History of the Cochrane Curling Club
Based on information from The Roaring Game written by Ernie Trosch
The Cochrane Curling Club started in 1913. A meeting was held on December 3rd for the purpose of organizing a curling club. R.J. McNamee moved that the secretary communicate with the Calgary and Banff Clubs to purchase some second-hand rocks. A membership fee of $5.00 was established. Expenses for the first year of operation were as follows:
Ice man – Thomas Quigley 150.00 for the winter
Cash book .50
Minute book 1.50
Affiliation dues .25/member
Memories by Ed Beynon tell us that the very first rink was an outdoor rink with one sheet of ice. It was located at the east end of town, south of the Big Hill Lodge. During bonspiels the skating rink, on the grounds where the Holy Spirit School is located today, was also used for curling.
Curling in the early days
In the early days the curling rules were not yet cast in stone and disputes were fairly common. Various stories talk about the rocks being different shapes and sizes. The weight of the rocks ranged anywhere from 35 - 52 lbs. Many members owned their own rocks and some belonged to the Club. The rocks were always locked in a special box at the rink. Apparently Ernie Dickie had a set of 52 lbs. rocks. Cyril Camden said, “when they went through the house they just kept on going”. D. Whittle believes that young Dave Murray used his dad’s rocks which were taller and narrower than the rest. They could go through ports that other rocks could not go through. In order to identify the rocks the curlers made pom poms which slipped over the handle.
In 1914 discussions were held with Tho’s Quigley regarding the poor condition of the ice. Tenders for ice maintenance were received from Tho’s Quigley and Bert Johnson. Mr. Quigley offered ice for $125.00 for 25 members.
In 1915 the Club explored the possibility of putting a new roof on the rink. A committee of five members was established to investigate the cost of lots and a new rink. A Board of Trustees was elected and authorized to purchase property to be registered in the name of the Cochrane Curling Club.
In 1916 Rev. Burns moved that Charles Peyto be appointed skip to represent Cochrane at the Banff bonspiel and that Bert Johnson, Jas Loughery and J.A.Morrison be accepted as members for the team. There were 36 active members registered at $10.00/member. The cost for electricity was $4.00. Honorary members who were serving in the war were remembered with a Christmas card.
In 1917 the club decided to go with one sheet of ice and appointed Mr. Simpson and Mr. Babtie, as members of the Finance Committee, to investigate the cost of a building to cover the ice and the feasibility of improving the present building. Due to an increase in memberships, the Club decided against erecting a new building and go instead to two sheets of ice.
In 1918 a new building was purchased for $600 with payments of $100/ year until paid in full.. The curling rink was situated just east of St. Andrews Church had a quonset-type structure and was also used for other functions, such as wrestling matches, fund raisers, moccasin dances and roller skating. To raise money for the first payment, a dance was proposed and a committee was established to organize a dance on May 3rd. The “Roaring Game”, as Gordon Hall called it, was played on natural ice in the second rink. There were two sheets of ice with a boardwalk between the sheets and also with a club room. There were benches for spectators. At times certain matches drew a considerable crowd, usually determined by the intensity of the game. There was a cook stove in the clubroom. Besides a cooking surface the stove provided heat and also had a reservoir which was used to heat water for pebbling the ice. The scoreboard was a blackboard for each sheet and the score was marked with a piece of chalk. If it was -30F outside, it was -30F inside and heavy clothing had to be worn, complete with overshoes.
A petition was received from interested ladies curlers. A decision was deferred until ice contractors were interviewed.
Getting to the rink was sometimes a problem because of deep snow and the cold. Most people in town walked to the rink, and those from the country rode saddle horses. Earl Whittle and Bob Hogarth came from Horse Creek in a horse drawn cutter with an enclosed box, complete with a door and a little stove to keep warm. There was a little slit in the front for the reins from the team.
In 1919 the report from Executive, regarding curling for ladies, was considered and approved. It was also moved that ladies be responsible for any damage to rocks as well as damage done by them during a game.
In 1920 owing to the financial condition of the Club it was agreed that economy, wherever possible, be practiced. It was thought advisable to dispense with further services of Ice Caretaker. At the Annual General Meeting the President presented the financial statement for the current year, showing a deficit of $347.97. Memberships count increased to 47 at $10.00/member.
1920-21 The financial statement for the season showed a substantial cash balance on hand. A. Baptie moved that the officers of the Club try to obtain part of lot owned by G. Hope for a third sheet of ice. Competition for the Simpson Cup took place in Banff.
By 1930 the Club was tired of hauling water and decided to dig a well. The only spot available was in the coal in the south–east corner of the curling rink. Bailey’s Bakery building was on the north side of the curling rink. Whoever was digging the well struck a massive rock about four feet down. To overcome the problem some dynamite was bought and Arthur Kirkland from Cochrane Lake was hired to blow up the rock. Baron Cyvossey had a Tiger Moth airplane which he used to fly up the river from his home at the Bow River Horse Ranch. On this day Baron was flying at about 200 feet over the town and as luck would have it the dynamite exploded just as he approached the curling rink. Bits and pieces of the roof went skyward and there wasn’t a war vet who wasn’t lying under a wagon or a car. Everyone thought that Baron had dropped a bomb. The curling rink finally got it's well at a depth of 100 feet. The roof was repaired and an electric pump installed.
