Calumet Curling Club celebrates 60 years

There is a sense of family when you come to the Calumet Curling Club’s two-sheeter rink.

Helge Olson holds the honour of throwing the first rock at the Calumet Curling Rink in 1954.

Helge Olson holds the honour of throwing the first rock at the Calumet Curling Rink in 1954.

There is a sense of family when you come to the Calumet Curling Club’s two-sheeter rink. The rink was built in 1953 for $1,905 with the help of 45 members who donated $25 each. There were two sets of curling rocks purchased for $700 and on Jan. 2 1954, league play in curling started. At the time, membership cost $5 for an individual and $10 for a family of four.

To keep things going at Calumet, car bonspiels were held and teams would come from all over Alberta to compete. The experience was one to remember said Gord Svenningsen, who started curling in 1956 at Calumet.

Back then, the rink was natural ice and curlers really had to throw a rock with all their might to do a take out. He remembers times when they would have to bring snow in from outside to help freeze the ice and then they would have to shovel it out to get a chance to curl.

During the men’s 60th bonspiel last week, members of the community filled the lobby to socialize and watch curlers in action. Some helped prepare and serve food and others were there to buy lunch, but there was a buzz in the air while everyone watched the curling action through the glass.

“It’s been that way forever. It becomes a real meeting place for everybody,” said Svenningsen of the camaraderie.

He was on the executive of the curling club for some years and remembers fondly curling overnight some years as the weather was too warm too play during the day. The natural ice would be too soft to play until things cooled off at night. He jokes that there were times water would splash as rocks made it to the rings.

“It had got to be who threw it the longest and the hardest. If you could get it in the house, you were good,” said Svenningsen.

The club runs on a small budget, mainly due to the volunteers who dedicate their time to ensure the club can continue to run.

Svenningsen also enjoys the spirit of the game. His two sons and a friend joined him last week to compete at the men’s bonspiel.

Dan Lea, a board director, started curling at Calumet in his teens and he now coaches students from Mecca Glen School.

Lea feels coaching a younger generation of curlers will help keep the sport of curling alive. “If the kids are keen to come, then I’ll come.”

Even if the kids move, Lea feels curling rinks in other areas will see those players, which is a benefit to the sport. He feels curling brings people together.

“It’s a social and sportsmanlike game,” said Lea.

The best way to keep the sport going is to include the younger generation, he said.

“The Olympics and television is helping,” added Svenningsen.

A lobby was added in 1985 and at the same time the club was able to put together $32,000 for an artificial ice plant. The new plant has allowed the club to host bonspiels for much of the season and the men’s bonspiel usually fills up quick.

Before the lobby, there was a place to socialize and eat: Sheet 3. Now that the lobby is in full operation, Sheet 3 is where the winners buy drinks for the losers and curlers reminisce about missed shots or getting the rock in just the right place.

The floor on Sheet 3 actually came from an old school house in the area, said Svenningsen. A tornado destroyed the school but the floor was salvageable and when putting the rinks together, planners used the wood floor for Sheet 3.

There have been many improvements to the rink over the years; women got their first toilet in 1967 and the roof was repaired in 2003. Most recently the club has added cameras to both ends on both sheets of ice. Curling fans in the lobby or Sheet 3 can watch rocks make their way to the button and get an instant viewing of the lay of the ice.