Search This Entire Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Under The Lights

Did you curl one night this past week?  Were you warm enough?  Could you see the entire rink with ease?  One-hundred thirty-one years ago, the members of The Club had it a little more difficult.

Tuesday December 21, 1886.  The evening was a chilly 30 degrees; winds out of the NW with light snow falling.  DCC members were preparing for the first game of curling ever played in Detroit under electric light.

The City of Detroit had contracted the Brush Electric Light Company to build 122 electric light towers to illuminate Detroit.  These towers were 150 feet high with a ring of electric arc lights at the top.  Their lights were as bright as the moon; sometimes called "moonlight towers."  One of these towers was located at a corner of the Athletic Field near Woodward Avenue and Canfield Street.  

 Moonlight Tower circa 1900
Detroit – Old City Hall

This night it was a hotly contested battle.  To those who are initiated into the spirit of the royal old Scotch sport, it was an intensely interesting spectacle.  The play of rink No. 1 was directed by John Williamson, while his son, Robert Williamson, called the shots for rink No. 2.   The former’s men were C.T. Cole, J.H Kenn and A.W. Baxter; while the latter’s were J. Feuder, George O. Begg and T. Williamson. 

Rink No. 1 found itself entitled to that designation by defeating No. 2 by a score of 16 to 13, the game lasting three hours.

And so, to bed, perchance to dream,
Angus MacTavish


Thursday, November 30, 2017

When They Played Polo at The Curling Club

Polo matches were the rage from about 1884 through 1915 throughout Detroit and around the state.   On a good weekend, you could find three or four games being played somewhere in the city.  The players did not ride ponies, but rather skates – roller skates.  The game was similar to ice hockey.  It was played by twelve men, six on each side, though it could be played by ten on a side.  One player on each team guards the goal.  A referee governs the contest.  He calls “play” and “time” when the game is begun or suspended.  The referee also decides what constitutes foul play.

During November 1890, The Detroit Curling Club had installed a level wooden floor over the ground in order to make ice with less water and easier to freeze.  The floor was 85 feet wide by 160 long.  At the time the members of the Detroit Skating & Curling Club hoped that the new flat and level floor would attract roller skaters.  It did – Polo Players.  The Club boasted at least two teams that played at Forest Avenue and toured around the state.  The Detroit Free Press reported on February 7, 1892: “An exciting game of polo was played by well-matched teams of The Detroit Skating & Curling Club.  A victory was gained by the Reds over the Blues by a score of 7 to 0.”  

Roller Polo Facts:  
* The first game was played in 1878 in London, England.  
* The US National Polo League was formed in Dayton, Ohio in 1882.  
* Roller Hockey (what the game is called today) was an exhibition sport in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain in 1992

Locally, the game is played in Shelby Township.  If you are interested checkout the Little Caesars Roller Hockey League at the Joe Dumars Field House.

Can “Polo Night in America” on NBCSN be far behind?

What fools these mortals be…
Angus MacTavish

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Color of Curling Stone Handles

A Club member asked:  "Have the handles on the curling stones always been red and yellow?" Secondly:  "Why are they red and yellow?"

Red and White handles were the most popular.  I am told that someone somewhere did a study to determine which colors people were able to distinguish at a distance.  Red & White were predominant.  White has been replaced by Yellow (or Maize) because it shows up better on TV coverage against the white ice background. 

Full Lexan (plastic) handles have been around since the mid-1970s.  Prior handles were chrome plated iron.  They had the capability to change a plastic colored insert to a variety of colors.  Secondly the leather or plastic washer between the handle and the stone could be a different color.

Let us not forget that prior to the 1940s most people owned their own pair of stones.  Identification could be engraved wooden hands; decals on the rock or something homemade - like the deer antler handle below.

When we go back further in time, we find that brass handles had little means of identification.  Though at in this time-frame ‘my pair’ probably differed quite a bit from ‘your pair’.  Iron stones have the advantage that they can be repainted from time to time.


The oldest stones were handmade.  You could just chisel your name or initials into the rock.

Another means to individuality, is to tie a ribbon or a bow on the handle.  This was very popular at ladies’ and mixed bonspiels in the 1950s thru the 1980s.

