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Saturday, February 17, 2018

How Corny is a Corn Broom?

There is no corn in a curling corn broom.  The fibers in a corn broom are from a variety of sorghum.  This became such a popular broom making material in the early 1800s that people started calling the plant:  Broom-Corn.  The pictures below show a sorghum plant (about 10 feet tall); harvested fibers waiting to go into a broom and a finished curling broom.


There were two basic styles of corn broom.  The first has a skirt or apron of shorter fibers.  The apron serves two purposes:  1) to keep the lower fibers together during the power-stroke across the ice and 2) to act as a spring to return the lower fibers to center before the next power-stroke on the ice (see photo).

The second type of corn broom did not have an apron but rather a strap of leather or plastic inside the center of the bundle of fibers.  This center “spring” serves the same functions as the skirt.  Additionally, a string or band surrounding the fibers also acts to keep the entire bundle together during the sweeping process.

The sound made by these brooms was both musical and magical.  I am sorry that the youngsters learning the game today (and within the last 20 years) will never experience an arena full of the sounds of straw and leather slapping the ice or the poetry of seeing two sweepers in perfect harmony.  I found one video on YouTube that has the sound of one broom – try to imagine 12 or more brooms banging away at once.  At YouTube you can search for “The fine art of using a corn broom to curl” or Click-Here.

During the 1960s and 70s The Club purchased corn brooms to be used by guests and new members.  As these brooms aged, one by one they found their way out of The Club and into the trunk of many a member’s car – they were handy for clearing the snow off the car!  I know the location of only one of these brooms, but I would bet that there are a few more out there.

Hurry Hard!

Angus MacTavish
Knight of The Royal Order of The Broom

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