Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where to Curl in Detroit and Michigan - UPDATE

This is an updated list of the places where curlers met in the Metro Detroit area.  The original article was posted on January 9, 2013.  click here  The added places are marked with an *

It all depends on WHEN...

1832 –   Pine Lake & Orchard Lake:  Orchard Lake Curling Club (wooden ‘stones’)
1843 –   Detroit River:  Detroit Curling Club (iron ‘stones’)
1845 –   Milwaukee Junction (near East Grand Blvd & St. Aubin):  Detroit & Mackinac Railway       employees.
*1860s – In The Detroit Dry Dock Company dry dock – Orleans St. and Atwater St.
*1862 -  On the Detroit River “above the city” (FREEP 13 Feb 1862).  Clubs unnamed.
*1863 – Woodward Avenue Skating Park.  Detroit (City) Curling Club. New park old Fair Grounds on Woodward.
1864 – Woodward Avenue Skating Rink: two unnamed Curling Clubs (iron ‘stones’)
*1864 – Union Skating Park.– Feb 8:  “The old Granite club was organized”.  Freep 1900 Feb 04, “The games this year were played on a sheet of ice in the Detroit & Milwaukee yards”.
*1867 – Jefferson Avenue Skating Rink.
*1868 – Feb 28th Whiting’s Park:  Thistle Club (at the end of the Jefferson Ave. Railroad Freep 11 Dec 1866)
1868 –   Woodward Skating Rink:  Granite CC (covered building) – On Erskine St. & Woodward.  Erected a building furnishing two rinks and a waiting room.
1868 –   Jefferson Avenue Skating Park (Whiting’s): Thistle CC (granite stones from Waterloo, Ont. replaced irons)
1870 –   Woodward Skating Rink hosted The Western National Curling Tournament:  Milwaukee City Club,     Buffalo Queen City Club, Detroit Thistle CC, Buffalo Caledonia CC, Orchard Lake CC, Detroit Granite CC,   Cleveland CC, and Hamilton CC.
*1872 – Detroit River near the dry docks.  Granite vs Cleveland.
*1873 – Detroit River near Brooks & Adams’ saw mills – 471 Woodbridge St (now Jefferson) near 14th Street – now a RR Yard.
1875 –   Peninsular Cricket Club (Woodward Ave original site of the Detroit Athletic Club):  Granite CC (covered building 160 x 35 feet)
1884 –   Detroit Zoo (Michigan Ave. Corktown):  Granite CC, Thistle CC
*1884 -   Recreation Park:  Granite CC and The St. Andrew’s Club
1885 -    The Granite Rink:  Granite CC
(NOTE:  Freep 13 Dec 1886:  “For many winters, the Granite, St. Andrews, Orchard Lake, Burns, St. George and  Detroit Curling Clubs being prominent clubs of the past.)
1887 –   Detroit Athletic Club (Woodward Ave.):  Detroit Curling Club
*1887 –  Ice Rink on Alexandrine Ave btw 2nd & 3rd.  Almost rented or bought by DCC in 1887.
1888 –   Forest & Gold:  Detroit CC
*1893 –   Bay City CC, Covered Rink built August 1893 on Tenth Street
1895 -    Forest & Fourth Ave:  Detroit CC
1898 –   Belle Isle:  Detroit CC (International Bonspiel)
1898 -    Pontiac (not sure where):  Pontiac Curling Club formed
1902 -    Detroit East Woodbridge St:  Detroit Racquet & Curling Club
1916 -    Grosse Pointe at the home of Horace E. Dodge on Lake St. Clair:   Detroit CC
1941 -    Ann Arbor (U of M Coliseum Ice Arena):  University of Michigan
1958 -    East Lansing:  Michigan State University (42 DCC members attended)
1970s – Birmingham Skating Rink:  Birmingham CC
1970s – Southfield (Beechwood Ice Arena):  unknown if a club existed
1980s – West Bloomfield (Drake Rd.):  Detroit CC
1980s -  Jackson:  Cascades CC
Present – Ferndale:  Detroit CC
Outside the greater Detroit area curling clubs have been or still are in:
Toledo (Freep 19 Feb 1896, 13 Mar 1897), Lansing, Flint, Midland, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lewiston, Sault Ste. Marie, Port Huron, Bay City (Freep 09 Jul 1893, 19 Feb 1896)