In 1934 Prime Minister R.W. Bennett donated four easy chairs as first prize.
In 1948 the Curling Club Board moved to have mixed curling. Dues were set at $8.00 for all adults.
In 1951 it was moved that a water line be brought to the rink when available.
Mrs. J Hogarth, on behalf of proposed Ladies Curling Club, summarized plans to form a separate Ladies Club. Request granted.
In 1953 Bearspaw curlers announced they would stay in Cochrane and assist all they could with the new rink. Construction started on the 3rd rink with three sheets of ice.
1954 The new rink was finished, for less than $15,000. This rink was situated on 1st Avenue and was used for skating on one occasion to prevent the ice from building up. The kids could skate for a dime from 7 – 9 pm.
In 1955 it was moved that the ladies and men curl together on mixed rinks if members wish to. Skips to pick their own rinks.
In 1957 the curling rink was used in the summer for horseshoes and Bingos to raise money for artificial ice.
In 1959 artificial ice was financed through the sale of debentures. Jail wardens asked for permission to enter two teams from the jail.
In 1961 Ed Davidson, Manager of the Cochrane Hotel, offered to donate a trophy. It became the Men’s League trophy.
In 1967 a motion made to cost out heaters for the ice area.
In 1976 some curlers gathered in Gordon Maththews’ basement for the purpose of forming a seniors league. Over a period of five years the Horseshoe Club made a profit of $200 from selling coffee at $.10 a cup. The Club donated half of this amount $100.00 to the senior curlers for seed money.
A year or two later another meeting took place in Gordon Matthews’ basement to resurrect the Simpson Cup competition. This competition was discontinued for many years because of hard times. The Cup was rediscovered in somebody’s attic in Banff and suddenly there was renewed interest. The Cup was named after Jimmy Simpson, a well know outfitter in the Lake Louise area. This annual competition is ongoing to this day between Banff, Canmore, Springbank and Cochrane.
In 1978 Jack Steel passed away and left a very generous bequest of $40,000 to the Curling Club.
In 1984 this arena burnt down.
In 1985 the Club moved to a new rink on 5th Avenue with four sheets of ice. This rink is still in use today but will have to make room for a larger facility some day.
Old curling stories
Aileen Copithorne recalls a trip to a bonspiel in Banff. Back then you had to bring your own rocks. They were all packed in boxes in the trunk of a car. On the way home they hit some black ice and Aileen says, “there were rear-enders everywhere”. Fortunately their car had hardly any damage because the guy behind hit a trunk with four boxes of rocks. On other occasions the rocks were shipped by train.
There were times when Ed Beynon would walk two miles from home, down Horse Creek road to the 1A highway, to catch a ride with Bill Brasseur and Harry Coleman, his team members. They would curl 10 ends, then ride back to the Horse Creek road and Ed would walk home again from there.
His father, William Beynon, hauled water for the ice, first form the river and later from the Creamery, in a wooden water tank pulled by a team of horses. Bob Hogwarth would fill four 45 gallon drums which were standing in the walkway between the two sheets. After dumping the barrels, two for each sheet, Bob would take the mail to Bottrel. By the time he returned the water would be frozen.
Gordon Hall recalled that bonspiels were the highlight of the season. Prizes were mostly donated by local businesses and merchants. There would be four blankets, four flashlights, four gallons of Prestone Antifreeze or a ton of coal to be divided among four players. Teams would come all the way from Calgary, Canmore, Banff and other places.
Frost used to hang from the ceiling. If someone threw a fast rock and hit the end boards all the frost would land on the ice. Whenever they had fun games it was customary to go to the blacksmith shop after about the third end for a little drink and then come back and finish the game.
Cyril Camden recalls that at the end of each year, all teams were redrawn for a mixed bonspiel. The prizes consisted of groceries such as a box of apples, tins of coffee, 10 lbs of sugar, a great big block of cheese, a ton of coal, 10 lbs of butter.
Curlers used heavy-handled brooms. Dave Murray used to sell them for $1.25, the Hardware store would charge $1.50. The brooms were normally retired after one season and then used for cleaning and rug beating.
Normal curling clothing consisted of a heavy white wool sweater, oxfords, spats and toe rubbers were the usual footwear. Some wore Scotch tams.
There were no block heaters in the old cars. Every couple of ends the curler would have to go out and start their cars which were covered with blankets to keep them warm. When they arrived back home the water had to be drained from the radiator until the car was used again.
In the old days, curling was not just a sporting activity, it was also an important social function for the town. People who never curled would come and watch certain games. Some curlers were very serious about it. According to some stories you could mention a game six months later and they would have it all set out on the table with all kinds of utensils and they would replay the exact shots all over again. If there wasn’t curling in the old building you could always find a game of crib or checkers. The curling rink was an important gathering place for the community.