BORN VERONA THAELL ON 29TH JUNE 1912 in Manchester, England, she learned to skate at Manchester Ice Palace at 12, when her city was the ice capital of the world. Host to the 1922 World Championships, it was the only ice rink in Britain for most of the 1920s until The Ice Club, Westminster, opened. Her brother Cliff liked to say he went along to watch Rona do all the difficult things first, just to see how bruised she got. This professional skating pair first worked in Australia between 1936 and '38, for two or three scintillating exhibition seasons under contract to Sydney Glaciarium, when Cliff Thaell was British Open Champion, and head instructor of both the Birmingham and Sydney rinks. 
Professional skaters for seven years, Rona and Cliff each held the British National Skating Association Silver Medal and made annual trips to Switzerland.  On top of their exhibitions in Sydney, they introduced new dances and produced ice shows such as La Fiesta, performed in a J C Williamson set, and led by British open champion Hope Braine and his partner Friedi Meerkamper.  They trained young local skaters such as June Weedon (1939 Ladies Champion), Margaret Hoban and Joan McAuliffe in their Ice Ballet classes, the first in Sydney. Hoban later achieved Gold Medal skating standard, serving as president of the state association and as a local judge. Skaters still compete for the Margaret Joynton-Smith Trophy named in her memory.
Twenty-five year-old Rona returned in 1938 with Cliff and twelve woolen skating suits she knitted herself,  soon after her performance with Bill Taylor in Rhapsody on Ice at London's Covent Garden in October 1937. Starring 14 year-old Belita, it was Claud Langdon's ingenious attempt to adapt ballet technique to skates at the Royal Opera House. Sydney stunt skater, Ron Priestly, was also in the cast.  Australia's Albert Enders arranged ice ballets such as Wild Violets in London in the early-30s, long before on-ice theatre adaptations became an arena staple.
Taylor's daughter Megan had once again finished second behind Sonja Henie at the World Championships. The amateur period of Henie's reign was rich in talent, with such famous names as Maribel Vinson, Constance Wilson, Cecil Eustace Smith, Fritzi Burger, Melita Brunner, Andree Joly and Kathleen Shaw. Sonja was the brightest star of a brilliant galaxy before she turned professional. 
'… Since Sonia Henie, the world champion for the last twelve years had retired," said Rona on her return, "a British girl should win the title next year, as Britain possessed in Megan Taylor and Cecilia Colledge two skaters worthy of world honours."  She was right. Colledge won both the European and World titles in 1937 and Taylor won the next two Worlds, turning professional in 1939 to perform in most Australian capital cities with her father in the ice ballet Switzerland. Both girls were "possessed of exceptional ability" and whenever they met it was a battle royal. 
The Thaells choreographed 120 skaters and 10 professionals for the ice fantasy Swiss Chalet, presented in Australia for the first time at the annual Carnival in 1938. Australian's Ron and Gwen Chambers performed and the Thaells skated a Dream Waltz with a young Sydney Croll, which they later took to London's West End and Madison Square Gardens in New York. Joyce Macbeth, the former English professional champion on loan from Melbourne Glaciarium, introduced her torch dance for the first time in Sydney.
On the casting list were Mae West, Donald Duck, and Oly Oil, no doubt three of the thirty or forty children with a sense of humour who performed in the show. Twelve year-old Sheila Moss, the national junior ladies champion, did a solo. The Thaells planned their revues by dressing wooden puppets to test their ideas, then casting suitable skaters in the ballet roles. Rona designed the costumes and danced the lead as Clair de Lune in the Sun ballet.  This show was the model for their 1939 ice show in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In 1938, when Sonja Henie rated third-most popular film star in a poll, Rona skated with the "queen of ice" in the first Hollywood Ice Revue at Madison Square Garden, a touring show that presented skating as a "big extravaganza". Preceded by Ice Follies in 1936, Ice Revue was not the first touring show, but it was "the biggest, the most lavish, and the only show fronted by a bona-fide Hollywood star."  In 1939, hot on the heels of Hollywood Ice Revue, Rona arrived in New York from London with Edwina Blades, Melbourne-born Pamela Prior and Hanney Egli, stars of Arthur Wirtz's European Ice Revue at Madison Square Garden and Chicago in 1940.  The skating director was Armand Perrin from St Moritz, Switzerland. Soon after, the bombs began to drop on Britain. The rinks at Bristol and Southampton were early casualties.
In the original cast of Ice Capades in 1940-1, Rona again skated with British Olympian, Belita, and Czech figure skater and actress Vera Ralston (Hruba). The first touring season covered twenty-four cities between November 1940 and May 1941. Charles Uksila directed the skating, a former American hockey player and instructor at Melbourne Glaciarium. Rona danced with Cliff in the famous ice skating shows in the Terrace Room of the New Yorker Hotel. She skated in Ice Follies in the USA with Pam Prior, and performed with Cliff and Henie again in the original Broadway stage production of Henie and Wirtz's It Happens on Ice (Oct 1940 - Jun 1941) and its return (Jul 1941 - Apr 1942).
This show ran 276 times and a further 386 times during its return at the newly converted Center Theatre on Broadway in New York, a showcase for live musical ice skating spectacles near the Rockefeller Center. Henie and the promotor Arthur Wirtz staged similar shows there throughout the 1940s, each attracting millions of patrons during their runs. Their seven musical ice revues produced a staggering run of 4,043 performances.  It was the last big show in which brother and sister performed together. In May 1941, Cliff married Bournemouth-born skater Edwina Blades in New York City and the couple continued on with Henie in her next show, Stars On Ice (1942-44). 
