Around the House: A virtual visit to the curling clubs of my past

My current curling club is as familiar and welcome to me as a friend’s house.  Every week during the winter I spend a few hours there with people I enjoy, playing a game I love. It’s been like that for the past couple of years, but really, my curling club history goes much farther back and includes a long trail of clubs that I’ve visited, played at or belonged to. Sometimes it’s nice to go for a stroll down memory lane. Thanks to the Internet (and the CCA’s list of member clubs) it’s an easy trip. Join me? My first club, CFB Downsview, is no longer in existence, and I remember it only dimly from pre-school days. What’s a curler  (that would be my mother) to do when her kids aren’t in school yet and she just needs to get her morning game in? She drags the kid along to play Barbies behind the glass while mom gets her fix on the ice. Sadly, those hours of boredom (sorry, curlers, but I have to be honest) almost turned me off the game for life. Still, the club at Downsview was a big part of my parents’ – and, as a result, my – life. What do I remember about it? It was cold! My second club entered the picture about 30 years later, when I moved to the small town of Vankleek Hill and needed some help surviving my first Ottawa Valley winter.  Lots of curling and memorable parties are what I remember most. Here’s a glimpse of current action, carried in the local paper, The Review. But those years in Vankleek Hill also afforded me the opportunity to travel to bonspiels around the region, including Ottawa, Montreal, and the little clubs of Prescott-Russell and Glengarry Counties. Some highlights include: My first visit to the Ottawa Curling Club. Wow! All those sheets of ice! Coming from little VKH, with its two cozy sheets nestled side-by-side, I felt as if I was at the Tournament of Hearts. Cool trophies in the trophy case, too. The funny ice at Town of Mount Royal. TMR had a cavernous ice house. The day I played there, it also had little stalagmites on the sheets, formed by the stalactites dripping from the ceiling, far above.  And Sheet 1 had wonky edges: our skip won us a championship by throwing her last rock right for the boards so that it would careen back into the house, perfectly on target. A highlight reel throw. My very first bonspiel, a Mixed, at the Alexandria Curling Club. I was so tickled by this club, with its little bench perched on the divider between two of the three sheets. And it had the friendliest people and great musical entertainment. Best of all, after a nervous start, I managed to do my job at lead and help us win a runner-up prize, too. I’ve travelled to a few Scotties and Briers (as a spectator, of course), and once had a chance to join other spectators in a game at the Charlottetown Curling Club. What do I remember? Championship banners all over the place. That club is full of winners. Eventually, jobs brought us back to Southwestern Ontario, and there were no shortage of clubs to choose from. We hopped between the two Guelph clubs, and had a chance to visit some of the local rinks. The Fergus Curling Club has four sheets numbered 1, 8, 3 and 4, commemorating the year of the club’s founding by Scottish settlers long before Confederation. Traditions run strong at this club: at every bonspiel or special event, curlers are still piped on to the ice. Westmount Golf and Country Club in Kitchener has mahogany lockers in the Ladies’ dressing room. A treat to visit, and great ice too. Guelph Country Club, where I curled on a team with my husband for five fun years (before commuting schedules and draw times made it tough) has the feel of a friendly, small-town club in the midst of a bustling city. Good times. And my current club, the Guelph Curling Club, is a busy 6-sheet club with a history of competition and volunteers who are second to none. So, as our tour comes to a close, let me add one thought.  What strikes me the most about the curling clubs of my past and present is not how different they are. It’s how much they are the same.  Good curling, wherever you are.