The Lilac City FSC was born with the usual accompanying labor pains. An offshoot of the Esmerelda FSC which was given the final rites in 1963, Lilac City was organized the same year and began skating at the newly constructed Five Mile Ice Plaza. To accommodate the rink ownership, the new club was named the Lilac City Plaza FSC. But in a short time, financial problems and internal quibbling nearly caused the failure of the club. However, a group of dedicated parents assumed the responsibility of administering the program and within a year, Lilac City had begun to grow and prosper. Debts were paid, new skaters joined the club and an outstanding group of volunteers was assembled who would eventually see Lilac City become one of the largest and most progressive clubs in the country.
As the skaters skills increased, it became necessary to provide more ice time. Separate groups for beginners, low, intermediate and high test skaters were introduced. Ice dancing and pairs were also offered. At one time four professionals, headed by Shirley Ingham McKenney, were on the ice and the club grew to a membership of over 300.
Lilac City had been unable to obtain a charter with the USFSA so our skaters were obliged to travel to Trail, BC, where our good friends Ron and Gerry Beattie arranged for tests for figures, free skating, dance and pairs. Our youngsters were also invited North for their first experience with competition. In 1967, the club received its Interim Probationary Charter from the USFSA. Four years later, Lilac City gained full membership.
Lilac City’s attempt at NW Championships produced the club’s first medals when Robin & Bob Briley, Jr. won the Novice Pairs gold medal for 1969 and again in 1970. Leslie Williams and Larry Miller brought home the silver medal those same years. All four skated at Pacific Coast Sectionals both years. In 1969 the club decided to produce an ice show to give the youngsters a new experience in skating, a reward for many hours of practice. It was aptly titled “Iceadelics” and was a real extravaganza complete with costumes, sets, spotlights and guest skaters.
Leslie Williams became the first Spokane skater to pass the Gold Test in figures and free skate in 1973. Mary Patricia Mancheni passed her figures the same day and her free skating a year later. Robin Briley was the third skater to pass her Gold Test. A few years later, Robin joined Ice Capades for four years and then became a teaching professional for Ice Capades Ice Chalet in Los Angeles for five years. Leslie joined Ice Follies for one year and then became a teaching professional in the San Francisco Bay area for eight years. Mary Patricia Macheni spent two years with Ice Capades in the early 70’s. Other skaters who later passed the Gold Test in both figures and free skating include Mollie McKenzie, Joey Draper, Randy Clark, Joan Goodley, April Lumper and Stephanie King.
Probably the most important event in the history of the Lilac City FSC was the dedication of the new ice arena in November of 1973. For years a club-owned and operated rink had been the goal of the local skating group and in particular, Shirley Ingham McKenney, the Head Professional. But the dream had never been realized. At a Christmas party in 1972, patrons and club members Al and Peg Olmstead offered the initial financial incentive to build our own rink. The challenge was accepted and a building committee went to work on the financing and blueprints. The Eagles Lodge provided the land and Lilac City accumulated part of the funding through loans from members and contributions from community businesses and foundations.
In November of 1973, the Lilac City Ice Arena was opened with great fanfare and a long sigh of relief from those members who had labored for over ten months to see the project to its happy ending. By this time six coaches had worked with us including Shirley Ingham McKenney, Gail Jarvis, Joan Clark (Bellessa), Vivian McHugh, Glenda Oien and Patty Young. We had already put on three biennial Iceadelics.
Coach Joe Thola came to LCFSC in 1975. A double Gold Test skater in singles and pairs, Joe skated Junior Mens at US Nationals in 1971 &72 and, as a featured skater with Ice Follies from 1972-74, he travelled Mexico, Central America, China, Alaska and the southern USA. Having trained around the country with such luminaries as Arthur Burke, John Nicks and Gus Lussi, Joe brought extensive knowledge of the basics to our club. Combined with his own enthusiasm for the sport and know-how learned from his big league associates, Joe developed a spirit of confidence and eagerness in our skaters, encouraging them to show folks what they could do, bringing our competitiveness to new heights. His artistic flair, choreographic skills and musicality contributed immeasurably to the pizzaz of ourbiennial ice shows
The 1976 Northwest Pacific Regionals were held at the new Lilac City Ice Arena. In 1977 our club skated at the Grand Opening ceremonies of Spokane’s new outdoor Riverfront Park Ice Palace. Volunteers insulated and repainted the rink. In 1979 a second sheet of ice was added to our all-volunteer arena and it was enclosed a year later. The added expense of additional ice and full-time management brought about the transfer of ownership of our arena to the Eagles Lodge and it was renamed the Eagles Ice A-Rena.
