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Curling Club Blog

Our Yesterdays! Shots Fired at HCC

Our Yesterday’s … 

by Dennis Rolland

Shots Fired” at the Huntsville Curling Club

In the winter of 1972, Huntsville experienced several winter storms resulting in heavy snowfalls and significant accumulations. By the afternoon of Wednesday, March 15, 1972, the weather turned mild with rain, that was heavy at times.

That evening, at 6:30 PM, the Police received a “Shots Fired” report at the Huntsville Curling Club. At the same time, many members of the club were arriving for the 7 PM draw. Club President Bruce Petch had parked his 1966 Pontiac Bonneville next to Executive member Tim Green’s brand new 1972 Mercury Cougar alongside the rink. Bruce and Tim entered the rink building with the Police to find no one inside – it was still and silent – until it wasn’t. 

The silence was shattered by a loud “shot” as a wooden cross beam split in half lengthwise causing the Center Street peak ridge of the rink roof to buckle in slightly. While inside the rink, another thunderous “crack” split yet another timber. The building was immediately vacated as a collapse was imminent. 

The Police cordoned off the area around the curling club. Not even the cars could be moved. There was the utmost seriousness of concern since the private two-sheet Curling Rink at the Lake of Bays Britannia Hotel collapsed from snow load in 1959 claiming 3 lives. Mr. & Mrs. Eric Chudleigh of Chudleigh Apple Farms in Milton, and a 14-year-old boy all died, and 11 others were injured, some seriously. 

HCC members nailed the rink door closed with 6” spikes to prevent entry while an Emergency Executive meeting of those present hastily reviewed ideas to save the club. Ultimately all ideas, including shoveling off the roof, were dismissed because it was deemed too unsafe to go anywhere near the rink structure. By this time, the situation was critical, as the unrelenting rain continued timbers were heard spitting every 15 minutes. 

Executive member Ross Payne, who was also the Huntsville Fire Chief, proposed  “shearing” off the snow with fire hoses, gradually and in a balanced way, from bottom to top, using two pumper trucks located at the north and south sides of the rink building in an attempt to relieve the snow load. Ross would be positioned on Centre Street atop a 40 Foot Ladder truck to direct the operation. 
The Board approved the plan as it was the only safe plan. The fire equipment was positioned and the planned effort had barely begun, when suddenly, at exactly 8:45 PM, only 2 hours and 15 minutes after the “Shots Fired” call, a rapid succession of loud shots was heard, sounding like a machine gun, as a multitude of wooden roof timbers shattered sending the roof structure downwards. 

The massive and rapid increase of inside air pressure, as the structure collapsed, exploded the rink doors from their hinges sending them flying outwards. The side walls burst 15 feet off their foundations onto Bruce Petch’s 1966 black Pontiac Bonneville and Tim Green's brand new 1972 Mercury Cougar. The explosion was so intense, the 40-foot ladder fire truck on Centre Street was blown back, with Ross Payne atop. Ross landed with a roll, and stood up unscathed yelling “I’m Okay!”

Within seconds, the entire destroyed roof structure was on the ground. 

View from Veterans Way Looking West

Note: This picture was taken in 1972 before the 1981 Kitchen Addition

Photo Credit: Huntsville Forester, Huntsville Ontario – March 23, 197

View from Centre Street Looking East

Photo Credit: Huntsville Forester, Huntsville Ontario – March 23, 1972

View from Veterans Way Looking North

Photo Credit: Huntsville Forester, Huntsville Ontario – March 23, 1972

Note: This last picture shows Bruce Petch’s damaged 1966 Pontiac Bonneville and Tim Green’s 1972 Mercury Cougar, parked alongside the rink. This was the sickening condition of our beloved club, 51 years ago, in March 1972. 

To add insult to injury, in the days following the collapse, a youth, armed with a pellet gun, fired shots from Centre Street at our exposed viewing glass. One shot popped a hole in the plate glass of sheet 3 which remained in the glass for the next 50 years until 2021, when the 70-year-old single pane plate glass, installed in 1951, was replaced with thermal, tempered glass as part of the Phase 2 Club Energy Efficiency renovations. 

Those pellet gunshots and the shot that popped a hole in our sheet 3 glass were the only real “Shots Fired” at the Huntsville Curling Club. 

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