By: Dennis Rolland
The “Olde” Club
Before Huntsville accepted it’s official status moving from a village to a town in 1901, before there were vehicles in Huntsville, when transportation was either by steamships or horse and buggy, a public meeting was called at the Huntsville CourtHouse to officially found The Huntsville Curling Club on December 3, 1900.
The founding fathers of the curling club were the founding fathers of Huntsville; people like George Hutcheson, Reeve of Huntsville and builder of Trinity Church in 1897, C.O. Shaw, owner of the Tannery, Charles Waterhouse, owner of Deerhurst Resort 1896, E.S. May, our first VP and third Mayor of Huntsville, Captain George Marsh, owner of the Steamship Company, and William Blackburn, owner of the Marina.
The “Olde” club was located directly behind the current club at the corner of Center Streets and Mary Street. It was a single sheet wooden structure, built by William Blackburn on land owned by Henry May. C.O. Shaw was the first club’s Patron. This building was busy all four seasons as there were many offseason political meetings, recitals, band practices and entertainment events happening. The curling was at times very competitive, especially with two skips in particular, Mr Cook and Mr McLaughlin, who always drew spectators and speculation as to who would win the weekly match.
Sadly, the curling building collapsed under snow load in 1910.
The Arena Years
During the 1920’s, efforts with the town to build a curling club under the same roof as the proposed arena were thwarted by the Great Depression. The arena was built in 1931, and the curling club got cut. Nonetheless, in the 1930’s, significant fundraising activities began to buy property and build a curling rink.
In 1940, as a result of the arena being underutilized due to WW2, the old Memorial Arena became the home of the Huntsville Curling Club from 1940 to 1947. During this time, the club joined the Ontario Curling Association in 1942 and has been a continuous member ever since.
The Department of Highways Building
By 1946, the war was over and the soldiers had returned. There was immense pressure to relocate the curling club, but no town financial support. Since fundraising had begun in the 1930’s and continued through the arena years, the club was in a position to purchase the decommissioned Department of Northern Development building located at 6 Lansdowne, now 6 Veterans Way, our club’s location since 1947.
It took only one month for Don Lough to excavate the floor and build a rolled gravel and sand base. Pat Brothers then created three sheets of natural curling ice. Meanwhile, a group of members converted the offices into a clubhouse. The curling club opened its doors to the Huntsville community on January 1, 1948. It was in this building that Pat Brothers scored the clubs first Eight-Ender in 1948. It was in this building where Moss Leverton founded the Huntsville Ladies Curling Club in 1949.
Sadly, after only three years, the curling club was destroyed by fire on February 8, 1951. Ray Morris, our club's treasurer at the time and future president, ran into the burning building and came out with four of our most historic trophies, two under each arm. Everything else was destroyed by the fire.
The Rebuilt Huntsville Curling Club Building
On January 10, 1952, the Huntsville Curling Club, once again, opened its doors to the Huntsville community. It had been decided to build a “purpose built”, a building for a single purpose which was curling, a four sheet curling rink with a two level clubhouse with large viewing windows from each sheet to the clubroom. The four sheets of ice were covered by an impressive peaked wooden structure. With the exception of the rink roof, which collapsed in 1972, once again due to snow load, and was replaced with a flat structural steel roof and walls, this has been our current curling club building since then.
Members of Honor
All of the club's members, from 1900 to today have been incredibly dedicated volunteers. They are the reason the Huntsville Curling Club exists. There have also been many extraordinary team and individual accomplishments by our members.
Twice, the Huntsville Curling Club’s Ladies' teams have gone to the Southern Ontario Ladies Curling Championships.
- Vera Armstong’s rink of Marjory Ireland, Mardi McDonald and Murdo Cameron defeated Oshawa in the final 17-14 to win the 1960 Southern Ontario Women’s Championships in Kitchener.
- In 1982, Yvonne Cox’s rink of Gail Stevens, Ruth Gilbert and Carol Sullivan won the district in Parry Sound, then the regionals in Beaverton before qualifying for the 1982 Southern Ontario Ladies Championships in St Catherines.
In 1989, Nicole Dutkiewicz fundraised to buy a set of newly created rocks called “Kids Can Curl'' rocks, just invented by the Bayview Curling Club in Toronto.
Instead of having kids learn the game of curling, Nicole developed a curriculum of lessons to teach children how to curl one skill at a time. Because the rocks were “littler” than the adult rocks, her program was called “Little Rocks”. This program was almost immediately adopted by clubs across Ontario. Five years later, Nicole was awarded the Ontario Sports Achievement Honor, by then Premier Bob Rae, for her achievements in the sport of youth curling in Ontario.
In 1998, Rusty Drew invented the “Extender” at the Huntsville Curling Club. The Extender is an accessibility aid - it is a stick with a plastic clip that allows a person to deliver a rock without crouching down in the hack. Rusty tried the extender on curlers standing up and a person in a wheelchair - both delivered the rock into the house with no difference from the curler in the hack. The first ever rock delivered by a person in a wheelchair was during this time here in Huntsville in 1998.
Rusty sought approval from Curling Canada for use of the extender. Within two months of his application, Curling Canada approved the extender for every level of curling except competitive, paving the way for Rusty to patent the design. Well known Muskoka author Susan Pryke, wrote an article in CARP Fifty Plus Magazine about Rusty’s Extender causing news of the extender to spread like wildfire. The first ever World Wheelchair Championships were held in Geneva Switzerland in 2002. The Extender was the delivery aid they endorsed.
Rusty was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, in the category of Innovations Curling. The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame also credits Rusty with the Creation of the Sport of Wheelchair Curling.
“If you want to make friends, join the Huntsville Curling Club”. This phrase was said by Wendy Howard, wife of Canada’s greatest curler, Russ Howard. Both Russ and Wendy were members and avid volunteers of the Huntsville Curling in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.