Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Curling in Traverse City Michigan

The earliest curling reference we have found in the Traverse City area is from the Record Eagle dated February 4, 1949.  The article indicated that so many people were attending the outdoor hockey games at Thirlby Field that the need for a civic auditorium was one of the community’s biggest needs.  This indoor ice facility could also be used for curling since “a few curling enthusiasts were also looking for a rink”.

The two men initiating the attempt to bring curling to Traverse City were John Quigley and Lee Caldwell.  Mr. Quigley was born November 23, 1876 at Grass Lake in Jackson County.  He moved to Traverse City in 1901.  For 22 years he operated a grocery store at 822 Cass Street.  Mr. Caldwell was born in 1886; he was a farmer in Mapleton, MI.  They were 73 and 63 respectively!!   

In 1950 these curling wannabees travelled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to see the skating and curling accommodations at the new $800,000 municipal auditorium.  Throughout the next three years these two gentlemen gave presentations to City, County and other organizations trying to generate interest in the sport.

Finally in January 1953 a curling club was organized as the Tam O’Shanter Curling Club.  Lee Caldwell was named President.  Quigley and Caldwell had joined forces with Bill Fleming and Gerald Williams, the city park department superintendent.  The plans were in motion to utilize the dairy cattle barn at the Fairgrounds as a covered rink area for the sport.

Curling at the Fairgrounds was made possible through the loan of several sets of curling stones from the Wausau, Wisconsin Curling Club.  During the winters of 1954 and 1955 in addition to the Tam O’Shanter CC the parks department promoted curling demonstrations and lessons to adults and high school students.  Unfortunately, we have found no more information of curling at the fairgrounds after 1955.

Jump forward to December 1971 and it was announced that Northwestern Michigan College Physical Education Department would be offering several interesting and unusual winter sports activities:  Snow-Shoeing and Curling were added to their other classes in Alpine and cross country skiing.  These classes were open to students and community residents.  In 1972 NMC held a weeklong Winter Carnival and a curling demonstration was part of the agenda each day.

In March 1976 members of the Lewiston Curling Club held a curling exhibition at the Glacier Dome on Barlow Street in Traverse City.  Over one hundred people watched and participated in the demonstration.

Now we fast forward to 2014 when Organizer Don Piche and 55 curling enthusiasts held an organizational meeting to form The Traverse City Curling Club.  The TC Curling Club has games all winter long and hosts a very large and well run Bonspiel in April at Centre Ice Arena.  We highly recommend that you consider attending a TCCC Cherry Bombspiel in the future – you will not be disappointed.  For more information go to www.tccurling.org.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

This Floored Me

When the Detroit Curling Club was formed they played first at the Athletic Field, a large parcel of property surrounded by Woodward, Canfield, Cass and Forest. The two rinks were located approximately where The Whitney (built in 1890) stands today.  They built sidewalls in order to flood the ground.  The ice surface was 40 feet wide by 200 feet long - plenty of room for two rinks.

By 1888 The Club had bought the Forest Ave. property and built a covered rink.  The ice surface was 85 feet wide and 165 feet long, and the ice was reported to be at least 4 inches thick.

In those days the curling season was primarily January and February.  December games were possible, but the curlers could not rely on Mother Nature for the right conditions.

During November 1890 The Club installed a level 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.  The Detroit Free Press called it:  “the largest unobstructed floor space in the city of Detroit”.  WHAT?  Say that again.  “The largest unobstructed floor space in the city of Detroit”.  Wow!

On December 4, 1890 there were four games being played on one-half an inch of ice.  According to The Club President:  “These are probably the first games of curling in America this season”.  The new floor and thinner ice also extended the season into March.

In 1924 The Club raised $30,000.00 through the sale of bonds to the members.  This money was used to install an ice making refrigeration system and a concrete floor interlaced with pipes to allow the flow of the ammonia based coolant.  Ice was typically an inch thick.

(Sidebar:  After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 most of the members lost their businesses, jobs and income.  Many members in the early 1930s demanded repayment of their bonds.  This time-frame was financially the worst time in the history of The Detroit Curling Club.  Thanks to a handful of members The Club survived).

The move to West Bloomfield in 1979 returned the ice to a dirt floor with the refrigeration pipes laid within the sand and dirt.  Some years the ice was over 2-3 inches thick.  You do not know fear until you witness a small geyser of glycol squirting up through the ice.  Not an easy repair in mid-season – it happened more than a few times.
Enjoy the ice we have now.  A little run; a little fall just adds to the fun.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

What's The Score?