America entered the war against Germany after the Japanese bombed their fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941. Over the next seven hours there were coordinated Japanese attacks on the US-held Philippines, Guam and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. British skaters went to war and some lost their lives, among them Freddie Tomlins who skated in Australia. He was killed in battle against a Nazi submarine over the English Channel in June 1943. The newly-weds returned with Rona by freighter to England to join the war effort. 
Discharged from the British Army in 1946,  Cliff became president of the Professional Skaters Guild of America (1953 to '56), finishing his career as a highly respected coach at the Philadelphia Skating Club and the Skating Club of Lake Placid where Gus Lussi taught. The couple retired to Naples, Florida in 1967 where they lived until Cliff's death in 1996.  The USA Professional Skaters Association named Cliff in their Coach's Hall of Fame in 2005. 
Rona worked in an aircraft factory during the war  and then her story was all but lost. After the war, she returned to Australia permanently in 1948 with her husband John Caruana, producer of the original (All Star) European Ice Revue in London, who was hired to manage the Glaciarium after Reg Leafe retired. Head of professional instructional staff in her mid-thirties until the rink closed in 1955, she resumed production of the Glaciarium Ice Revues begun with her brother in the Thirties.  The proceeds went to charities such as The Sun Toy Fund and Legacy. The 1949 Ice Revue showcased the homegrown talents of Thelma Homsey and Bill Hinchey (1948 Pairs Champions), Hazel Edwards, Gwen Jones, Vic Mansted (1962 Ice Hockey Worlds), Loretta Brain (1952 Ladies Champion), Don McKnight, Margaret Sim (1952 Dance Champion), Alison Paynter (1948 Ladies Champion) and many others. 
Rona's husband John once managed Sports Stadium Brighton, one of England's biggest sporting and entertainment venues and Earl's Court, aka Empress Hall, a major ice rink and entertainment arena in London seating 7,000. Jimmy Brown, Pam Prior, Pat Gregory, Enders and Cambridge, Ken Kennedy, Bud McEachern and St Moritz rink coach, Frank Chase, were first among the many Australians to skate professionally on the English ice hockey circuit. Caruana introduced a method of group instruction at Sydney Glaciarium that was popular in England so that parents who could not afford private lessons were able to have their children taught skating. "We had 70 to 80 children in our group classes at Earl's Court," Rona said. 
In 1950, Rona devised and produced Rhythm On Ice at the Glaciarium which ran for 5 nights in October with 150 skaters. Set to ice skating rhythm, the show progressed through five settings, showcasing the beautiful national dresses of many lands. Their 1954 Ice Revue included Elaine Vasek, Alan Ganter (Men's Champion 4 times), Barbara McIntosh, Mervyn Bower and Jackie Mason (Pairs Champions 12 times), Jack Lee and the deadpan antics of Australian acrobats, the Maxwells. Then, suddenly, it all came to an end.
No longer able to afford the repair bills of the aging building and plant, the owners of "the Glaci" on Broadway closed it the next year. It had long been a favourite place to socialise and without it there was nowhere to skate in the city. Under public pressure, Sydney Council redesigned its plans for the Prince Alfred Park pool to include a rink. Built on the former site of the Exhibition Building, the open-air rink was the first in Australia to run a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine.
John managed the new rink when it opened in Surrey Hills on June 2nd 1959. Ice hockey had also lapsed in NSW for some years since the closure, and he was eventually compelled to ask Syd Tange to take charge of a special coaching class as a gesture from the rink management to help re-establish it. In 1969, they hosted the first series at the Canterbury Ice Rink and the second at Prince Alfred Park. PA closed in 1993.
Australian internationals Albert Enders and Sadie Cambridge transformed the annual Glaciarium Revues in Melbourne into glittering ice shows in the 1930s, courtesy of London's West End ballets. But it was not long before these two British ballroom dancers on skates, transformed Sydney's annual Ice Revues into shimmering "Icetravaganzas", direct from Ice Capades and Sonja Henie's first shows on Broadway and at Madison Square Gardens. As one program puts it "... the Thaells were living examples of poetry in motion".
Rona Thaell's association with ice sports in Australia spanned about 20 years from the age of 23. A traveling ambassador for ice skating in Australia, Europe, Canada, Africa, Asia and the USA, she excelled at ice dancing and helped produce many Australian skaters, including champions in both Figures and Free Skating. A good surfer, her second love was swimming, and she happily retired to Surfer's Paradise on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. She still drove her car and went to aqua aerobics three times a week, well into her nineties. She passed away there soon after she turned 100 on June 29th, 2012.
1. Pamela Prior was a Camberwell girl from Melbourne whose parents moved to London. She learned to skate at Melbourne Glaciarium, often practising as many as 10 hours a day. She competed for Britain in the 1936 World and European Championships and won the national skating medals and the world's professional ice skating championship in London in 1937.  The London press once reported her legs were insured for £10,000. In 2008, the Chicago Tribune noted she had also skated for Great Britain in the 1936 Olympics, and so too did the Australian press of the time. Prior was selected as a reserve in the Olympic women's skating team which represented Britain and trained at the Ice Club at Millbank in London. Her teammate, Cecilia Colledge, won silver in the women's event. 
2. The original Wild Violets premiered on October 31st 1932 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Starring the American comic star of vaudeville, Charlotte Greenwood, it ran in the West End for a solid year. In 1933, Sadie Cambridge said her partner Albert Enders had arranged the ice ballet in London. Tom Arnold revived it at the Stoll Theatre in the 1940s.
Ross Carpenter, 'Thaell (Caruana), Rona (1912 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-thaell.html, accessed online .
Rona Thaell and cast of the Ice Capades, January, 1941. Visiting Kansas City, US, with newly elected president of the South Central Business Association, Orvis Sturdy. From left to right: Clara Wilkins, Rona Thaell, Orvis Sturdy, Belita Brown, and Betty Brown. Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections.