(reproduced from the 75th anniversary Booklet)
The earliest stone throwing in Vankleek Hill on "curling" ice may predate the 1920's when an open air, but covered skating ice surface was located on Main Street West, some 100 yards west of the present day Highway 34/Main street intersection. The collapse of the roof cover on this rink may have provided the impetus for the building of the first actual curling club in 1920 close to that site, and it was here, on natural ice, that curling flourished in Vankleek Hill till 1958 when the curling shed and portion of today's club (1996) room were built on Bond street. The first stones were thrown in the spring of '59 at the new club and members had for the first time the benefit of artificial ice and therefore a longer curling season.
The list of founding members of the Vankleek Hill Curling club can be seen on a scroll located in the present curling club-room. The Ladies section of the VCC began in1922 and has particularly active, indeed probably the backbone of the club ever since. In 1979, the Ladies Club and the Men's club united, and since that time, to the credit of all members, our executive has had 4 men and 4 women each year to run the operation.
Our present club was designed in the era following a number of arena/curling club roof collapses, hence to insure that Vankleek Hill never suffered the same fate- the metal pillars were installed between the ice sheets. The viewing has certainly been impaired by the decision, but the roof still stands. This site which has been part of the high school grounds became available because of the relocation of the high school to Queen Street, a few years before.
This writer can remember arriving in the Vankleek Hill Curling Club in the fall of 1959, the ice surfaces being as they are today but the club room took in the area behind the glass north to the railing of the present stairway. The stairway at that time was located where the present bar stands. Since that time there have been two major changed - the first being the addition of the goldfish bowl ( a glassed in 20 x 20 room) with a new stairway to the basement (this is the existing stairway) The overall space being insufficient, a further club room extension to the west and north brought about the existing facility.
Of course, since that time a new bar area has been provided, interior changes have taken place in the basement and modifications have been made in the kitchen and entrance areas. The curling shed area has developed significantly from the time that the uninsulated (sic) roof insured dripping in the spring or on warm days. The new ceiling and lighting system came about in 10972, heaters were installed to warm the ice area, and a dehumidifier was added in 1982. The mirrors at the end of the curling shed were installed in celebration of Roger and Mary Matte's 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1985 and the circular mirrors at the club room end of the rink were to mark the 25th of Mac and Carole McIntyre in 1989.
The only major change related to the curling ice over the years was the placing of Styrofoam under the ice ( in the mid 60's) to prevent 'heaving'. An electric scraper was purchased this year to replace the manual scraping by icemen Normie McLeod, Doug Hayes, Ray MacDonald, Harry Hurley and Jack Kirby over the past 35 years. Ross Rodger now is in charge of maintaining Vankleek' Hill's reputation of "ice equal to the best in the country".
The club, through the years, had invented ways of making money beyond the regular memberships. These events not only brought in much needed cash, but also provided much of the social fun of membership. The "garden parties" at the Byer's home on green lane; the $1000 draws at the Vankleek Hill fair; the Curling Club Drama group of the very early 60's that put on a play in Vankleek Hill, St-Eugène, and Pendleton, in company with a Men's Fashion Show; the ladies Fashion Shows (one of which was a major show of "Wedding Gowns"): the Beer Garden operation at the fair; the various dinners and dances (Paris and Hawaii nights were highlights); and the club rentals catered to by the ladies, have each challenged the members with work, but in the long run have provided many memorable times of the club as a whole.
Speaking of memories, some others come to mind: the bar's location in the basement in the early years raised the ire of the many because the drinkers were in the basement and tee-totallers were upstairs (not the best ingredient for a party) -the 24-hour bonspiels of the club in the 60's - the one bonspiel night that wasn't supposed to be 24 hours but was because of the storm conditions - the liquor vials set up to speed the drink providing process in the basement bar - the Saturday nights at the club when you put your name in the hat when you arrived and teams were made up (you had to get to the club early or you did not curl) - the Center Mixed being run as a knockout with 64 teams, all completed in one week - the raids by the local constabulary and the ones that were delayed so as not to embarrass the local Crown Attorney - the influx of members from Hawkesbury between the time of the burning of their club on John street in Hawkesbury and the building of the new Hawkesbury Golf an Curling Club east of town - the 50th anniversary celebrations of 1970 and 1972 - and the town vs County annual nights rivalry.
Over the years, Vankleek Hill has developed a reputation for great food, curling ice matching the best anywhere, and hospitality second to none. In spite of the grumbling over the years, the ladies have managed to stick together till April each year, the men have for the most part carried out their bar duties without too often "dodging their allocated nights". We have provided leadership to the local district and Canadian Branch area, along with the Ladies Curling Association and EOLCA now the OLCA. Few clubs have given more to their respective areas, and their own members, over the years - perhaps that is why we can celebrate 75 years tonight and look forward with firm conviction that another 75 years will be achieved in the "roarin' game" in Vankleek Hill.
EASTERN ONTARIO REVIEW EXCERPTS
Friday, November 26, 1920:
(Town and Vicinity Column) " A curling rink is being organised by the business men of this section and plans are being prepared for the erection of a new building which will probably occupy the site of the old covered rink. The idea seems to have taken hold like wild fire and already about thirty names have been secured. To Mr. D. D. McInnes, belongs the credit of originating the idea."
Friday, December 31, 1920:
(Town and Vicinity Column) " The ice on the curling rink is pretty nearly completed and the prospects are that the "Roarin' Game" will be in full swing by New Year's Day. Even now some old timers are considering the personnel of their rinks and the prospects of a good season are very rosy. The energetic Secretary, Mr Donald McInnes is ready to receive all payments for membership at $10 per. Everyone should make an effort to aid this club in every way."
Friday, June 3, 1921:
(A new curling rink for Vankleek Hill) "A meeting of the promoters of the new curling rinks was held at the Council Chambers here last Friday evening and purchased the old skating rink property from Mr Stephen Kirby, and will proceed with incorporation, after which a handsome new curling rink will be built this summer, having all the latest and up to date improvements. Already the company has over $2000 subscribed and the building is a certainty. This looks as if Vankleek Hill was making progress as the building will be a source of pride to the club and its citizens.
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