But wait!  The only reason stones are identified is for the spectators.  The skips can tell which is which and whose is whose.  The person delivering the next rock doesn’t really need to know.  The skip says:  “Take this out”; “Tap this stone”; “Come around this one”.  As the thrower I shouldn’t care whose stone it is.  I should just do what the all wise and powerful skip tells me to do.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Something I Found While Looking for Something Else

Absolutely nothing to do with curling…

The Canadian officials in the Ottawa Finance Department admitted that the picture on the face of the new Canadian four-dollar bill is that of the American “Soo” lock.  The Finance Department sent a request to Montreal for a picture of the Canadian lock at the Sault.  In reply they received a picture of the American lock and used it.  The officials say they were misled by noticing the Canadian Pacific steamer Athabasca in the lock and assumed in consequence that the picture was all right.  The department of railways and canals was not consulted in the matter.

 The 1902 Canadian $4 bill with King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Good Curling,
Angus MacTavish

BTW – Does anyone know of another word for Thesaurus?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I’ll have Chicken Mulligatawny

If you are a Detroiter, you know about Sander’s Hot Fudge and other Sander’s candies, but you must be of a certain age to remember the Sander’s Lunch counters.  At one point, there were over 100 stores throughout metro Detroit most of them with Lunch counters.  The menu was also your place-mat and they printed a new one each weekday. 

On the back of the menu different articles were printed.  On this January 31, 1946 menu was an article about The Detroit Curling Club:  Curling is a Friendly Game - For three quarters of a century, the fine old Scottish game of curling has had its devoted circle of enthusiasts in Detroit.  For sixty years, they have had a club of their own, often the scene of jolly Bon Spiels [sic] as the members entertain clubs from neighboring Canadian cities.

“The Detroit Curling Club on West Forest Avenue is affiliated with the Ontario Curling Association, with whose members it visits back and forth for friendly games throughout the season.  Its rink is made of artificial ice and carefully maintained so that the game can be played all winter long.

“While not a fast game to watch, curling holds a fascinating lure for players.  In contrast with other winter sports, it does not depend upon power and speed, but rather upon accurate judgment of distances and exact control.  Every throw of the stone is a precision operation.”

Interesting how you can find things about the history of our Club in the most unusual sources.


Angus MacTavish

Monday, April 3, 2017

‘RINK’ – Such A Common Word Today

Ask anyone on the street:  What is a “rink”?  They will describe an ice skating rink or perhaps roller skating, but the word actually originated from the sport of Curling.

The Webster’s Dictionary in 1895 did not contain the word “rink”.  The Webster’s 1905 edition does contain the word “rink”, but it redirects you:  “Rink see Ring”.  Under “ring” we find:  “Ring - a circle, circular line or anything in the form of a hoop; an inclosure [sic] for games … Rink, n Origin:  course for the game of curling; a covered sheet of ice …”

In the 18th century the meaning of "rink" was "a space of ice marked out for a curling match.”  By the mid-19th century, "rink" had acquired its modern day association with ice- or roller-skating. 

The roots of "rink" are a bit tangled, but its closest relative is probably the Middle English "renc," meaning "racecourse," derived from the Old French "renc," meaning "line, row or rank." (The related Old French word "ranc" gave us our modern English "rank").  It is also probable that both "rink" and "rank" go back to the Germanic root that produced the English word "ring" meaning "circle."

How did “rink” also become a word to describe a curling team is something we will discuss in a future article.

I shall see my rank rink at the round rink,
Jocko MacTartan

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Curling Delivery "Stick"

Is the curling delivery “stick” a relatively new invention?  Nope. 

The idea of curling on skates appears to be the height of absurdity to curlers, but do not be amazed when I tell you it once was seriously proposed to play the game on skates.

In the late 1700’s the idea of curling on ice skates was presented by the Duke of Athole (excuse me?).  He proposed using a long cue or pole to hold the handle of the curling stone.  The player on skates would back-up 10 to 12 yards behind the Tee, “then advancing rapidly, with an eye on the object to be accomplished, and when reaching the tee giving the stone the requisite impulse – imitating, after a fashion, the push shot in the game of billiards.”  When the game is played in this method it was said to be exciting and invigorating.

Fortunately, Tcurling on skates was not pursued for long, but “the long cue or pole” did return to curling to allow people unable to get into the hack the ability to deliver a stone.

Hey – I do not make this stuff up!

Angus MacTavish