Summers of Ice Skating

Cool things were happening at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco during the summers of the 1960s. If you recall the 1960s rock concerts by promoter Bill Graham, he started to use the venue at the corner of Post and Steiner Streets for shows that needed more space than his nearby Fillmore Auditorium. However, years before the rock concerts, an annual extravaganza drew families to Winterland all summer to watch the Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies.

The Ice Follies was an ice skating show that started touring the U.S. in 1936 and first appeared in the City in 1938. The show and the cast had a special connection to San Francisco. During the three months of each summer, the show was headquartered at Winterland. They would perform the show that just toured the country for the City audience while rehearsing the new show that would debut in Los Angeles after Labor Day. Ice Follies merged with the Holiday on Ice company in 1979. No quality video clips of this spectacular ice show from the 1960s exist, but here is an example of what the shows were like from this clip of a Holiday on Ice European unit performing in 1972:

The Ice Follies is gone but many cast members settled in the Bay Area, including “Mr. Debonair” Richard Dwyer. Richard also used his summers in San Francisco to get a degree from the University of San Francisco. Here he is talking to Olympian Brian Boitano:

Personal Note: I started ice skating in the City when I was five years old with the Phyllis and Harris Legg School of Ice Skating. The Leggs settled in the City after careers as Ice Follies stars, so as children we always felt connected to the show. My summer job in the 1960s was as an usherette for the Ice Follies at Winterland. And during one show, Richard Dwyer gave my mom the bouquet of roses mentioned in the video clip.

Today we have Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center in downtown San Francisco. You can learn to skate and even host a party there. My friend Bonnie Legg, daughter of the Ice Follies stars, will be happy to help you. And you may see her Godfather, Richard Dwyer, still spinning and jumping his way around the rink. Here is the Web site:

Best wishes,