Mollie McKenzie and George McKenney won 3rd place in Novice Pairs at Pacific Coast Sectionals in 1977. LCFSC hosted NW Pacific Regionals in 1980 & ’82. Scott Wendland was 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in Novice Men in 1981 and 2nd in Junior Men in 1983. Berkley Villard placed 3rd at Intermediate Ladies at Pacific Coast Sectionals in 1985. Skating at her own club for Sectionals in 1986, Berkley finished 3rd at Novice Ladies. The following year, Berkley was 1st at Novice Ladies at Sectionals and the silver medalist at U.S. Nationals. In 1989 she finished 3rd at Sectionals in Junior Ladies.
Toyka Raol began skating with LCFSC in the 70’s. She skated pairs with Derrick Smith and in dance with Mark Hall, competing and medaling in the Northwest Region and Canada. She and her partner Eric (Mumper) Kerr of San Diego, CA, signed with Ice Follies/Disney on Ice, as featured principals. For ten years they toured the US, Mexico, South America, Europe and Japan. They retired and she started her own school in Staten Island, NY, the Island Blades Figure Skating Academy celebrating its tenth year. There, as director, she supervises her coaching staff as well as a large compliment of skaters. Also as Director of the Prospect Point Skating School in Brooklyn, NY from ’96-98, she directed the coaching staff and acted as artistic coordinator. During this time she was also a teaching professional at Sky Rink in New York City and in Bayonne, NJ. She is the USFSA Basic Skills Representative for New York and the greater metropolitan area. Skaters from her academy were featured in the USFSA promotional commercial aired during the 2002 Olympics and year.
Popular television newscaster Bob Briley, one of our first presidents, served on the Executive Board of the USFSA from 1976-79 and was chairman of the Public Relations Committee for three years starting in 1979. He began serving as an announcer for US Nationals when it was in Portland in 1978 and announced for Flaming Leaves in the fall of 1979, the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, 1981 Worlds in Hartford, CT, US Nationals in Indianapolis, Salt Lake City and back in Portland. For almost forty years and to this day, Bob continues to be the “Golden Throat” of the Lilac City Figure Skating Club, announcing at all NW Regionals and Pacific Coast Sectionals held locally, Jo Williams Memorial and Skate at the Park Competitions, and our seventeen biennial Iceadelics. Doris, his lovely wife and loyal sidekick, was our test chairwoman for over ten years, sometimes processing more than one hundred tests per session.
The 1990’s began with LCFSC once again hosting NW Pacific Regionals. Johnnie Bevan was gold medalist at Sectionals and US Nationals in Novice Men in 1991. That same year he was second at Junior Men at Blue Swords in Chemnitz, Germany. By this time our coaching staff was composed of Joan (Clark) Bellessa, Randy Clark, Berkley Villard, Stacie Bowerman, Kelli Sullivan, Kendra Pankratz and Noreen Clohessy, our first choreographer. Berkley Villard passed her Gold Freestyle in 1990. Long time coach and visionary, Shirley Ingham McKenney finally retired for the fifth time in 1991 vowing to make this the last time in her forty-five year career. Having coached throughout western Canada (Cologna, Victoria, Kamloops, Lethbridge) and Great Falls, MT, she finished off the last thirty years inspiring skaters at Lilac City. After her first retirement from our club, she returned to the rink to teach learn-to-skate classes and retired four more times before finally hanging up her skates.
Johnnie Bevan moved up to Junior Men in 1992 and was the gold medalist at Sectionals, finishing fourth at US Nationals. He also attended the Olympic Sports Festival in San Antonio, TX, finishing tenth. In 1993 two Bevan boys attended US Nationals for Lilac City. Johnnie placed third at Junior Men and Eddie attended Junior Olympics as a Juvenile. Johnnie also attended Junior Worlds in Seoul, South Korea, finishing fourth. Still at US Nationals in 1994, Johnnie was third in Junior Men. That same year he attended Junior Worlds in Denver finishing sixth overall although second in his freestyle program and third at the Olympic Sports Festival in St. Louis, MO. Johnnie passed his Gold Freestyle in 1994.
The Jo Williams Memorial Competition was inaugurated in honor of long time patron, rink employee, and penultimate skating mom who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Jo was beloved by all the skaters because she ardently supported each and every one of them and the sport of figure skating. This all-time great volunteer was a permanent fixture at the rink for years, ran five ice shows and was eventually hired by the rink. Her untimely death shocked everyone. To promote the continuity of her spirit and positive influence, LCFSC sponsors this popular competition the weekend after the 4th of July.
