First Curling Rink

Elk Point's first curling rink was built during the early 1940s. It was a two sheet rink constructed of lumber and was situated about where our new library now stands. The promoters of this early curling rink were D. C. Nelson, Dr. F. G. Miller, Robert Dale, R. E. Beattie, Reverend Pringle, Roy Mann and C. J. Markstad. The first president was D. C. Nelson, he was followed by R. E. Beattie. Joe Jacobson was the first secretary treasurer. This curling rink was built with volunteer labor, and with some building material donated to the club. Shares at $25 apiece were sold to the public at no payable interest. The income from these shares provided the capital needed to go ahead with the construction of this curling rink.

Prior to the building of this two sheet rink, very few residents in our village had ever curled and to them it was a learning experience. However, it didn't take long for the game to catch on and soon there were numerous men's and ladies rinks participating.

Other early curlers that I recall were Paul Stepa, Bill Milholland, Jim Miller, John Morusyk, Jim Abraham. Frank Keitges, Newton Warren, Joe Mah, Lawrence Sumpton, Jack May and Peter Yewchin. Some of the early lady curlers were Mrs. Florence McDonell, Dr. Anne Weigerinck, Mrs. Lena Stepa, Mrs. Roy Mann, Mrs. Robert Dale, Mrs. N. Beattie, Mrs. B. Sumpton and Mrs. Pringle. No doubt there were others that I may have failed to list.

The drawmaster for many years was Paul Stepa; in later years Peter Yewchin took on this responsibility. The original caretaker was William Soldan. He flooded this two sheet rink with water obtained from a nearby well. At that time Elk Point did not have running water. Besides maintaining this curling rink Mr. Soldan also found time to curl on Dr. F. G. Miller's rink which also included C. A. Johnson and Joe Mah.

This curling rink served its purpose, however the caretaker had to overcome many problems during the curling season. The waiting room was cold and drafty and the low ceiling of the rink frosted up, and there was always a constant dripping on the ice surface. The caretaker, Mr. Soldan, did an exceptionally good job maintaining this early rink for many years. During the early years of curling in Elk Point, some curlers had the tendency to throw a fast rock with the idea of clearing out all the rocks in the house. They soon learned it didn't always work out, and they soon changed their strategy and played a more scientific and skillful game.

The original curling rink had a wooden sidewalk built right down the middle of it. It separated the two sheets of ice and allowed the curlers as well as some spectators access to both ends of the ice. The waiting room which was situated in the north end had two rows of high benches on each side which allowed the spectators to view the curling matches. The booth located in the west part of the waiting room served coffee and lunch and was manned by volunteer workers.

Curling fees for the season were very reasonable, if I recall correctly, no more than $10 a season. There were many bonspiels held throughout the season. The curlers usually paid from $2 to $4 to enter a bonspiel and it permitted them to play in all the events. With a little bit of luck and good curling, a skip was able to win more than one event. This rule was later changed and a rink could remain in one event only until they lost a game.

Many early curlers attended bonspiels in other towns and villages such as St. Paul, Bonnyville, Vermilion and Heinsburg. A few rinks occasionally entered their rinks in the annual Edmonton Open Bonspiel. Bonspiel entry fees during the early years were reasonable and to many curlers a bonspiel provided an outing which helped to pass the long winter season.

One problem local curlers had to contend with at that time was curling with unmatched rocks. Some rocks were bigger and heavier than others and each set performed differently. Some curlers owned their own rocks which were stored in a strong wooden box, usually under lock and key. In the early years of curling, the bonspiel secretary usually canvassed the many businesses as well as the mail order houses for the prizes needed for the different bonspiels. When World War II broke out curling dropped off somewhat however, interest in the game remained high and it never did lose its popularity. This two sheet curling rink remained in operation for about 20 years and then was replaced with the present four sheet rink. At a later date, artificial ice was installed.

Elk Point's original two sheet curling rink was crudely built. There was nothing fancy about it. It did, however, serve the many avid curlers well, and provided them with many happy hours of fun and entertainment during a time when there was little else to do during the long winter season.