Archive for the ‘Louise Herou’ Tag

1948 Olympic Speed Skating Team and Louise Herou’s Medals

As I mentioned last week, a new book out on Twin Cities sports includes a chapter on speed skating. The chapter introduces Minnesota speed skating history from John S. Johnson’s world records in the 1890s to the many great skaters who raced at Powderhorn Lake into the 1960s.

I was reminded of a photo from Minneapolis park board archives that I featured a few years ago. The photo had no caption and I wondered who were the skaters and starters on the ice at Powderhorn Lake. Thanks to several readers, we identified all the skaters and Hubert Humphrey, Minneapolis’s Mayor, next to the starter. The skaters are six of the eight men who won places on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team that skated at San Moritz. No one, however, identified the man with the starter’s gun.

Powderhorn  U.S.Olympic Team 1947-2-16

I finally found the original of the photo and it’s not a park board photo after all but a photo by Bud Jewett in the Minneapolis Tribune, February 17, 1947. The original photo also included the famous coach of the Powderhorn skaters, Oscar Johnson. Below is the original published photo with caption, which identifies the man with the gun as Minnesota Governor Luther Youngdahl.

1947-02-17 Star_Tribune HHH and Gov. Youngdahl at starting line of Powderhorn men

Another bit of skating news: I recently acquired a collection of 110 medals, including national championship medals, won by Louise Herou from 1934-1942. Herou won medals from when she was 13 until she stopped skating after having two seasons cut short by illness. When the 1943 skating season rolled around she was a true-life Rosie the Riveter working at the Twin City Ordnance plant and no longer had time for training. She would never return to speed skating, except as a teacher and coach.

1943-03-09 Star_Tribune Herou with her medals and trophies

Herou with her medals and trophies from a March 9, 1943 Minneapolis Tribune article on her giving up skating for work at an ordnance plant. Many of these medals were displayed in a new case (below) which I recently acquired.

By then she had become one of the the top golfers in Minneapolis and had made an appearance as a swimmer with the Aqua Follies, the annual water show associated with the Minneapolis Aquatennial. She was also a crack shot with a shotgun, played an excellent second-base in softball and was a top-level tennis player. In 1945 she was inducted into an honorary sorority at the U of M for achieving straight A’s as a freshman. She went to law school at the U of M, became an attorney and married Charlie Saunders who owned Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale, a leading Minneapolis restaurant, which she continued to run after he died.Herou medals 1

The display I acquired has an oak frame with a bronze nameplate that reads “Louise Herou Saunders”, so the medals in the top picture were likely put in this new display case after she was married. Many of the medals are beautifully made by some of the top silver and goldsmiths in the country. Unfortunately, the display was not covered with archival glass to protect the ribbons from UV rays (perhaps such a product didn’t exist when the case was made) so they are very faded. Most medals are engraved on the back with event and result; some are inscribed with her name.

All of her 1934 medals, which were won in the “juvenile girls” category, are inscribed “Tee Herou.” I assume that was a nickname. A check of newspaper results for her skating years reveals that these 110 medals are not nearly all that she won, but include many of her wins in the more prestigious local and national tournaments. While many of the medals she won are missing there is also one from the Minneapolis Star Journal in 1939 inscribed as a Medal of Merit for “Mens Skating.” How that came to be in her collection might be a good story. Where the trophies pictured in the newspaper photo above ended up is anyone’s guess. Louise Herou and Charlie Saunders did not have children.

I’m not really a collector of such things as these medals, but when I saw them for sale I thought they should remain together as a collection instead of being sold off individually. Herou’s scrapbooks are in Special Collections at Hennepin County Library. Perhaps a skating or historical organization will some day want to display her medals. If not for WWII, it is quite possible she would have competed on an international stage, although not the Olympics. Women’s speed skating wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1960.

David Carpentier Smith