Two LCFSC skaters qualified for US Nationals in 1995. Johnnie Bevan went as a Senior Man and Valerie Hershey qualified for Junior Olympics as a Juvenile Lady. Johnnie attended Grand Prix International in St Gervais, France, finishing fifth in Senior Men. By this time our coaching staff consisted of Joan (Clark) Bellessa, Randy Clark, Berkley Villard, Annette Polastri, Stephanie Lapikas, and choreographers Noreen Clohessy and Kris Cassan. Stephanie Lapikas and Heather Delong both passed Gold Moves in the Field and Freestyle. Jamie Aga Shatzer passed Gold Moves in the Field.
In January of 1996, just months after the USFSA introduced the Adult-track of testing and competition, Sharon Reynolds took (and passed) the club’s very first Adult-track test: Bronze Free Skating.
Kim Ryan qualified for Junior Olympics in 1997 as a Juvenile Lady. Northwest Pacific Regionals was once again held at Eagles Ice Arena in 1998. A new dimension was added to our summer program with the addition of a seminar featuring presenters prominent in the figure skating world. In 1998 Greg & Margie Weiss spoke on physical conditioning and trampoline training for off-ice rotation.
In 1999, Kim Ryan again qualified for US Nationals in Novice Ladies and attended the North American Challenge in Vancouver, BC, finishing second. Lindsay Malcolm qualified for US Junior Nationals as a Juvenile Lady. Meegan McDonald passed Gold Moves in the Field and Freestyle, Joy Bala passed Gold Moves in the Field and Jamie Aga Shatzer passed her Gold Freestyle. Meegan McDonald began touring the US with Disney on Ice. Four days of summer school seminars featured coach John Nicks with Naomi Nari Nam and Jill Shipstad, choreographer. Skate at the Park, a small local competition, was cohosted this year by Spokane Figure Skating Club and LCFSC.
2000 was a banner year for LCFSC when seven skaters qualified for US Nationals. Kim Ryan was seventh at Junior Ladies in Cleveland. Attending US Junior Nationals in Albany, NY, were Samira Banna, sixth Intermediate Ladies; Whitney McMillin, Intermediate Ladies; Lindsay Malcolm, Juvenile Lady; Jeff Smith, Juvenile Men and our first Juvenile Pair in twenty-three years, Whitney McMillin and Alex Heaney. Coaching at LCFSC were Joan (Clark) Bellessa, Randy Clark, Berkley Villard, Joe Thola, Kim Ferraro,Tera Caldera and Shannon Damiano. Meegan McDonald began touring Europe with Feld Entertainment.
LCFSC again co-hosted Skate at the Park with Spokane Figure Skating Club. Summer school seminar featured Evelyn Kramer on spins with British National Champion Tamsin Sears on the Russian edging technique.
2001 was an exciting year for LCFSC. It brought the Pacific Northwest Regionals back to LCFSC and Eagles Ice Arena and skating in front of the home crowd yielded gold medals for both Kim Ryan at Junior Ladies and Samira Banna at Novice Ladies. The two skated gold and silver respectively at Pacific Coast Sectionals in Anchorage, AK. At Adult Nationals, Sharon Reynolds placed third in Bronze Ladies III. Our highest finisher at US Nationals in Boston was Samira Banna, eleventh at Novice Ladies. Kim pulled with a stress fracture. Attending US Junior Nationals in Denver, CO, were Ashley Beekman, Juvenile Lady and Jeff Smith, sixteenth at Juvenile Men. Meegan McDonald moved to Ice Castle Theater, Myrtle Beach, SC; USFSA Sports psychologist, David Coppell, was the featured presenter at 2001 summer school seminar; and coach Joan (Clark) Bellessa was honored at Iceadelics 2001 for 30 years of dedicated coaching for LCFSC
Samira Banna advanced to 2002 U.S. National Championships but pulled with a hamstring injury. Jeff Smith advanced to U.S. Junior Nationals and also pulled with a knee injury. Kim Ryan was named to the USFSA Scholastic Honors Team. Sharon Reynolds attended U.S. Adult Nationals finishing ninth in Silver Ladies III.
Lilac City Figure Skating Club has been the beneficiary of many years of service by parents who have coached; run competitions, tests, ice shows and the rink; judged and served as club and federation officers. Bob & Doris Briley, Gene & Jo Williams, Shirley McKenney, Sandy Blackwell, bronze judge Sara Keller and Joan (Clark) Bellessa still take an active interest in our club after over thirty years. Bronze judge Leo Young and wife Dorothy and gold judge Jerry Ashby and wife Darlene, the Brileys and Joan (Clark) Bellessa have had children and grandchildren skating with Lilac City. The Youngs have been active members for over thirty years and the Ashby’s have supported our club for twenty-eight years. This dedication and continuity created the vitality of Lilac City Figure Skating Club and the success of our skaters in the sport and in life.