Earliest Curling in Cookstown…
Curling took place in the early 1900’s, for one year, on the north side of Queen Street, west of the present Masonic Hall. It was originally in the lower floor of an implement dealer’s building (Harry Rankin). This brick building stands today and is now known as Traditions.
The original Curling Club was built on the north side of Wellington Street (#6). It was a frame building with a V-shaped roof and contained two sheets of ice. The clubhouse, located on the south end was heated with a wood stove. The wood was used from a pile on the north side of Couse’s store (now Will Silks). One end of the clubhouse was wired off with fence wire in order to house the fire engine, trailer, rack and pump. Boxes three feet by 18 inches were used to store the curling stones. Curlers supplied their own curling rocks when attending bonspiels. These early matched stones weighed 34, 40, 42 and 47 pounds. Different sizes were used by different members of the team (the lead used the heaviest rocks, etc.).
Saturday night skating took place on the curling ice at a price of 10 to 15 cents. Hockey was played with curling stones as goal posts.
The oldest trophy, the “Dr. Orok” was sponsored by the doctor in 1911 and there is still an annual competition held for shareholders.
Original 1911 curlers included: Alvin Arnold, A.T. Batstone, Dr. Brown, Bill Carr, Russell Chantler, Charlie Fisher, Harry Fisher, R.W. Glass, Doug Hopper, Charlie Hounsome, Art Kidd, Dr. Leadley, Bob McAfee, E.C. MacLeod, Theodore MacMillan, Mel McFadden, W.G. McKay, Tom McKnight, Archie McLean, Bill Milligan, Lou Monkman, Jack Pugsley, Frank Robinson, William Robinson, D. Rownthwaite and Jack Wilson.
Cookstown curlers went to Alliston for a few years in the 50’s and curled on arena ice. These men included: Walter Beatty, Howard Cole, Ken Crawford, Lloyd Hughes,
Bill Milligan, Tom Reive and Harry Ross.
On Wednesday afternoons in the 1955 –1956 season, social curling with Alliston and Cookstown lady curlers, took place in the Alliston Arena. A man skipped on each team with three ladies filling the other positions. The ladies from Cookstown were: Alice Baker,
Mima Beeston, Elsie Cole, Evelyn Coleman, Margaret Davis, Pat Duncan, Dolores Fildey, Jean Hughes, Anne Hunter, Mildred Reive, Elma Ross and Irene Reian.
In the spring of 1956, Alliston decided to build a curling rink and asked the Cookstown curlers to invest $8,000 to $10,000 towards building it. A meeting was held in the old Orange Hall, above Charlie Watson’s (west of the Masonic Hall). It was decided to build our own rink.
Lou Monkman was elected President, Frank Webb was Secretary and Lloyd Hughes was Treasurer. Common shares were sold for $100 and to get more capital, preferred shares were sold for $300 at 4% interest. The next year, preferred shares were redeemed because they had created a taxable business. An agreement was signed with the Cookstown Agriculture Society for a 99-year lease at $1 per year, thus attracting no local property taxes. The building was to be erected on the Agricultural Society’s property, thus enabling them to receive a government grant for the building.
Ernie Letts, from Beeton, dug out the building site and sand was hauled from Harry Ross’ pit for drainage, etc. Jack Donnell poured the footings and Lionel Dawney did the block work. It took 10,500 blocks.
In December, snow was hauled from Sharp’s Hill and blown in between the pipes by Sam French’s blower. It was like a snowstorm. The next year the ice surface was cemented.
Frank Webb paid H.J. Pauli, the Royal Bank manager, $100 for the first share. This was used to obtain the Charter for the Curling Club. Frank Webb, Hector Smith, Tom Reive, Lloyd Hughes and others sold many shares. Hector Smith backed the Curling Club financially until it became solvent. The curlers and others supplied a great deal of volunteer help to install the roof, septic system, tile bed, etc.
The first men’s curling schedule started on January 7, 1957. Earl Carr was the first icemaker. Frank Webb and Bert Coleman tended bar. The lady curlers took turns on the lunch counter and all were volunteers. The men’s fee was $30. The first few years 10-end games were played. Since some thought it made it too late getting home, it was changed to 8-end game games. Men curled either Monday and Thursday nights OR Tuesday and Friday nights. Mixed curling was on Wednesday afternoons. Women curled Wednesday nights. Bonspiels were held Saturdays. All draws were full.
The ladies who had curled in Alliston all became skips when our new rink opened. These skips taught the beginners the “fine art of curling”, but only after they had recruited their friends and neighbors.
Jean Hughes was the first President of the Cookstown Ladies. Other members of the first executive included: 1st Vice President – Emily Ramsay, Secretary – Isabel Rowe, and Treasurer – Margaret Davis.
The Monkman Trophy, presented by Lou Monkman to the ladies, was competed for in the spring of 1957. Mrs. George McMaster, who had won a car in the club’s elimination draw, also presented the McMaster Trophy to the ladies. Later Emily Ramsay presented her “Ross Bowl” trophy. Lucy and Susan Stein gave theirs for competition in the second schedules. When Cousin’s Dairy which bought milk from the local dairy farmers was asked, they gave a handsome trophy which was the award for top winner in the “Last Chance Bonspiel”.
There were many fund raising projects held in and for the Club. Elimination draws for cash, cars, etc with tickets selling for $10 enabled a couple to attend the buffet supper, which the lady curlers provided.
The original bar in the basement was improved over the years but operated without a license. The license for the bar, which caused a great deal of controversy in the community, was finally granted to President Harry Ross for the Club on February 11, 1964. This made a tremendous difference in the control of the bar. It was moved upstairs in 1984 and many renovations have followed.
The Georgian Bay Steam Show members, who held antique farm equipment displays on the fairgrounds for many years, noted that the washrooms in the building were not adequate for the huge crowds. They suggested washrooms be built on the grounds. In 1978, Harry Ross, President of the Agriculture Society, contacted Wally Smith, President of the Curling Club, to suggest that a combined effort be made to build a 30-foot addition containing washrooms. This was accomplished the following year. The addition has benefited both groups.
A Steering Committee for 1979 – 1980 included Ken Crawford (Chairman), Elaine Gadsden (Secretary), with Doug Ross and Susan Stein as Directors. This group met with Club President Eric Webber on November 21, 1979 and the Originals Group was formed. This group was for active curlers – men of 55 and ladies (age unquestioned). Trophies were presented by Doug and Harry Ross for the first schedule and by Ken Crawford for the second schedule at the closing banquet the first year.
Many curlers have represented the club in both bonspiels and competitive curling over the years and are well respected.
There are many curling stories to tell. It’s a sport for all ages. One of Barrie’s older skips, Walter Craig said, “Money could never buy the number of friends I’ve made curling.”
Editors Note: These stories and pictures have been submitted. If you have pictures to submit please click here to email a story or picture(s). ~Thank you.