Can you name another place or two?  Please send us a message.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scottish Curlers Visit The Club – Part II 1912

“Clansman, we gie ye the best o’ a’ Hielan’ welcome” said Detroit Mayor William Thompson to the arriving Royal Caledonian Curlers at the Canadian Pacific railway station on Friday February 2, 1912.  A parade was formed headed by a pipe band and a march made to city hall and then to St. Andrew’s Hall on Congress Street.  After a few speeches (none more than 3 minutes in length) and refreshments the parade reformed and the pipers led the Highlanders to the Hotel Cadillac where dinner was served.

Later at The Detroit Curling Club the visitors played six games (16 ends per game) against Detroit curlers.  Detroit was victorious with a total score of 89 to 85.

Saturday morning the visitors were taken on a trolley ride along the banks of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair.  Upon arrival at the lake, ice boats were waiting and curlers given rides over the ice.  Then the group headed back to The Detroit Curling Club on Forest Avenue where curlers from Grand Rapids, Toledo, Petrolia, Sarnia, Chatham and Windsor were waiting.

It took the Scottish visitors some time to become accustomed to Detroit’s climate and ice conditions, but when they got the hang of it, they proved to be masters on the ice.  They played six matches and won with a total score of 84 to 58.  After an evening banquet the visitors returned to the train station for a night train to Chicago.  One of the visitors declared that “Detroit leads the World for hospitality and good fellowship.  We did not have a dull moment from first to last and that the entertainment was delightfully informal”.

The commemorative pin shown above was given to each of the visiting Scots.  I do not believe that any pins were given to the local curlers.  This is the only example that I have seen (either in person or online).  It was acquired on eBay from a pin collector in Japan – go figure.  The Detroit Curling Club’s pin used during this time period displayed the city of Detroit seal.  This commemorative pin displays the Coat of Arms of the State of Michigan.  Both were designed by DCC member John Kay and manufactured by Wright-Kay Jewelers.  The slogan “In Detroit Life Is Worth Living” is from a poem written in 1908 by Edgar A. Guest, Poet Laureate of Detroit.  The poem was used by the Detroit Convention and Tourist Bureau in 1911 for a visitors’ brochure promoting the city of Detroit.  The slogan was used on buttons and other souvenirs.  It has also been copied and reworded by countless cities, counties and states throughout the years.  

Good Curling,

Friday, November 25, 2016

Scottish Curlers Visit The Club – Part I 1903

The upcoming Scots visit on January 29, 2017 is the tenth visit to The Detroit Curling Club by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club teams that have toured Canada and the U.S.A.  The DCC may be the most visited curling club in the U.S.A.  Scottish Tours have curled at Detroit in 1903, 1912, 1923, 1938, 1949, 1955, 1967, 1987 and 2007.  The Detroit Curling Club was the only USA club visited by the 1938 tour.  The two missed tours were in 1977 and 1997.  During each of these years The Club was in the transition of moving to new facilities.

The idea of a visit to Canada and The United States by Scottish curlers goes as far back as 1858.  The invitation was not meant as a challenge but as friendly matches.  It was not until April of 1902 that a Tour was approved and a plan was put in place.

It must be pointed out that the Scots were accustomed to vastly different conditions.  Games in Scotland were played outdoors on natural ice which can be soft from the sunshine.  They threw the stone from a standing position on a crampit.  The average curler in Scotland was lucky to curl three or four games in a winter, not three or four games a week.  When they arrived in Canada they had to adjust to indoor conditions, man-made lighting, throwing from a hack and even playing against iron rocks in Quebec.  They conquered all these challenges and improved their skills at every stop along the route.

The Visitors landed in Halifax, played at many clubs through Nova Scotia, Quebec, Montreal and Toronto before arriving in Windsor, Ontario on January 30, 1903.   After a luncheon the games began at 4 o’clock, three rinks of the Scots playing against Windsor, Detroit and Sarnia.  In the evening three Scottish rinks engaged Windsor, Petrolia and Detroit.  Detroit won the first game 14 to 12 and lost the other 7 to 12.

