|The Zamboni Model C.|
The story of the oldest surviving Zamboni, a Model B is recounted in this account from Zamboni Newsletter Vol 5, April 1974
THE ODESSEY OF NO. 4
Twenty-five years have elapsed since Frank Zamboni completed his first successful Ice Resurfacer in 1949. These 25 years have witnessed a tremendous change and growth in ice skating and Frank J. Zamboni & Co. is pleased to have been a part of this expanding industry. Time has certainly flown by since 1949 and an incident that occurred last year helped bring back memories of the earlier years of resurfacing machine development. In June, 1973, we received a phone call from Ted Dunn of the Los Alamos Skating Association in New Mexico telling us that their Zamboni® machine was involved in a fire at their rink and they required assistance in rebuilding it for the coming skating season. When we realized that their resurfacer was the fourth machine that Frank had built and, up until the fire, was to our knowledge the oldest unit in regular operation, we decided that we ought to obtain it, rebuild it and reconstruct the story of its much-traveled history.
The first few Zamboni Ice Resurfacers were:
Unit Model Delivered Purchaser Disposition
No. 1 A 1949 Iceland, Paramount Dismantled
No.2 B 1950 Pasadena Winter Garden Dismantled
No.3 B 1951 Sonja Henie Ice Revue Unknown
No.4 B 1952 Ice Capades
The No. 4 machine was delivered to the Pan Pacific Auditorium on May 6, 1952, and was used in the Ice Capades show for the first time two days later. It was then shipped to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it began a ten month tour of 22 cities in the United States, as well as appearances in Toronto and Montreal. When travelling between cities, the conditioner was lifted into the snow tank by a chain hoist and the machine was then driven into a railroad baggage car. Its operator and chief mechanic was Robert Skrak, who also skated in the show and demonstrated the machine in various arenas when requested to do so. Bob operated the No. 4 machine and its replacement No. 16 for many years and is presently the General Manager of the Iceland Skating Arena in Berkeley,
California. Between May and July of 1953 the machine was again in Los Angeles and received a complete factory checkup prior to rejoining the show again in Atlantic City. The 1953-1954 Ice Capades Show again trouped No. 4 in the United States and Canada and the machine made its last show appearance in May, 1954, at the Denver Stockyard's Stadium. Ice Capades took delivery of the first Zamboni Model E machine in July 1954 and No.4 was traded in on this new machine. Following factory renovation, the No. 4 was sold to the Iceland Skating Arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico. W.C. "Bill" Snelson had a fire at his original Albuquerque ice arena in 1953 and decided to rebuild at another location. He was able to reopen in November 1954, and did so with the recently rebuilt Zamboni No.4. The machine was operated by Bill Snelson and Mack Griffin at this rink until it closed in August 1960. Much of the equipment, including the Zamboni, was then sold to the Los Alamos Skating Association, whose development is an interesting story worth telling.
During World War II, Los Alamos, New Mexico (present site of the Los Alamos Skating Association), changed dramatically. From a private ranch-school for boys, it grew into a super-secret city of 15,000 scientists, technicians and military personnel with the assignment of unlocking the secret of atomic power and harnessing it as a weapon. Located at 7100 feet on the sunny mesas and deep, eroded canyons of the northern New Mexico Jemez Mountain range, the Los Alamos community had to make the best of local recreational opportunities. This included a 60' x 110' oval ice rink in nearby Los Alamos canyon, which was created by flooding and damming a tiny canyon
creek. Its buildings consisted of two 14 foot square shacks and a woodburning, pot-bellied stove. Its
Skating Club subsisted on a meager budget which basically relied on a 100-plus enthusiasts at $1.00 per season membership fee.
The creation of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1947 made Los Alamos the world's foremost research and development laboratory in nuclear weaponry and it also diversified its interest into many peaceful uses of nuclear energy; including solutions to the world's energy crisis. With this change, Los Alamos became a normal community with families instead of G.l.'s. The old ranch-school skating oval was enlarged to a hockey rink of 78' x 178' in 1950 and was moved 800' down Los Alamos canyon to find better shade. Another rebuilding in 1959 made the rink 90' x 210' and it now featured a 20' x 100' wing of an old dormitory at the rink site. The non-profit Los Alamos Skating Assn., in spite of their limited funds, became interested in acquiring a Zamboni. Through the travels
of their amateur adult hockey teams they became familiar with the Jeep-mounted ice making machine. The rig intrigued the Los Alamos players because their open rink was maintained through snow, unseasonable rain and excessive weekend use, with an army surplus Fordson tractor, brush and lots of volunteer labor.
May 1961 prompted high hopes when a decision was reached in Albuquerque to convert Bill Snelson's rink to uses other than skating. Although stymied at first by a lack of funds and their policy not to borrow, the Association remained hopeful and on a Friday in August received a phone call saying they could have the machine and other rink equipment not attached to the building for their original offer of $1,500. The one stipulation was - that everything they wanted had to be removed by 6 p.m. the following Sunday. On Sunday, a caravan of Los Alamos hockey players and figure skaters (in a variety of vehicles) descended from the Jemez Mountains and arrived at the Albuquerque rink at dawn after a 2-hour, 98-mile trek. Fifteen hundred dollars changed hands about noon and by mid-afternoon the caravan replete with rubber floor tile old rental skates and other rink paraphernalia "took to the hills". Earlier in the day, No.4 departed with Association President Wally McCracken in the Zamboni driver's seat with pick-ups fore and aft to begm their 20-mile an hour return to Los Alamos. The Los Alamos rink had its Zamboni! Through twelve skating seasons the machine operated faithfully and diligently. At 1 o'clock on a cold Sunday morning in February last year Ted Dunn was awakened by a fire call from the ice rink. By the time he arrived, the garage which housed the Zamboni and their old Jeep-plow was in flames. A loft above the machine also stored such inflammables as rubber flooring and hockey sticks. Amid the smoke and flames the old Jeep was driven out the door onto the ice. The firemen were about ready to give up on No.4 when Ted asked to give one more try to removing it from the burning garage. Soaked by the fire hoses, he re-entered the garage, threw a dampened canvas over the engine and after having to quickly tighten the battery terminals, got the engine started. Signaling to the firemen to push the burning loft up, he drove out the door, carrying burning hockey sticks, part of the garage door and other debris with him. As a point of interest, No. 4 has been rebuilt to. its original condition, 22 years young and hopefully its travels are not yet complete.