An Old Sport Still Popular Today
Deny it all you will, we are inevitably heading into winter again and those involved in winter sports are looking forward to renewing their activities. Curling, a sport which attracts people of all ages, has captured enthusiasts from the very beginning of this community and many small towns in southwestern Alberta.
Curling was created by hardy Scots who could pick up a heavy stone and hurl it across the natural ice of a lake or river with some accuracy and style. One team member – the skip – called the shots and threw the critical last stones. Three other players threw their two stones towards the skip’s broom, alternating with the opposing team. Using broad kitchen corn brooms, they brushed hard in an effort to keep their team mate’s stone moving and on the right track. Curling was already being played in Scotland in the early 1500s.
As early as 1887, Lethbridge had a curling club, and men played their games on the natural ice of nearby sloughs. The city’s first curling rink, complete with electric lighting, was constructed in 1895. It wasn’t until 1916 that the Ladies Curling Club was created. League play and bonspiels (weekend or week-long tournaments) were dependent on good cold weather; Chinook winds softened the ice and often made it disappear altogether.
The coloured rings, or house, at the end of each sheet of ice were first created by Jack Patey, a clever Lethbridge curler. Patey found it easier to paint the rings with broad solid colours rather than narrow black outlines. This practice is still used today.
Curling is a social sport with no referees to enforce the rules. Team members shake the hand of their opponents before and after every game. Although the stones, rinks, brooms and clothing have all changed, the game is played today as it was 100 years ago.
Hundreds of photos of people involved in league and bonspiel curling, as well as a large number of curling-related artifacts are housed at the Galt Museum & Archives. You can browse the online Collections and Archives databases to see these: follow the links at www.galtmuseum.com.