Saturday January 31st the Scots crossed the river into Detroit, “the cleanest, brightest, neatest city in all the States” said one visitor.  After a tour of the city they curled at The Club.  The Detroit Free Press stated:  “Climatic conditions were more favorable to the touring Scots…they showed their brawn and muscle to advantage when it required more strength to place the stones on the sticky ice.”   Three eight-end games were played and Detroit lost with a combined score of 6 to 24.  Only in town for the day the visitors returned to Windsor for the night.  The next day they continued their travels heading to Winnipeg.

Sidebar:  A report by a member of the Scottish team stated:  “Detroit and Windsor are the happy homes for the indolent and unpunctual.  They have three times – Eastern Standard, Central Standard and Solar.  An hour divided the first two; the third comes halfway between.  It is indeed hard if an appointment cannot be kept according to one of the modes of reckoning.”

Ed. note:  Detroit kept local or sun time until 1900, when the City Council decreed that clocks should be put back 28 minutes to Central Standard Time. Half the city obeyed, while half refused. After considerable debate, the decision was rescinded and the city reverted to sun time (solar time; some called it God’s time).   A derisive offer to erect a sundial in front of the city hall was referred to the Committee on Sewers.  In 1905 Central Standard Time was adopted by a city wide vote.  Detroit switched to Eastern Standard Time in 1918.

Devil's Brew at Sinners' Bonspiel


We recently acquired this stemmed bar glass (shown above) less than 6 inches tall which raises many questions.  Searching through the old DCC minute books and Scots Wha Hae issues we discovered:

The event called a Sinners’ Bonspiel first appeared in Nov. 1940 and remained on the calendar until it was changed to Sinners’ Bonspiel & Breakfast in Nov. 1950.  The word Bonspiel was last used in Nov. 1971.  Beginning in Dec 1971 Sunday mornings were designated Sinners’ Breakfast & Curling.  Eventually, Sunday morning calendars would use the term Sinners’ Meeting or just Sinners.

The events were always held on Sunday mornings – 9 a.m. breakfast and 10 a.m. curling.  In 1945-1947 they shared one-half the ice with 10 a.m. ice skating!  We have not uncovered the format of a Sinners’ Bonspiel, but we assume it was an open draw:  teams formed on the day of the event based upon who wanted to curl.

Therefore this glass could have been used anywhere from the 1940s to the 1970s.  We did not find any reference to Devil’s Brew.  Searching the Internet we did not find a bartender’s recipe for Devil’s Brew (accept for a modern-day drink that used Red Bull) nor could we find the specific name or style of this stemmed glass or when a savvy bartender would use it.

We end with more questions than answers and a new item in the collection.

Good curling,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How & Why stones "curl" video

Click Here to see a good video trying to explain how and why stones curl across the ice.

Monday, October 31, 2016

History of the DCC – K-W Exchange

The 2016-2017 curling season marks the 100th Anniversary of the First DCC-KW Exchange.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Curling Exchanges (Home and Home games) were much more popular than Bonspiels.  Bonspiels (as today) were held over multiple days.  Many curling clubs from various towns are represented at a bonspiel.   The winner is typically the only undefeated team after some sort of elimination matrix of matches.
Exchanges were typically one day events pitting one club’s teams against another club’s teams.  The visiting team typically arrives the day before the event for a banquet presented by the host club.  The amount of teams per club can vary from 2 or 3 to 8 or 10.  The winning club is typically determined by totaling the scores of all the games played.  At some future date in the season the exchange is continued at the other club.  The club which scores the most points at both sites wins the competition for the year.

The Detroit CC was very active with home-and-home exchanges.  We have found reference to exchanges with curling clubs in Sarnia, Ridgetown, Thamesville, Petrolia, Chatham, London (City, Asylum & Thistles), St. Thomas, Brantford, Glencoe, Galt & Galt Granite, Niagara Falls, Pontiac, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Toledo and The Detroit Racquets & Curling Club.

Surprisingly, no reference has been found to a Detroit CC - Windsor CC exchange.  These two clubs played games at each other’s facility on a weekly basis throughout the winter.  They played for trophies, badges, dinners, Ontario Tankard qualifying and for charities.

