking up their kids in the circle at Glen and....all driving up to Fritz "De-whatever" and people having their skates at school on Gay Blades day."

Margaret Silvers: "Yup there must have been carpooling. Mrs. Ege was a chaperone so a bunch of us would jump in her car.........right after school. I guess we took our skates to school. We'd skate for a couple of hours and pile back into the car for the ride home."

Kim Vukov: "I did belong to Gay Blades and loved it! Every Wednesday afternoon at 3:30. We had so much fun. I remember skating real fast and doing some spins in the middle and falling and hitting my head. No hospitals but it knocked me out!"

Ken Merill: "Yes I remember that Susan Nunno and I were photographed by The Ridgewood News lacing up our skates at her house and the photo was placed in The Ridgewood News to announce the opening of skating season."

Artie Brierley: "Gay Blades - every wednesday after school - never could skate. Opted for gym after school!"

Cara Worthington: "I loved it!"

In 2001, Hans & Else sold the house at 877 Roslyn Road - moving to Mahwah, NJ. Sadly Hans Ege passed away on September 22, 2005. Being Irish I am cursed with sentiment (not complaining though!) Driving down Roslyn Road today - it still holds many memories (even for me as friends and I always rode our bikes there and trick or treated there) - the memories are always fresh in my mind - like snapshots - of life in the neighborhoods, the schools and Ridgewood.

Below is a small selection of Else's artwork used for fliers and posters promoting the Glen School circuses, card clubs and fashion shows which raised money for the Glen Home & School Association. Her classic designs reflected the times and could easily rival that of fashion desgners.

Looking back, the name Else Egge is synonymous with Gay Blades - she helped to make growing up in Ridgewood and attending Glen School a memorable time for many of us!

Thanks to all those who contributed to this classic Glen story. Thanks too of course to Else who has been so gracious and patient with my questions. Thanks Lis for the fact-checking help!


  1. Hei fra Norge (Hello from Norway!)
    What a lovely post! So beautifully written and what an enchanting life of Else. Skating is such a wonderful hobby. My family and I ice skate all the time outdoors. It brings so much joy to people of all walks of life.
    Med vennlig hilsen,

  2. Kristina - thanks so much for writing! Yes Else is leading quite a life! Her heart is very much in Norway. She made our time at Glen School all the more pleasant! Gledelig God Jul!!!