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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Let’s Twist Again

Every curler has been asked: “Why is the game called Curling?” and we all answer: “When you deliver the stone you put a slight turn on the stone so it “curls” as it goes down the ice”.   Wrong answer.  The game was played for over 200 years and the players did not purposely put a turn on the stone.

Many years ago, I was able to conduct an experiment on a natural ice pond with 3 different types of curling stones:  wooden; flat-soled and an early concave stone.  When trying to deliver a stone on natural ice (meaning: there are cracks, biases, other imperfections and no pebble) the first thing you find is that it is very difficult to throw the stone with any distance.  If you get the chance, try to deliver a stone after a fresh flooding or after a major Ice-King scraping before the pebble is applied.

The second thing you notice is the lack of “curl”.  Without the pebble the stone does not ‘bend’ in any repeatable fashion.  Moreover, the imperfections in a natural ice surface can change or increase the ‘bend’ remarkably and unexpectedly.  

In the early-1800’s many groups were taking credit for inventing the Twist.  There was the Fenwick Twist, the Canadian Twist, the Kilmarnock Twist, the Timothy Twist and others.  The earliest record we found of curlers using the Twist comes from Mr. John Fulton of Fenwick, Scotland: “If I recall aright the first year of the century [1800] was the year of its birth.  That year was memorable for the length and severity of its winter…  It was told, that day after day a few of the Fenwick players were never absent from a small loch in the parish.  Here they met and amused themselves as best they could, playing every imaginable shot.  While thus engaged, they observed the effect of the rotary motion on a stone…so they set themselves up to give the stone one or the other twist.”  The Fenwick curlers went on to defeat their opposition repeatedly with their new-found skill and passed that knowledge to the neighboring parishes.

The Kilmarnock Treatise on Curling (1828) offers these definitions:  Outside Twist – Lift the stone…swing it towards the side, outward and forward, making it describe a semicircle.  This is done with the shoulder and elbow joints, without turning the wrist much.  Inside Twist – Lift the stone as before; and as the swing forward is given, bring the elbow close to the body, turning the wrist fully in delivery.

Later the Twist was called the Out-Sweep and the In-Sweep.  Today we call it the Out-Turn and the In-Turn.

So, how did the game get its name?  The oldest books and modern day books we have researched seem to agree that the word Curl is from the German word Kurzweil:  an amusement; a game.  The word Curling from Kurzweillen:  to play for amusement.

Gute Kurzweillen,
Angus VonTavish

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Curling Stones

The earliest stones, known as 'loofies', were light in weight, ranging from about 15 to 25 pounds and had no handles, instead there were hollows or niches for the fingers and thumbs and the stone was presumably meant to be thrown.  Early stones were probably in use between 1500 and 1650.

Sometime in the 17th century the channel stone appeared.  A rough boulder, often taken from the channels or beds of rivers, was fitted with a handle, making it easier to throw.  With the assistance of the handle, a greater weight of stone could be used.  Some channel stones were enormous, weighing up to 183 pounds, although 35 to 45 were more normal.

It was part of the strategy of the game to use large unwieldy stones to knock out the opponent’s stones.  By the mid-18th century however, an attempt to standardize the game led to the introduction of the circular stone.  The earliest dated circular stone is from 1772.  The single sole or running surface was highly polished.  These stones had fixed iron handles, or occasionally brass handles.  Later, removable handles were developed to reduce damage during storage and prevent unauthorized use.  

 Channel Stone on the left.  Single Sole - Highly polished on the right.

Where suitable raw materials were available, there were masons who specialized in making curling stones.  By the mid-19th century mechanization was producing the highly polished circular stone familiar to the modern curler.  At the same time attempts were made to produce a running surface to cope adequately with both 'keen' and 'dull' ice.  In 1879 J.S. Russell of the Toronto Club introduced a double-soled stone to cope with this problem.  Today hundreds of identical stones are produced, accurate to half an ounce and polished to a splendid uniformity.  Few players now have their own stones, most using those supplied by the ice rinks.

The most famous source of raw material for stones is Ailsa Craig, a towering volcanic plug in the Clyde off the Ayrshire coast.  It produced Common Ailsa, Blue Hone Ailsa and Red Hone Ailsa stone.  From the late 19th century until 1952 quarrymen lived on the island during the summer months, producing between 1000 and 1400 rough blocks per year for shipment to the mainland.  Quarrying ceased temporarily in 1952.  In 1961 the Ailsa Quarrying Co. Ltd. resumed production.

At The Club, above the bulletin board, we have a series of photographs showing Ailsa Craig the birthplace of many of the world’s curling stones.  These were taken by DCC member Dr. James V. Lammy during the 1952 American Curlers’ trip to Scotland.

