Local resident and long time curling club member Bob Saul researched the history of the Burns Lake Curling Club for the Lakes District News edition of Jan. 2. 2002 to commemorate the club’s 50 anniversary. Ten years later, the curling club is now celebrating their 60 anniversary.
According to Saul, Burns Lake was a real boom town in 1951, with the Rio Tinto Alcan project underway and many sawmills operating.
“This brought an influx of workers into the district, many of these were from the prairies and were, of course curlers.”
Saul said it was these people that provided the spark to build a curling rink in Burns Lake when they decided to raise $1,500 for a covered rink consisting of two sheets of ice.
George Slesinger became the spokesman and treasurer for the group.
They went door to door selling membership shares.
“The group had commitments of lumber, nails, roofing material, machine time and labour. The local business community was also very generous.”
The first official meeting of what was to become the Burns Lake Curling Club was held on Oct. 2, 1951 at the Royal Canadian Legion branch #50.
During the meeting Slesinger was elected as club president, Tom Jeffery was elected as vice president, Oliver Sands was elected as treasurer and Jack Brown, Charles Beck, Alex Duncan, Andy Lougheed, Percy Kaler and Rae Jeffery formed the ‘ways and means’ committee.
By this time the curling rink was nearing completion. Saul said, “According to an old newspaper report the club was ready and waiting for the cold weather to arrive by Nov. 15, 1951.”
The very first bonspiel was scheduled for Dec. 15, 1951, but it was cancelled due to warm weather.
The first 16 pairs of curling rocks were purchased and financed by committee member Beck.
Eventually curling on the outdoor rink did get underway. The first bonspiel was held in February 1952.
“Curling became so popular in Burns Lake that two more sheets of ice were added in 1953. In 1958 it became more evident that the club needed an ice refrigeration plant to provide consistent ice and to guarantee ice for competitions and regular curling.”
The club president, at that time was Ted Rowland gathered information on costs and fundraising for the project began.
By 1959 the plant was operational. The rink was downsize to three sheets and a new coffee bar.
Saul said curling flourished through the 1960s.
“The spring of 1968 was devastating for the club when fire destroyed the facility. The fire department was able to save the ice plant, but everything else was write off. Burns Lake has just built a brand new ice arena [The Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena] the year before so the curling club felt it was going to be very difficult to build another major facility.”
Many meetings later the club decided on a building that the late Lawrence Gerow had previously received information about.
George Hamp agreed to give as much assistance as he could to the club. He and some of his employees spent many hours helping to build the curling rink and it was said so many times that without his expertise and help the project would have been impossible.”
Many others donated lumber and equipment to move the project forward.
The Burns Lake Rotary Club and Kinsmen Clubs donated financially as well as provided volunteer labour. “So many volunteers spent the summer of 1968 working on the project. This is how the rink was built with limited funds and a bank loan.”
Ted Rowland threw the first rock in early December 1968 at the start of the opening bonspiel to celebrate the new facility.
“In 1972 it was obvious that a new concrete floor should be added to make the rink usable year round. “Again volunteers, along with George Hamp supplying the concrete, pitched in.” The project was competed in November and the building was able to be used year round.
In 1983, under the direction of club president Tom Radley, and with grants of $170,000, an addition was built on to expand the facility.
The addition included a furnace room, downstairs washrooms, a new bar and kitchen and banquet facilities upstairs.
During the late 1990s a high school league started and one year later a junior league was started by Brenda Payne.
In 2000 a seniors league started, which still continues on 12 years later.
Brenda Payne was also the first female president of the club.
Wally Bridal, a long time local curler has been the ice technician and dues collector for approximately 20 years. His wife Rita has taken care of the trophies and keeps all of the clubs information up to date.
“Kay Minger and her team of volunteers have looked after banquets and the concession, as well as rink rentals for longer than we can remember.”
“We have now reached another 10 year milestone and a lot has happened in these years. Membership dropped about eight years ago, but as of this year we have over 100 curlers again.
Six years ago Gerald Eckland took over as president. The curling rink hooked up to the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena’s ice plant and a lot of interior work has been done to the facility including a new paint job, new tables and chairs, closed circuit TV monitors, and the arena is now fully handicapped accessible.”
Saul said that with over 70 advertising signs from local businesses on display at the arena their support pays for the ice technician.
“Dave Peters our ice man is up to date with his courses and gets some help with the ice from members when it’s needed.”
The ice surface has been painted with the club’s 60 anniversary logos. There is also going to be an official celebration in March 2012.
“Curling is alive and well in Burns Lake and I am proud of our club,” Saul said.
For more information on joining the club, contact president Richard Olsen at 250-695-6319 or Scotty Fields at 250-692-3763.