The Post-Journal

Hanson Youngsters Carried on Family's Speed Skating

Following World War Two and after his honorable discharge from the military, Bob Hanson put his skates into semi-retirement and turned his attention to coaching his youngsters, Sally, Sonya and Jim. In fact, he was the successful coach of the Jamestown Speed Skating team for several years.

Jim was an outstanding skater, but after he turned his attention to other pursuits, the girls carried the family colors into major competition, which was plentiful in those days. Jim, always a willing contestant during the time he was a member of the team, was in numerous meets. Among other accomplishments, he won the 220 and open mile in two different city meets; had a first in the Niagara Frontier Speed Skating Championships in Buffalo and competed in the Eastern Nationals at Barrie, Ont. He also played football at Maple Grove.

Dad Hanson and his girls were on the road and in local and area meets for several years, traveling thousands of miles seeking class competition. Their last trip to a major meet was made about five years ago.

In referring to the girls today and describing their styles, Hanson said: "They were different in some ways. Sally was a die-hard who never gave up and never yielded to anyone, even the classiest competition. Sonya had some of those same traits. She also put her skates down a little better and was just a little smoother. It made a good combination."

The Hanson family put Jamestown on the national speed skating map during the years they competed near and far. A large sign was often displayed at meets where they skated introducing: "Jamestown Speed Skating Club on Chautauqua Lake."

There was sponsorship help at times. Pepsi-Cola once handed out the uniforms and McFadden Ford often furnished the transportation. However, Hanson carried the financial load by himself for the greater part of his traveling troop.

Despite the expense, Hanson kept the girls going, once they graduated into major competition. Among the "biggies" scheduled (most more often than once) were the National Open in St. Paul, Minn., then a thousand miles to the east to the Berkshire Hills Meet at Pittsford, Mass. There was also the Motor City Open at Detroit, Eastern States at Saratoga Springs, Canadian International at Ottawa, Diamond Trophy at Lake Placid, the International Silver Skates at Lake George, the Sertoma Open at Kitchener, Ont., the Middle Atlantic Championships at Newburgh, NY, the Eastern Seaboard Championships at Binghamton and the J.F. Kennedy Games at Lake Placid to name a few and give one an idea of the class of skating the girls were fitted into on the national and international scene.

Sally's victory in the famed Diamond Trophy Meet one year and the J.F. Kennedy competition in another, plus winning the prestigious George Purdy Trophy as the outstanding skater at the Saratoga Eastern States were her major achievements, according to her father. She garnered four firsts in the latter meet.

A record-breaking performance at Kitchener was one of Sonya's big days she and her father will never forget. She broke the 200 meters (23.9 seconds), the 300 meters (36.6) and the 400meters (47.7) all in midget racing.

Sally, in addition to the foregoing on various trips, also copped three firsts and a second at Berkshire Hills, went back to Kitchener and won the open mile, then came home and took the same event in the local meet. She was also second in two events of the Eastern States, had two first as the Jamestown team took 22 awards in the Niagara Frontier Championships at Buffalo, then won her event on another trip to Pittsfield.

The National Open in St. Paul pitted the Hansons against some of the world's best but they did well. Sally had a second, a third and a fifth in the hats and Sonya won a second, a third and a fourth, also in the heats. Neither girl was able to qualify for the finals.

Sally returned to the winner's circle when she defended her Berkshire Hills title for the fourth time, once winning three events in this meet. She also booked two firsts in the John F. Kennedy and Canadian International Meets as well as topping her class in the Lake George International and defending her title in the Eastern Seaboard with victories in the 220, 440 and 880.

John Messina was a top hand on one of his better teams, Hanson recalls. He won the Senior Mile in the Niagara Frontier games the year the local team won 22 medals. "He was one of our finest male skaters," he said.

After on of Sally's victories at Pittsfield she was approached by Jean Ashworth, former Olympic skater, who offered her the job of coaching the Lake Placid team. She decline after considerable thought.

"Sonya's great improvement showed up when she defeated her old rival, Gretchen Bryne of Rochester in the Motor City Open at Detroit," Hanson said in picking a highlight for his youngest skater. One of her biggest days was taking firsts in the 200, 400, 500 and 800 meters at the Sertoma in Kitchener. She also wrapped up first, second and third in three events of the Juvenile Division at Saratoga Springs.

In addition, she was second in three divisions of the Diamond Trophy; won the 220 at Lake Placid, defeating one of the East's leading skaters, Heidi Schlack of Rochester. She then added a first, a second and two thirds in her class at the Eastern States. Sonya also passed another milestone when she defeated Bryne for the second time.

There were other meets at other times and places but the foregoing illustrates the class the young ladies, and the other Hanson-coached youngsters as a whole, gave to Jamestown in the East's major speed skating picture.

Sally was pretty much an all-around athlete and still is. She played basketball at Maple Grove and was a member of the school's Division 2 champions after it defeated Frewsburg the night Sue Jowett scored 24 points. Both Hanson girls played in Director Russ Diethrick's City Rec Department Softball Leagues. Sally was on the War Vets team that won a tournament in Oil City.

Sonya was named to the high school all-conference basketball team along with Terry Hettenbaugh of Randolph, Terri Rettburg of Maple Grove, Vicki Swanson and Cheryl Anderson of Cassadaga Valley and Brenda Nobles of Pine Valley. Sonya and Leighton Swanson were named outstanding girl and boy athletes of the year at Maple Grove in 1977-78. Sonya also played basketball for Jamestown Community College and was named team MVP after the 1979-1980 season.

One unique training method Hanson picked up from Jack Bryne, father of Gretchen, contributed to the speed skating team's success. It was termed "basketball on ice." Players taped the guards on their skates and played basketball and other activities that involved movement.

Preparation was a key word for the skating Hansons. They adhered to it religiously and along with the earlier Jacobson Brothers, made Jamestown a widely-known landmark in a sport that was once high on the popularity chart here.

Sally is now Mrs. Vince McMillan of Meadville and Sonya is attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio where she is majoring in physical education. Jim is a deputy in the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department and Susan, the non-skating member of the family, is a registered nurse locally.


The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.

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