Skating away on memories

Waldo woman reflects on Holiday on Ice experience
by Verla Peichl Review Correspondent


SYBIL WINTER of Waldo once skated in the world-renowned Holiday on Ice figure skating show. Here she is at age 87 wearing the hat she bought while on tour in Argentina in 1949. — Review photo by Verla Peichl SYBIL WINTER of Waldo once skated in the world-renowned Holiday on Ice figure skating show. Here she is at age 87 wearing the hat she bought while on tour in Argentina in 1949. — Review photo by Verla Peichl Sybil Winter of Waldo is 87 years old and proudly announces that in November she will be 88.

If ever there was a local treasure, she is it.

Winter lives a quiet life, but her accomplishments are anything but quiet and her love for figure skating has been with her since her parents bought her those first six lessons when she was 14 years old.

“I joined the Holiday on Ice when they were just beginning in 1945,” said Winter. “I was always interested in skating, but before I really started skating my parents sent me to New York as a gift for graduating from high school to visit my aunt.

“I graduated from Wauwatosa East,” said Winter. “I’m not sure if that’s what it is still called, but that’s what it was when I went there. I had always done some skating and it was always with figure skates, but my parents bought me those six lessons so I wouldn’t have to just skate around and around in circles.”


SYBIL WINTER (far left) of Waldo poses with fellow Holiday on Ice figure skaters Ailsa and Merlyn during the 1940s. — Submitted photo SYBIL WINTER (far left) of Waldo poses with fellow Holiday on Ice figure skaters Ailsa and Merlyn during the 1940s. — Submitted photo It didn’t take long for Winter to develop a deep passion for figure skating.

“I always had skated at the curling rink in Wauwatosa,” said Winter. “There was open skating on weekends and I figure skated for the first time when I was 14. I then joined the figure skating club in Milwaukee.

“The lessons my parents bought me were for a school in Chicago,” she said “It didn’t take long when I was taking those lessons that I began to spin and jump. My parents had been speed skaters, but I liked to figure skate and do other things than just go around and around.”

As Winter’s figure skating skills developed, so did her opportunities to shine.

“My skating teacher gave my name to Holiday on Ice,” said Winter. “She actually gave all of her students names to Holiday on Ice, and I’m not sure how many that was anymore.

“She gave the names to a woman in New York and they gave the names to two men that started the Holiday on Ice,” she said. “So I got a letter in the mail and I went to skate and see if I was good enough. So I joined the Holiday on Ice in 1945 and signed a contract for three years.”

It wasn’t long before Winter was making a name for herself in the bright lights of New York.

“The first lady that directed the show was from the Rockettes and we went to the Radio City Music Hall in New York,” said Winter. “Lots of famous people worked there then. I forget, but that theater was the largest at the time and it’s still there and open. Gregory Peck and lots of other famous people were ushers there,That’ s what they did before they were famous.

“I was with the Holiday on Ice for three years and the last year I was with them we went to South America,” she said. “I did chorus work, in the beginning and then after the first year I was line captain, which meant taking care of the chorus. My partner and I did some directing.”

Winter enjoyed her time traveling the world as a member of the Holiday on Ice touring show.

“I liked the traveling,” said Winter. “I carried my original set of gold clubs, all five of them, and I liked to be in all of the cities we went to.

“We had to pay our own expenses too, such as hotel costs,” she said. “I sought out all the things in every town. I looked for all of the things that were of interest. I saw many things.”

A tragic car accident that took her mother’s life, brought Winter’s Holiday on Ice career to an early end.

“I started with the Holiday on Ice when I was 18 years old and when I came home I was 20 or 21,” said Winter. “My parents wanted me to stay with them, so I would be able to go to Europe, but it wasn’t long after I finished my contract my mother was killed in a car accident and I took care of my father.

“My father took the accident very hard,” she said. “He wept and wept and that accident not only took my mother, but also my aunt and we had learned that my uncle had died that same morning in Miami. So I didn’t sign up for Holiday again for a reason. It was meant for me to stay here and care for him. Something told me to stay home. So, that’s why I never married. I was busy taking care of my father. He loved my mother very much and the accident was just so hard for him to take.”

After her time with Holiday on Ice, Winter took on different jobs, but her heart remained in figure skating.

“I got busy going to many different places to work and I took all kinds of jobs,” Winter said. “Then I went to Marquette for dental hygiene and I would do that for 30 years.

“I also started 11 figure skating clubs at the Pettit Center,” she said. “I did that because I had always skated at the curling rink, so it was easy to get started.”

Over the years, Winter has remained connected to figure skating through her involvement with senior skating clubs.

“I was watching in the audience section one time and I didn’t see any seniors, and I asked why they didn’t skate with the young people,” said Winter, “They told me they didn’t have any clubs for them, so I decided to start some senior clubs.

“I always kept skating, all those years,” she said. “In fact, I just quit skating last year. I could probably still do it if someone helped me up and got me going.”

Holiday on Ice short facts

1943 - First show

First ever performance in Toledo, Ohio. Holiday on Ice was created by Carl Snyder and Donn Arden, who chose the name Holiday on Ice because the first show was to be staged during the Christmas holidays.

1945 - Touring show

The Gilbert brothers invested in Holiday on Ice. Together with Morris Chalfen, they use the first portable ice rink to make Holiday on Ice a touring show.

1947 - Holiday on Ice conquers the world

Holiday on Ice becomes the first American show to travel abroad, playing to a packed audience in Mexico City.

1949 - Holiday on Ice travels to South America for the first time


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