According to legend and the K-W webpages:  “The K-W/Detroit Exchange began in 1917 when four gentlemen curlers (two from the old Waterloo Curling Club and two from Kitchener) travelled by horse-drawn cutter and train to curl in Detroit. It turned out to be a two-week trip because they made several side stops before ending up at the Detroit Curling Club.  We must assume that the first trip to Detroit was in January or February in 1917.  Natural ice for curling rarely occurred in December.  The event was such a success that the cross-border clubs reunited in Kitchener later in the year for another weekend of fellowship and curling.”

Or so the story goes.

But, we found references to Detroit-Waterloo games in 1913, 1914, 1915 and 1916.   In February 1913, 3 DCC teams travelled to the Galt Granite Club and two weeks later 3 or 4 rinks from Galt visited Detroit.  In February 1914 eight Detroiters were in Waterloo.  Then 20 men from Galt were in Detroit.  March of 1915 and January of 1916 each saw 12 Waterloo curlers in Detroit. 

So, how do we define the DCC – KW exchange?  When “any” curlers from the Waterloo area play against Detroit? 

The first 1917 reference found was published on January 26, 1917 in the Detroit Free Press when three DCC teams were in Waterloo – but – they were at the Galt CC and no mention of other curling clubs in attendance (Galt won 32-27).  The second reference found was in The Detroit Free Press (Feb 23, 1917) when 12 men from St Mary’s, 12 from the Galt CC and 12 curlers from Galt Granite CC visited DCC (the visitors won 108-85). 

Curiously a January 19, 1931 Detroit Free Press article stated that the January 3, 1931 games in Kitchener and the January 16, 1931 games in Detroit were “the fifteenth annual visit of Waterloo County curlers to Detroit”.  This supports the idea of 1917 being the first exchange year.  It is the oldest article found that states a number of years the exchange had taken place.  And by describing the Canadians as “Waterloo County curlers” we can include the curlers from all the Waterloo area clubs.  (But, wait…that would mean 1913 was the first event!!)

The first reference found that used the “Waterloo Curling Club” name was January 1919.  The first reference found for the “Kitchener Curling Club” was 1925.  All earlier references do not specifically state “club” but rather curlers from the Waterloo or Kitchener cities.  Therefore the actual clubs that these curlers came from in those years is in question.

We may never know when the first DCC-KW exchange took place, so 1917 is as good a starting point as any.

Let’s celebrate,

Angus MacTavish

The ice is IN! But, where?

In 1926 Thomas Williamson wrote in his history booklet (Curling in Detroit and Vicinity) that the curlers in Detroit played on the Detroit River.  In 1956 John Taylor in his history booklet (An Early History of Curling in Detroit) wrote that the games were played on a “sheltered spot on the Detroit River”.  Some have said near the foot of Jos. Campau.  Others have said near Atwater St.

Here is “the rest of the story”…

In 1860 the company of Campbell & Owen, a ship repair yard at the foot of Orleans St. and Atwater St.  constructed a 260 foot dry dock on the Detroit River.  Imagine this dry dock in the winter.  The ships are not moving due to the ice.  The dry dock is empty of ships.  They can control the depth of the water and add more when they want to resurface the ice.  Protected from the winter winds.  A perfect place to curl on a winter’s day.

The Detroit Dry Dock in 1870

The Detroit River in 2016

Today the old Dry Dock is still apparent.  It is near the east end of the Detroit Riverwalk and part of the Wm. G. Milliken State Park.  The old Engine Works & Foundry is now the DNR operated Outdoor Adventure Center.

Is this theory just speculation?  Just a guess?  Well, yes, in a way.  Then we discovered that James McMillan was a part owner of the Detroit Dry Dock Company and eventually company president.  He was also a prominent member of the old Detroit City Curling Club.  He later became a member of the current Detroit Curling Club and was elected an Honorary Member.

It was also uncovered that Thomas Fairburn Jr., Thomas Linn and William Barclay also worked for The Detroit Dry Dock Company and they were all members of the Detroit City Curling Club.

Speculation?  A wild guess?  You be the judge.

Good curling during the upcoming season.
Angus MacTavish