LEWISTON — Betty Olson’s mother saw one of Sonja Henie’s movies in the 1940s, with the gorgeous Olympian moving gracefully on ice, and that was it.

“My mother bought my sister a pair of skates and said, ‘OK, let’s go skating,'” Olson said.

Not long after, Olson traveled to Massachusetts with her sister during a trip for lessons.

“One gentleman, he saw my mother, he says, ‘How come Betty is not skating?'” Olson said. “So guess what? They gave me a free pair of ice skates. I went on the ice and away I went.”

And away and away.

She’s 80 and still skating.


Olson and her sister, the year-younger Theresa Monique “Monica” Bodily, were known locally as the Lowell sisters back in the day. Both skated in national touring ice shows as teens.

Bodily died in 2012. Olson said she’s felt the pull lately to write their memoir. She’s started, in long-hand, and begun unearthing old photos.

“You don’t see the glamour like that anymore,” Olson said. “That time that we had, there were stars in our eyes.”

The sisters were from a family of three girls and two boys. During the school year they skated at what’s now the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. In the summer, they headed to skating school in Massachusetts.

“I gave a speech recently that ‘teachers make the champions,'” Olson said. “We were skating with Tenley Albright, Carol Heiss. We skated with world champions and we felt 10 feet tall. The joy that I felt when we were together and we were doing that, it was a great time in our lives.”

As their skills improved, they gave lessons in Lewiston.


“We had small children and we had their peperes and their memeres,” Olson said. “I had a 95-year-old, he was just as good as I was.”

Bodily was approached first about auditioning for ice shows and eventually did several, according to Olson, including Ice Capades. 

Olson did one tour with The Ice Follies. It paid well, but could mean two shows a day.

“You lived out of a suitcase,” she said. “I thought it was fun, I didn’t have a chance to burn out. We had our costumes, we thought they were beautiful.”

Not long after that tour ended, she met her husband, Raymond, on a blind date. The next day, he popped into the Colisee during a skate lesson.

“My student said, ‘Hey, there’s someone that keeps looking at you,'” Olsen said. “And I turn around, there’s my husband-to-be, Ray Olson, on the bleachers.”


After pointing him out to her mom, “She said, ‘Bring him over, I want to meet him,’ and it was love at first sight.”

The couple had four boys and four girls and lived out of state. She returned to Maine in 2013 several years after his death.

Olson took one year off from skating, after breaking her kneecap two years ago while skating on pond ice.

“I wanted to make sure I healed well,” she said. “The will was there but the knee would say uh-uh.”

She skates during public skating hours at the Colisee. She doesn’t give lessons, officially, but says she often can’t resist gravitating to people who welcome some pointers.

“I remember my growing up years, when we had so little, and I never forgot the joy I felt when someone would take me under their wing and teach me,” Olson said. “We have to go back to that kindness and joy in this world. I’m so proud to be part of this little history.”



Betty Lowell Olson is framed by one of her ice skates at her home in Lewiston. Olson, 80, did a tour with the Ice Follies as a teenager and still skates on occasion. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Betty Lowell Olson shows off her ice skates. She and her younger sister Monica gave lessons and performed as figure skaters as kids. Olson’s recently decided to start writing their memoir. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

An old photograph of Betty Olson. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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