One of many confusing things to a non-curler is how to read the scoreboard.  The Club has had a number of scoreboards over the years.  We needed new scoreboards when we moved to Ferndale.  Todd Gault volunteered to build them.  He bought the lumber, paint and other supplies.  Carried everything to his basement and built the scoreboards you see and use today.

Todd made one mistake…the finished products were so big he could not get them out of the basement!  The scoreboards had to be partially disassembled and a wall in his house had to be partially removed.  Thanks Todd for a well done job. 

During the move to West Bloomfield in 1979, The Club had a friend and fellow curler in Windsor who had connections with the Labatt’s beer company.  The company gave us the scoreboards – we just had to go to Windsor to get them.  Someone must have a story about getting through U.S. customs.

When The Club was on Forest Ave. in Detroit, there had been three generations of scoreboards.  We found photographs from 1957, 1945 and 1938.  The 1957 boards went up to 20.

The boards used in the 1940's are interesting.  Notice that they only tell you the current score and end.  No indication of when the points were scored.  Games in this time frame played 12 – 16 ends.  

The 1938 scoreboards tallied points up to 30.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s games were not played by specified number of ends – they played until one team scored 31 points.

Scoring when the game was played outside was accomplished by the skip notching the points into his broom handle.  This led to a number of problems:  a weakened broom-handle; wood shavings on the ice and distrust between teams!

May the score be with you.  Angus

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Curling Clubs in Detroit & Vicinity 1840 - 1911

The Switch to Granite

The Orchard Lake Curling Club in the 1830s used wooden curling stones for lack of granite.  The Detroit City; The Granite and The Thistle Curling Clubs in Detroit during the same time-frame used iron stones.  The iron stones were at least 15 pounds heavier than the wooden blocks.  Below is a picture of an iron stone once used in Detroit.  It is currently in storage at The Detroit Historical Society.  (Just a tad rusty).

The switch to granite stones began in 1868 when members of the Detroit Thistle Club began to “rapidly substitute their barbarous cast-iron decoy-duck, teapot looking amazements with real stones, polished out of the hardest granite, obtained from experienced makers in Gault County, Waterloo, Ontario.” 

Today curlers around the world cherish the granite from Ailsa Craig.  But, in 1868 one author wrote:  “A few specimens of Ailsa Craig stones have recently been introduced to the ice.  They are tolerably keen runners, but light in proportion to their bulk”. 

The concave bottom or running surface of the stone was not proposed until the 1870s.  So, the first stones (iron and granite) in Detroit were the flat bottom variety. 

My, oh my.  How times have changed.

Good Curling, Angus.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Honey! I shrunk the House.

Since the mid 1800’s the rules of curling, as written by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, described the house as a circle with a seven foot radius - or a diameter of 14 feet.  These rules were reiterated by the Grand National Curling Club in the USA. 
During the Scots Tour to Canada and The USA in 1937-38 nearly all USA and Canadian curling clubs were playing on ice where the house had a diameter 12 feet.  A clear violation of the Rules of the game.  How, why and exactly when this evolved is unclear.  At the 1938 annual meeting of the Royal Club, the Scots that had curled on the smaller ice proposed that the rules be modified to stipulate that the scoring area be not less than 12 feet in diameter and not more than 14 feet in diameter.  This was approved and the rules published in 1938 stated this changed.

Though a member of The Grand National Curling Club, The Detroit Curling Club was more aligned with the Ontario Curling Association.  Perhaps the OCA modified the rules earlier.  Newspaper articles we have uncovered about The Club state that the house was a 14 foot circle from 1886 to 1903.  We have not found any photos to verify this fact.

In 1906 when the building and clubhouse were rebuilt the ice contained six sheets and the size of the house shrank to 12 feet in diameter, which remains the size of the house we use today.

Pictures of The Club in 1935 show unpainted ice and only black lines outlining the house, button, tee line and the line from tee to hack (no center line from tee to tee existed).  Painting the rings did not start until 1936.  These pictures are B&W so we are not positive what colors were used.  The main sheet of ice remained unpainted so that you could see the concrete floor below the ice.

Lang may ur lum reek, Angus.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bonspiel Rap

First – The Meeting

Filled with admiration
For this great occasion,
Calls for explanation
And illumination
In elegant narration,
Men of every nation,
Every age and station,
Wild with fascination
Or hallucination
Met to play the game of curling
                        On the slippery ice,
Polished granites deftly hurling,
                        By the skip’s advice.

Second – The Playing

Some with animation,
Some with perturbation,
Some with exultation,
Others with vexation,
With good calculation
And determination
To make a great sensation
And raise their estimation,
And all with inclination
To duly play the game of curling,
                        On the slippery ice,
Polished granites deftly hurling,
                        By the skip’s advice.


Euphemistically yours, Angus.