Betty Barnes – Oldest Living Ice Capades Alumni
Concord Township woman heads to Ice Capades reunion as oldest living member
By Matt Skrajner, The News-Herald, Posted: 06/08/15, 3:38 PM EDT | Updated: on 06/09/2015
When Concord Township’s Betty Barnes travels to Las Vegas later this month, she’ll be able to relive her time with one of the most popular traveling shows of the past century.
Barnes, 94, is the oldest living member of the Ice Capades and is heading out West to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee for the 75th anniversary of the Ice Capades from June 21 to 24 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
“It was a good way to see the country and I enjoyed it,” Barnes said.
Growing up in Euclid, Barnes danced ballet and eventually fell in love with ice skating.
“Girls my age were all mesmerized by it,” she said.
From 1942 to 1953, with a short break for the birth of her first child, Barnes traveled across the country and even to England as part of the Ice Capades. The show focused on ice skating, but also occasionally featured comedians, acrobats and jugglers.
Over the years, famous skaters including Olympic gold-medalists Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton were members of the cast.
The performance was most successful from the 1940s to the 1980s, when popularity finally began to fade. The company eventually went out of business in the mid-1990s.
Barnes recalled practicing for an upcoming show in a parking lot outside of an arena in California. The group was preparing for a military-themed musical number and an actual Marine sergeant was brought in to help with the performance.
As one might expect, the sergeant was a bit harsh on the skaters and demanded perfection. Once the show started, the sergeant grabbed a front row seat.
“Every girl that saw him said he was crying,” she said. “It was funny because he was so tough in the practice.”
Barnes’s son, Edwin Loeb, said about 600 people who worked on the show in different capacities are set to make the reunion in Las Vegas. He knows of two others who are in their 90s who will be attending, but that his mother is the oldest.
“The Ice Capades was a big and glamorous thing back then,” said Loeb, a Willoughby resident. “They’re going to be the belles of the ball.”
The celebration also will be a family reunion of sorts, as Barnes’ two other children and grandchildren who live out of state will be meeting up in Las Vegas as well.
“We’ll definitely take her to the craps table,” Loeb said, describing his mother as 94 going on 40.
After her years traveling with the Ice Capades, Barnes settled in Timberlake Village and instructed young ice skaters at C.E. Orr Ice Arena in Euclid for 20 years.
“When I started, there wasn’t a roof,” Barnes said.
At first Barnes was hesitant about going to the reunion, but she was told this could be the last Ice Capades reunion. “I decided it would be fun to try to meet up with some people I knew from back then.”