A curling we will go,
Angus MacT.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Charles Lindbergh Coulda’ Been A Curler

It was 115 years ago, this month, that celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh was born.  Did Mr. Lindbergh ever set foot on the ice to throw a stone?  He did have enough opportunities.

The record-setting pioneer was born Feb. 4, 1902, to Charles and Evangeline Lodge Lindbergh. He was born at his uncle Edwin’s house at 1220 W. Forest Ave., just a stone’s throw from The Detroit Curling Club (1236 W. Forest Ave.).  He grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota – less than a mile from the Little Falls CC.

Another connection to curling is that his great-uncle, John C. Lodge, was an avid curler and Life Member of The DCC (1909-1950).  Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Lodge served three terms as Mayor of Detroit.  Yes, he is the guy they named the expressway after.

Like The DCC, the “Lindbergh house” was torn down, a victim of urban renewal. An Associated Press story at the time says the Detroit City Planning Commission ruled that the famed aviator's birthplace was "undistinguished."  A housing development sits on the site today.

The building shown above is between the “Lindbergh House” and The DCC (note the sign above the firetruck).  (Thanks to Dallas Schneider for the photo).

Yours, &c.
Angus MacTavish

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Scottish Curlers Visit The Club – Part VIII

1987 The Royal Caledonian Curling Club 1987 visit to the United States made its stop at The Detroit Curling Club in West Bloomfield on January 21st.   Games were at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Detroit came out victorious 64 to 43.

1997 The Scots Tour did not come to Detroit in 1997 due again to the hectic times.  Members were busy planning to sell the West Bloomfield facility and relocate The Club.

2007 The Scottish team arrived at Detroit Metro Airport on Sunday morning January 28th.  Mr. Paul Badgero met them at the airport and corralled them onto the bus.  They drove straight to The Club (now in Ferndale) and were met by President Mike Grudzinski - “resplendent in tartan jacket”.  Dave Nelsen was MC for the afternoon’s games.  Lunch was served before the games.  The Scots won 31 – 24.  The visitors were introduced to the ‘Royal Order of Sinners’ and they were all indoctrinated into the Order.  After a few songs the Scots boarded their bus for the ride to Bowling Green.

We apologize that the details of these last three visits are skimpy – our research material was limited.

2017 - The Detroit Curling Club is proud to once again host the touring Scots in January.

Detroit Curlers Visit Scotland
1921 – Dr. F.W. Robbins on the Canadian Tour to Scotland
1952 – The 1st USA Tour to Scotland
-         Dr. James Lammy
-         John McKinlay
-         A.J. Dalton
-         Paul Moreland
1962 – Samuel M. Renfrew
1972 – Nelson (Nels) Brown
1992 – Dave Nelsen
2002 – Harry Wylie
2012 – Paul Badgero

And on the distaff side
1996 – Linda Handyside
2006 – Dawn Zak-Brauninger
2016 – Maryanne Wessels

Lang may yur lum reek,

Angus MacTavish

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Scottish Curlers Visit The Club – Part VII

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club team arrived on the evening of Saturday January 28, 1967 at Willow Run Airport in a fierce snowstorm.  The worst part of the storm hit Lansing, Flint and northward with over 20 inches of snow.  Eventually they deplaned and were met by Nels Brown and they were taken to the Pick-Fort Shelby Hotel for a dinner reception and a good night’s rest.

Sunday morning started with a bang.  The team was invited to join the Sinners Club for breakfast at The Club.  Scottish curler David Duncan described it like this:  “This was a regular Sunday morning ritual when the men all turn up. Cook the breakfast, make a draw, curl, stack brooms and sometimes curl again before lunch.”  We can only imagine the goings-on that Sunday morning.

The games played Sunday were won by the Scots:  61 – 46. 

Dinner Sunday evening was at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.  Each member of the team was presented with a magnificent trophy - a silver figure of a curler in action - by courtesy of Samuel M. Renfrew (Sam was a member of the 1962 US team to tour Scotland).

Monday morning games saw the Detroiters victorious:  53 – 50.   Lunch was served at The Club followed by a trip to Windsor to tour the Hiram Walker Plant.

No curling on Tuesday.  The visitors were taken to Dearborn for a tour of the Ford Motor Company and lunch at the Dearborn Inn.  At 6:00 p.m. they all headed to the airport for a flight to Cleveland.

The Scottish Curlers Visit to the USA in 1977 did not stop at The Detroit Curling Club.  The 1976-77 curling season on Forest Ave was rather hectic.  The members had accepted an offer from the city of Detroit to buy the property.  Many people were quite busy looking for a new location for The Club and making plans for the move.  Secondly, Detroit was to host the 1977 Junior US Curling Nationals in February.  This event also involved the time and effort of many of the members and the dates conflicted with the Scots Tour. 

Haste Ye Back,
Angus MacT.