Around 1950-51 when people heard that Taft prep school in Watertown, Connecticut, was going to build an ice rink, Jack Galgot of Waterbury and others conceived the idea of forming a skating club. Jack had been a competitive skater in figures and a judge. The group met informally and contacted Taft, offered help in planning and building the rink, and requested permission to use the rink for skating sessions. Taft agreed.
The Mays Rink was completed and ready for use in January 1951. The club incorporated in December 1951, with Wooster Canfield as their first president. The first club skating session was held in December 1952. There were about 60 members. Skating was scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays for juniors and families, and on Thursdays for adults only. The dues were $12 for families, $9 for adults, and $6 for juniors. Each year a certain amount of money was "donated" to Taft to help cover the expenses of the rink maintenance. Later, an arrangement was made to pay an hourly rate for ice time rental.
The rink as constructed had the pipes laid in sand with a small garage-like structure housing the ice making machinery. There was no roof or windbreak except for the hockey boards, no restrooms, and no warming rooms. The ice was smoothed by several men pushing a large steel plate over the ice and all snow was removed by hand. After each session, the ice was swept by the skaters. A jeep was acquired by Taft and fitted with a hot water tank on the back. This was driven up from the school to spread on the ice. Later, an early Zamboni was purchased, which cut some of the work, except for snow removal and sweeping. A roof and warming rooms were added in 1956, but there were still no sides to the rink. Wind still blew throughout the rink and deposited ice and snowdrifts onto the ice during storms.
The club was accepted as a member club of the United States Figure Skating Association in 1952. In the early days, skating sessions were quite formal, with the men wearing ties and jackets and the women in skating attire. Juniors were given little leeway; good conduct was strictly enforced. The early emphasis was toward ice dancing and figures; little freestyle skating was attempted. Jack Galgot, the first ice pro, charged $1.50 for individual lessons, and small groups (4-5 skaters) were charged $.50 per person.
There were the usual ice shows and test sessions each year, with the shows sometimes being quite elaborate with props and costumes. The music and technical committees in those days consisted of at least 4 people who worked with another 4 people of the program committee. The making of a new reel-to-reel dance tape took several sessions at someone's home because all music had to be strobed to conform to the prescribed dance timing.
The Watertown Skating Club, because of its location and dance emphasis, never became a really competitive club, partially by design. Our aim was toward socializing and the enjoyment of skating. However, we did have some junior and adult members who went on to become nationally ranked skaters in the dance discipline, and several members became competent ice pros. A number of boys who went through our junior program went on to become superior hockey players in prep school and college.
Our club has continued to enjoy a reputation for being very friendly with skaters helping other skaters, even among the juniors, and has continued to emphasize ice dancing. It has not succumbed to the "freestyle only" change, which has been adopted by so many other clubs. With figures all but gone from skating, the switch to moves-in-the-field has encouraged our skaters, especially the juniors, to have a renewed interest in basic skills, with the bulk of the USFSA testing being in this area.
Since 2001 the club has been skating in Taft's new Odden Arena. Because all our officers and board members are volunteers, there have been many hours devoted to the running of the club by people who love skating since 1951.